Spoiler Warning for Seasons 1 and 2 of “The Good Place.”
“The Good Place” is exactly what television needs right now. Not only does it have a creative premise and a wildly talented cast, it is a show that reinvents itself practically every episode. Few shows on the air right now are as imaginative and willing to take the risks that this show has. What this series does it that it throws a wrench right into the cog of traditional storytelling. You can predict how things will unfold, but you will likely be proven wrong and surprised by the time that the finale rolls around. The story of Eleanor (Kristen Bell), Chidi (William Jackson Harper), Tahani (Jameela Jamil) and Jason (Manny Jacinto) is one of friendship and growth, but also morality and philosophy. It challenges the viewer to think about life and how they treat others; that is precisely the kind of story that we need right now.
When the Season 1 Finale first aired, the characters and viewers were thrown for a loop when Eleanor figured out that The Good Place is actually The Bad Place. The revelation was marked by a shift in the friendly and welcoming Michael (Ted Danson) as he was revealed to be the mastermind behind an elaborate torture plot of the four aforementioned characters. This will go down as one of the most flawlessly-executed plot twists in recent memory and Season 2 only builds upon it by continuing to shake things up for the characters. The second season premiere finds the characters in a mind-bending situation as Michael repeatedly runs the torture scenario over and over again, erasing the minds of the foursome each time that they figure out what’s happening. While this change in narrative could have easily destroyed the rich character and story development of the first season, the opposite is true. The premiere is an excellent catalyst for the tons of development that takes place throughout this season, specifically for Michael. Based on structure and creativity of storytelling alone, “The Good Place” is the type of series that could run for multiple seasons without losing its spark.
At its heart, this is a story about the power of friendship. Four complete strangers meet, not while they are alive, but after they have died and have been transported to a hellish afterlife with a beautiful disguise. While they are meant to be suffering, they instead shatter all expectations and become friends with one another. Sure they may get on each other’s nerves and things may not be perfect; Chidi and Eleanor dance around their romantic tension, while Tahani and Jason also flirt with romance. Still, there’s something to be said about the fact that there is an undeniable sense of loyalty that forms among this group. As Michael’s plan ultimately fails, he becomes involved with the quartet as they work on a ploy to escape their eternal damnation. There’s also Janet (D’Arcy Carden), who isn’t even a human, yet she builds a bond with the others that transcends the laws of existence. There’s an inherent sense of worry present in the characters and viewers as Michael becomes a student of Chidi’s philosophy lessons and assists in their escape attempt; will he turn on them…or is he still working behind their back and this is just another torture experiment? With the conclusion of the season and the actions of Michael in the final episodes, that seems to not be the case. He has changed. If an evil demon is capable of compassion and care, then we all are.
“The Good Place” is the type of show that will stand the test of time. It has all of the elements that make comedies great and then some. This show has some absolutely hilarious moments with the cast bringing their A-game in every scene; the cast of characters are the real draw of the series, taking a fascinating concept and bringing it to fruition. Kristen Bell is a true star, taking her character from a snarky, hateful and mean person to a loving and more thoughtful Eleanor that truly cares for her friends, even the man responsible for misleading and torturing her. Chidi on the other hand, remains anxious and indecisive, but certainly loosens up; he’s the moral center of the series and may just be the most relatable character on the show. Tahani is selfish and stuck up, although she does learn to be a team player as the season progresses. And then there’s Jason…who is dumb as rocks, but still an adorable and necessary pawn in the game; his love for the Jacksonville Jaguars and his random-fact spitting makes him enjoyable to watch, even if he has no clue what is happening (although he did figure out Michael’s experiment once, so there’s that). Last but not least, Janet is a incredible aspect of the series and is comedy gold; DA’rcy Carden is a powerhouse and should be showered with awards for her portrayal.
“The Good Place” is a difficult show to describe, because it one that is constantly changing. You can’t just pop in and watch an episode every now and then as the story is heavily serialized. Watching the series allows the viewer to learn about morality and ethics through Chidi’s lessons, but also in the actions of the characters as they navigate the afterlife. The show is a character study of how people grow and change, and how second chances can benefit everyone; look at how much Michael has grown just from the plot twist reveal to now, as well as how the others came to accept, trust and work with him. This series teaches a lot of life lessons and sends a strong message that no matter what, it is never too late to change and become a better person. When history looks back on “The Good Place,” it will likely be one of those shows that people refer to as having a major influence on their life, providing context to the questions of existence and guiding decisions. If you ever wonder if we are truly living in the “Golden Age of Television,” look no further than “The Good Place” and you will have your answer. Spoiler alert: we are.
“The Good Place” is currently available to stream on Netflix and Hulu.