What We Owe to Each Other Is to Talk About The Good Place’s Finale

The Good Place ended last night, and I want to give you a place to talk about all of your feelings! Below the cut are a few of my scattered thoughts, with spoilers for the whole series throughout.

Also, nota bene: do not watch this sucker without tissues.


A Brief Unscientific Postscript About Some of the Best Things The Good Place Did With Its Time on Earth:

This is very brief—especially by my standard—cause I’m going to need more time to process this. But I think we can agree that The Good Place has been an incredible ride. It’s been one of the sharpest and funniest comedies I’ve ever seen. The cast was simply perfect. It gave us a half an hour a week to stare at Manny Jacinto’s cheekbones. It had characters who were enthusiastically bi. The show was fluffy and sexy and sweet, and, up to the very last moments, knew how to lighten melancholy with a carefully-deployed margarita.

Maybe best of all? Eleanor, Chidi, Michael, Tahani, Jason, and Janet (especially Janet) are going to stay with me until I walk through the door. And I’m assuming I’m not the only person here who wants to say that. I’ve written up a couple of thoughts below, but please tell us your favorite moments in the comments!


The Good Place Was Unafraid of Change

From “THIS is the Bad Place” reveals to something like 800 reboots to Chidi’s memory being wiped to Chidi’s memory being restored to hook-ups to break-ups to finally getting to The Good Place only to learn that The Good Place was also forked, this show was never afraid to shake up its cast, its premise, or any of the core relationships. It was the greatest high-wire act I’ve ever seen in a TV series. And it just continued it through the finale, with a nod to Six Feet Under, Michael’s new path, Tahani’s dedication to learning, and Eleanor saving one last soul.


But Some Things Stayed The Same

Jason Mendoza remains a Florida Man. He is just as proud of a well-thrown Molotov cocktail at the end of the series as at the beginning. But he also has that crazy enormous heart and optimism, so really, did he need to change? Of course he’s the first to go through the door (kinda) because he’s always been the most himself, the most attuned to the feelings of others, the most sincere…and also because he played a perfect game of Madden, and what in all the afterlife could possibly top that?


Philosophy for Beginners

Over the course of the show, the cast name-checked dozens of philosophers, including:

  • Plato
  • Aristotle
  • Diogenes
  • Socrates
  • Thomas Aquinas
  • Kant
  • Hume
  • Scanlon
  • Kierkegaard
  • Locke
  • Sartre
  • Bentham
  • Dancy
  • Derrida

You’ll notice those are all dudes? But then in “Patty,” when we actually finally meet a philosopher in The Good Place, the first real life philosopher we’ve met so far, it’s Hypatia.

Hypatia was a neoplatonist mathematician/philosopher who lived in the 4th Century C.E.. She was a highly-regarded thinker, respected enough to teach in Alexandria despite all those icky girl parts. And then a mob of Christian men decided they hated what she was teaching, and they hated that she was a woman while teaching it, so they chased her through the streets and beat her to death.

Yes, this really happened. It’s regarded by some people as an endpoint of Classical Antiquity.

Can I tell you how loud I shrieked when, after the show’s parade of white male philosophers, THIS was the one we finally got to meet? Can I tell you how much my insides melted watching Chidi freak out cause he got to meet her?

No, reader, I cannot. There are not enough words, or space on the internet.


The Single Greatest Line of Dialogue in Any Television Show Ever:

“Do you think I would have been a good symbologist? If that were a real job?”

And right there, Chidi says the thing that my former-religion-student ears have been longing to hear since The Da Vinci Code came out.


The Best Pun Shop Names in All of Human History

I don’t yet have the complete list of puns, but I’m gonna get it. In the meantime, I want to remind us all of this tweet.


Michael’s Guitar Teacher!

I’m not going to name her here, just in case you’re skimming over this without having seen it? But reader, I cried.


The Sense of An Ending

After all of their work to get to the good place, the first thing they learn is that The Good Place will rot their brains and make them happiness zombies. So, to borrow a line from Beetlejuice, they draw a door. Now everyone who has ever existed has an out. Get sick of paradise? You can go through the door and into what I think is non-existence. For me this is an utter nightmare—I want to keep existing. I wanted to be a filmmaker because it would allow me to live dozens of lives. I love Quantum Leap because Sam gets to keep trying new stuff basically forever.

But I can see how endless bliss could suck the sense of fun and adventure out of everything.

This is an especially big development because part of the reason Michael started helping the cockroaches in the first place was because he was so afraid of Shawn winking him out of existence. Now he’s mature enough, and empathetic enough, to offer this as an option to those who have become pummeled with too much happiness.

And in the end it was this that made this show go from a great comedy to one of the best things I’ve ever seen. The easy choice would have been for the show to end with them on the balloon on the way to The Good Place. Fade to white…happily ever after, literally.

Instead it walked us through the idea that ultimate happiness isn’t really the answer to life, the universe, and everything. There are no answers—only a journey that we create as we go.


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