When we first heard of the show “The Good Place” around 2016-2017, we didn’t think it was for us. A show about heaven and hell, angels and demons? Not being Christian, we thought the whole idea of an “afterlife” for an individual soul to be silly. Since we’re all the universe, and the life after death is the universe you’ll continue to be a part of when this physical body is no more, why would we be interested in a show so focused on this silly old mythology? How wrong we were. Let us count the ways we love the show.
The casting is perfect
No, the entire show is not simply D’Arcy Carden pretending to be a group of different people, but the “Janet(s)” episode did make me fall in love with her as an actor. One of the reasons it worked, is because each of the main actors brought so much to their characters. I really couldn’t imagine the leads being played by anyone else.
Throughout the show, we’re meant to be rooting for “bad” people. Yes, they are trying to improve, but their charisma is a huge driving force in why the audience wanted them to succeed.
Ted Danson is especially perfect in his role of a demon who learns to care. His delivery, expressions, and huge personality made even the “badder” guy worth watching.
We also need to give a huge credit to Manny Jacinto, who plays Jason Mendoza. One needs to remember that not only was Jason meant to be extremely dumb, but he also did some terrible things in his lifetime. His own death was caused by him trying to commit a robbery. He might have actually been the worst human of the four to arrive at the “Good Place”, though we have no idea how many elderly people may have died from Eleanor’s shady telemarketing. But he still came off as extremely lovable and forgivable. This is not necessarily because of how he was written, because he doesn’t have a lot of redeeming factors in the first couple seasons, but because Manny was able to portray him as lovable, and capable of deep and strong love. I don’t think many other actors would have been able to pull off that feat.
The dialogue is amazing
For being a show about morality and philosophy, it’s funny as fork. We laugh out loud at jokes we’ve heard before a few times before. Some of them sneak up on you, like Tahani’s “I wish I could say I outdid myself, but I’m always this good. So I simply did myself.”
There’s also incredibly deep, thoughtful quotes, that you could hang up in a bathroom and your mother will visit and think you’ve really matured as a person. Thinks like “It turns out life isn’t a puzzle that can be solved one time and it’s done. You wake up every day, and you solve it again.” Or “Picture a wave in the ocean. You can see it, measure it, its height, the way the sunlight refracts when it passes through, and it’s there, and you can see it, you know what it is. It’s a wave. And then it crashes on the shore, and it’s gone. But the water is still there. The wave was just a different way for the water to be for a little while.” The writers put so much care and attention into this show, and we’re endlessly amazed at the nuggets of wisdom you can pull out of it.
It makes you want to be a better person
When you watch “The Good Place”, you can’t help but contemplate where your own score might land. If there was really a Good or Bad place, where would you end up?
The show also makes a point of how darn hard it is to be truly good. You buy almond milk because you don’t want cows to suffer, but now you’ve done more ecological damage to the world than if you had used oat milk!
The show often repeats this idea: you don’t have to be perfect. But you should be trying to be better. That is a realistic and achievable goal for anyone. Just find little ways you can be better in your life. What other show in the history of television has pointed humanity in the right direction so efficiently and positively?
Michael Schur is a forking genius
The philosophers in the show are real. The books are real. The trolley problem is real. But the cool part is, the show made them all interesting, funny, and relatable! Millions of people who would have never picked up a philosophy book now have some philosophical building blocks for morality.
Michael Schur has also written a book called “How to Be Perfect: The Correct Answer to Every Moral Question”. It covers a lot of the philosophy from the show in more depth, but is still entertaining. Though it’s less likely this book will make its way to the masses the way the show did, it’s wonderful that Michael was able to spend his time and effort in bettering humanity in this way.
Aunty Lucy is a writer, and still struggles with how to make a positive difference in the world in the way that Michael Schur has with “The Good Place”. To have made a show like this, that unifies positive growth with entertainment, is an amazing accomplishment.
It hits some pretty deep emotions
For being a comedy, this show made us cry sometimes. Eleanor and Chidi come together, then are torn apart. They come together again, and separate again. Sometimes Eleanor has the memory of their relationship, and Chidi doesn’t. The way they’re able to tear your heart up over their relationship, over and over again, seems a bit too easy sometimes.
Even Janet, the not-a-girl, has her heart broken by losing Jason. One day they’re married, the next thousand days he doesn’t even remember her.
And it’s not just the romantic relationships that may bring you to tears. There’s also explorations into various parent/child relationships, and the friendships the main four humans, and Michael and Janet, have with each other. “Take it sleazy” might have meant to be a funny line, but now it always fills me with bittersweet sadness. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll fall in love with these characters.
They stuck the Landing (SPOILER ALERT!)
One of the issues I had with the show early on was that no one seemed to get the idea that eternity itself was hell. Nothing that lasts forever could be good.
At the end of the last season, perfectly timed, they finally got to this last important lesson. They reach the real “Good Place”, only to find that eternity has ruined it. So, they come up with a solution. A door that leads to an end.
Truthfully, this lesson is meant more to apply to our own individual lives as humans on Earth. We know that we, as the universe, never end. But here in our little human lives, things have meaning and value because they don’t last forever. No one wants to be stuck on a rollercoaster for hours, it’s only fun because it ends. No one wants to end up like Bill.
Each character accepts this, and one after the other (with the exception of Tahani, who still feels she has more work to do) steps through the door. It’s sad, it’s beautiful, it’s all the emotions you can possibly feel while watching a TV show rolled into one. There have been many shows over the years with terrible endings. “The Good Place” is the only show with a perfect ending. Goodbye, “The Good Place”. I’ll rewatch you again in another year or two.