Welcome, everything is fine. But this story discusses plot points and spoilers from “The Good Place,” so proceed with caution if you aren’t caught up.
Saying goodbye to NBC’s sitcom about what it means to be a good person is even tougher to swallow than Eleanor’s (Kristen Bell) disgusting white chocolate shrimp dish. It leaves a Janet’s Void-sized void that will be literally filled with next week’s return of “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” to NBC’s Thursday night lineup. But metaphorically, it’ll be a tough one to replace.
After its premiere in 2016, it all comes down to this: A one-hour series finale (Thursday, 8:30 EST/PST), followed by a Seth Meyers-hosted special featuring the cast and creator Michael Schur.
The show has been – as recurring guest star Marc Evan Jackson frequently refers to it on its eponymous weekly podcast – a “unique half-hour of American network television.” It caught viewers’ attention with an outlandish concept: “afterlife architect” Michael (Ted Danson) and recently deceased human Eleanor Shellstrop (Bell) navigate complications in heaven.
And then it exploded into a wonderfully goofy and creative exploration into some of life’s most complex questions.
“The Good Place” has never shied away from making shocking, genre-defying story choices, with a cast that also includes D’Arcy Carden’s Siri-like information center, Janet; William Jackson Harper’s anxiety-ridden genius Chidi Anagonye; Jameela Jamil‘s name-dropping heiress Tahani Al-Jamil; and Manny Jacinto’s dopey Florida trashbag Jason Mendoza.
Schur (“The Office,” “Parks and Recreation”) and his writing team burned through plot lines in two episodes that other shows might spend an entire season on. They seamlessly weaved between fart jokes and complex ideas about moral philosophy and dropped shocking revelations.
The now-infamous Season 1 finale revealed that the four humans weren’t in heaven after all: They were in the Bad Place, a prototype for a new form of torture. (Sometimes the best torture is conflicting personalities.)
But were they supposed to be there in the first place? They weren’t exactly the best four people of all time, but there’s a problem with the afterlife’s points system that sends everyone directly to the Bad Place because being a good person is harder and more complex than ever. The world feels like it’s on fire, and it’s easier to hunker down and care only about yourself.
‘The Good Place’ star Kristen Bell:on if we’re actually in the Bad Place: ‘We might be’
But even literal demons like Danson’s Michael and selfish humans (like Bell’s Eleanor) can be rehabilitated. The show’s message is that anyone can be good, and nobody is broken beyond repair. Sometimes folks just need some help getting there.
Four seasons in, the show has become a guiding light for how to be good to one another, and how to be funny without sacrificing thoughtfulness.
It was an escape from the messiness of the real world and an answer key for how to deal with some of its most frustrating problems. Which made it all the more bittersweet when Schur announced last June that this season would be the last because the writers felt that’s where the story has its proper ending.
“At times over the past few years, we’ve been tempted to go beyond four seasons, but mostly because making this show is a rare, creatively fulfilling joy, and at the end of the day, we don’t want to tread water just because the water is so warm and pleasant,” his statement said.
Of course, the people behind a show about complex moral decisions made one like that. Can’t argue with making the honorable choice, but that doesn’t make the goodbye any easier.
Last week’s penultimate episode at long last brought our six unlikely heroes to the Good Place, where eternal paradise isn’t quite as glamorous as it sounds. They’re working on fixing its problems because securing a spot in heaven isn’t cause for giving up the good fight. And maybe that’s a reminder for fans, too: “The Good Place” is ending, but the task of making the world a little better, kinder and funnier shouldn’t.
If you need me Thursday night, I’ll be sobbing into a plate of coconut shrimp and M&M-Peep chili, wondering what the fork will fill that void. The world may feel like it’s crumbling, but “The Good Place” reminded us that there’s still some good left.