‘The Good Place’ Series Finale Explained: An Afterlife of Peace

     January 31, 2020

Spoilers ahead for The Good Place.

There was joy, there was sadness, but more importantly, there was peace. The Good Place series finale didn’t have any last minute revelatory twist to fix or some crazy demon battle to fight, it was simply the aftermath of the Soul Squad and their heroic and continuous efforts to save themselves and eventually all of humanity. “Whenever You’re Ready,” written and directed by the show’s creator Michael Schur, brought an end to each of our lovable characters’ journeys but it never let us forget the true point of The Good Place, that anyone is capable of being a better person.

The penultimate episode set up a Good Place where, without an end to the perfection and complete ease of life, people became unambitious and bored zombies. To bring newfound meaning to the Good Place citizens, a special door was created where once a person enters, their time in the afterlife comes to an end. We should have realized it, and we likely did and just did not want to accept it, but the natural progression of the story was to see our beloved crew live out their individual afterlives before it was their time to go. That’s exactly what The Good Place finale delivered. So let’s dig into what happened in the final episode of The Good Place and what it means.

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Photo by: Colleen Hayes/NBC

When we get our first look at the final revision of our group’s new afterlife system, everything is working and everyone is happy. Eleanor (Kristen Bell) happily attends Chidi’s (William Jackson Harper) expanding and thriving ethics classes. Michael (Ted Danson) regularly works with the Joint Council of Afterlife Affairs to optimize the system while our favorite not-a-girl Janet (D’Arcy Carden) continues to be the most powerful and most useful aspect of the afterlife. Tahani (Jameela Jamil) works on becoming a master at, well, everything, and Jason (Manny Jacinto) finds solace in improving his video game scores.

Not only that, but the soul of the show is on full display. At various points throughout the episode, we get quick glimpses into the lives that were affected by either the group’s journey to Earth in the previous season or through the new system’s tailored scenarios and trials. Eleanor’s roommate friends and mother are in, Chidi’s childhood friend is here, Tahani’s entire family pushed through the trials, and even Jason’s dad (Donkey Doug!) and best friend made their way in. Some of these people were total trash bags but each and every one of them turned themselves around. It wouldn’t be a surprise to find out some took longer than others to make it through the test, but as the show really wants us to know, it’s possible for anyone to become a better person.

Even the three new test subjects from earlier this season got their spot in the Good Place. Simone (Kirby Howell-Baptiste) with her judgmental tendencies and John (Brandon Scott Jones) with his hunger for gossip both tested well enough to make it through. It’s a short look, but there’s a quick scene where the truly awful Brent (Benjamin Koldyke) is still there working his way through the system. He isn’t tossed out and he hasn’t been given up on, but yes he’s still trying to defend asking women to smile more. Every person has good inside them. Even Brent. As Michael said in a previous episode, “No one is beyond rehabilitation,” and this quote rings true until the end of the series.

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Photo by: Colleen Hayes/NBC

It’s tempting to say this is where things start to fall apart as members of Team Cockroach begin to take their journey through the door and beloved friends begin to disappear. It was heartbreaking when Jason, the first one to leave, decided to venture through early on in the episode. And having Tahani nearly make the same decision so soon was rough as an audience, but it wasn’t until Chidi imparted sage advice before his own decision to go that things began to make sense. As he succinctly stated,  “None of this is bad.” And it’s true.

Three of the four humans made the ultimate choice to end their time in the Good Place once they felt at ease, or at peace. For Jason, this first happened once he perfected his high score on Madden, and later after he spent an eternity waiting for Janet, giving him the silent reflection his vibrant personality often needed. While Tahani has yet to step through the door, her reconciliation with her parents and her choice to subvert her high society upbringing by pursuing a goal to work her way up to becoming an architect shows she discovered plenty more on which to improve. Think about where Jason and Tahani were at the very beginning of the series, and think about the decisions they made in this finale. That growth. That’s the point of the whole thing.

As for Chidi, it’s a bit harder to pin down, but his sense of peace came between a simple interaction with Eleanor and both of their mothers. Perhaps it was a sense of knowing there will still be people there for Eleanor in his absence. It could also be the fact that the new system works and that his efforts were completely worth it. The indecisiveness that plagued his life was now a non-issue (again, growth). Chidi knew exactly what he wanted in that moment and didn’t falter. When offered a chance to sit at the bench just before the door, he instantly declined. He made his decision. This was the best version of Chidi.

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Photo by: Colleen Hayes/NBC

Eleanor, the Arizona dumpster fire and winner of the most improved human on the series, noticeably had the hardest time accepting the tough decisions. The friends she made were the people that shaped her into becoming an incredible and genuine leader. Losing them was not something she would allow to happen so easily, so it was no surprise when she convinced a reluctant Chidi to stay. As a testament to the growth of her character, she quickly rectified her selfish request and the two enjoyed one last time together before Chidi departed.

But this is what fuels Eleanor to find that perfect version of herself, to complete her journey. Even after helping devise an entire system to save humanity, Eleanor still finds a way to help others, specifically in the form of Mindy St. Claire (Maribeth Monroe) and Michael. She convinces Mindy to ditch the Medium Place and start the process of transitioning to the Good Place after realizing Mindy is what could have been her fate if it were not for her friends. For Michael, a troubled demon who doesn’t seem to believe he has a place in the afterlife, she gets the Judge (Maya Rudolph) to send him down to Earth to fulfill his dream of being a human. With her two final and great deeds complete, Eleanor takes the step through the door.

So what happens when you walk through the final door? As we follow Eleanor through the wooden archway in the forest, we see her glow a yellow light before the camera pans to the sky. Balls of light spread through the treetops as the screen fades to white. Now on Earth, we see a man picking up his mail and throwing a misplaced letter into the trash. Soon after, one of the orbs of light lands on his shoulder, prompting him to pick up the tossed letter and bring it to its owner. The receiver is, of course, Michael.

After passing through the final door, it seems the goodwill one creates on their long journey is brought right back into the world, just like Chidi and his analogy of the wave returning to the ocean. That glow of light that reached the man with the mail receives an intuition, or perhaps a voice. A tiny voice in your head, the same one Eleanor once dreaded whenever she did the wrong thing. Like Eleanor when she went out of her way to return a lost wallet, this man goes to a completely different apartment complex to get Michael his letter. It seems Eleanor, along with the others who pass through the door, has one more chance to bring good to the world.

If there’s any takeaway, any central theme that ran through every episode of every season of The Good Place, it’s that every person is capable of redemption. Literally every person in the entire universe is given the chance, multiple chances even, to be a better version of themselves. Our four lovable humans did it, as did a literal demon and cosmic robot. So we can too.

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Image via NBC

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