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Inside Beat

'The Good Place' season finale tackles philosophical questions

"The Good Place" ran for four seasons, first appearing in 2016. The series concluded at the beginning of 2020.  – Photo by Photo by Wikimedia | The Daily Targum

After four momentous seasons, “The Good Place” took its final curtain call on Jan. 30. The cast members — Kristen Bell playing Eleanor, Jameela Jamil playing Tahani, Ted Danson playing Michael, William Jackson Harper playing Chidi, Manny Jacinto playing Jason and D’Arcy Carden playing Janet — sat with host Seth Meyers after the series finale to say some goodbyes. With tears, champagne and laughter, “The Good Place” came to a satisfying conclusion.

A quick recap of what occurred in the previous three seasons: Eleanor Shellstrop is the main character who entered the Good Place upon her death. She interacted with three other characters, Jason, Chidi and Tahani.  Eventually, they all discovered that they were never actually in the Good Place. Rather, they had been in the Bad Place the whole time, and Michael, their caretaker, was actually a demon who had been sent to torture them.

Through trial and error and a lot of philosophical learning, Michael starts to empathize more with the humans and, with some help from Janet, the all-knowing Good Place version of Amazon’s Alexa, the four humans and Michael escape from the Bad Place. They appeal to the Judge who rules on cases that do not fit within the purview of either the Good or Bad Place.

Soon the characters discover that the system of points used to decide who gets into the Good Place has become too complicated since every action can have a negative reaction elsewhere. With the moral philosophy expertise of Chidi and leadership of Eleanor, the team of underdogs overcome multiple obstacles and fight to survive.

The season finale to this wonderfully quirky and unique drama did not disappoint, surprisingly. It had to be hard to come to a satisfying conclusion on a topic that is so rarely explored. While I know that most works discuss the afterlife as consisting of heaven and hell, I can safely say that there are no other shows that have attempted to dissect such complex notions of the afterlife as this show, especially in any context unrelated to religion.

Just hearing the plot of “The Good Place” is enough to cause skepticism for any viewer. The show’s creator, Michael Schur, even said that he made sure to thoroughly develop his pitch for the show before mentioning his idea to the producers. He didn’t want the producers at NBC to be worried that nobody would be interested in watching a show about moral philosophy. 

Granted, I was even concerned that the show would be a little too boring to appeal to most audiences and yet, four years later, the show has managed to keep steady viewership and a huge fanbase.

Part of that reason is due to the amazing cast that brought energy to their characters. Bell played a genuinely horrible person at the advent of the show but developed through the seasons into a marginally more likable person. Who doesn’t appreciate an independent, strong female lead who slowly learns that there’s more to life than drinking margaritas and lying about everything to everyone around her?

One of the show’s best features was the fact that each character was unashamed to be human.  It didn’t matter that they had died or that they were talking to demons and creatures. They still each had their flaws and blatantly struggled in fixing them. Of course, it’s easier to watch a sitcom on moral philosophy when the characters themselves struggle just as much as the audience does with learning the material.

Refusing to take the easy way out by just giving all the characters a final happy ending in the “Good Place,” the creators made sure to address any remaining problems. One such problem being that because no one ever died in the original Good Place, many of the souls had lost interest in trying to live full, meaningful afterlives.

Thus, Eleanor suggested creating a final resting place for souls who felt that it was the right time for them to go. After possibly living regretful, unhappy lives on Earth and then being forced to work their way up through the Bad Place to get to the final Good Place, humans were given the final choice of deciding when they wanted to “return their essence back to the universe.” Quite a peaceful end to such chaotic characters.

Watching the characters of "The Good Place" tackle their insecurities, their greatest regrets and failures these past seasons, I can’t help but think that this resembled something of a redemption arc. As they matured and changed, they became better people and were able to rest without regrets.

More than just a show, “The Good Place” serves as a real hope for us humans that we will have as satisfying an end in the afterlife. While breaking barriers and remaining witty until the very end, this was truly a show that broke the mold and will be missed by audiences across the world.

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