NBC’s freshman comedy The Good Place was a delightful and refreshing series about human nature and whether or not people can actually become good or if they simply are who they are – even if that means drinking margaritas through a twisty straw while watching wedding fail videos until they pass out on their… well, never mind. At any rate, the series, created by Parks & Rec co-creator Mike Schur was a charming breath of fresh air during a year that was decidedly not so good, but, as it turns out, this sweet, charismatic show was hiding a secret all along.
The season approached its finale with the question of whether or not the eternal souls of Eleanor and Jason would reside in the Good Place or be sent to the Bad Place – to presumably be tortured by fire monsters and wear fedoras. It was a solid build-up to a season-long arc that questioned whether or not Eleanor was really a bad person, or if she was just aggressively mediocre. Schur teased the possibility of a location beyond good and bad with the Medium Place, but even that wasn’t the big reveal of the finale. Instead, it was that Eleanor, Chidi, Jason, and Tahani weren’t in the Good Place at all – they were in the Bad Place, and were intended to torture one anther for a thousand years.
It was a twist that seemingly came out of left field (though at the TCA winter press tour Schur said he’d mapped the series out, and re-watching early episodes there appears to be more than one hint things were headed in this direction), but to Schur’s credit, it also makes for a compelling way to continue the series, should The Good Place be granted a much-deserved season 2 renewal. But what does it mean for the characters involved and for the nature of the show moving forward? Let’s take a look in The Good Place Season 1 Finale Twist Explained:
Do You Question the Nature of Your Reality?
The 2016/2017 television seasons have been (or very soon will be) rife with series about characters questioning the nature of their reality. From Westworld to Mr. Robot to The OA to the upcoming Legion, TV is seemingly obsessed with characters having their perception of the world turned upside down. The Good Place, as it turns out, is no exception. It even went so far as to show Eleanor, Jason, and the almost all-knowing Janet riding through the desert on a suspiciously antiquated train as sly nod to a certain twist-heavy HBO series.
Whatever the train was meant to indicate, The Good Place fundamentally altered its narrative moving forward. The titular place, and the architect who built it is not at all what (or who) they seem – one is a place masquerading as the opposite of what it actually is, and the other is a Machiavellian schemer, obsessed with controlling the fates of oblivious humans as a means to entertain himself and others like him. Any way you cut it, the Good Place bears a striking resemblance to a certain theme park – this time, though, it’s the guests who aren’t in on the all the fun. Also, Jason fell in love with a robot (who’s totally not a robot).
Not Good People, But Not Really Bad Ones Either
The basic premise of The Good Place was whether or not Kristen Bell’s Eleanor deserved to be in the Bad Place, or if there was some way in which the mix-up that lead to her erroneously being assigned the real (but totally not real) Eleanor’s spot might lead to some fundamental change in who she is. It was a season-long story that showed Eleanor begin the slow process of becoming a better person in fits and starts, one who ultimately volunteered to be sent to the Bad Place to save her friends. Of course, all of that is moot now, as Eleanor and Jason are actually in good company. Chidi and Tahani didn’t meet the standards of the Good Place either, and Janet, well, she was pilfered from there and used as a tool to make Michael’s deception more convincing.
While the twist was a surprise, The Good Place has been laying the tracks for Chidi and Tahani’s undeserving nature for quite a while. Questioning Tahani came early, as she seemed motivated by her rankings and flashbacks often demonstrated her philanthropic endeavors weren’t really intended to do good, but rather win the approval of her parents. The show was a little subtler when it came to Chidi, however, as even the episode ‘Chidi’s Choice’ painted his indecisiveness as an irritating yet still endearing quirk. As it turns out, Chidi’s inability to choose, and some of the awful choices he made – like helping his landlord’s nephew set up his new phone instead of be with his mother following surgery – got him tossed into the Bad Place.
Interestingly, a quick flashback showing Eleanor requesting emancipation from her deadbeat parents offers an explanation for the kind of person she turned out to be. It’s not an excuse, certainly, and while she was often a distant, self-centered jerk, understanding her “You don’t owe me anything and I don’t owe you anything” ethos is a little easier. What’s more, like Tahani and Chidi, Eleanor’s wrongs are kind of trifling when compared to, say, the really bad stuff people do – which might explain why they were put into the pilot program Michael cooked up instead of being tortured.
The Medium Place Also Seems Pretty Bad
After briefly running away to the Medium Place and meeting the cocaine-loving Mindy St. Claire, it was clear that the third option in the afterlife was also not great. The décor is ripped straight from an ’80s sitcom, the beer is warm, and all the music on the jukebox is from the Eagles… the live version. And what can you say about that Mindy St. Claire? It’s not torture, but it’s also seems pretty far from okay, which should have you wondering: Does the Medium Place actually exist?
Given what seems to be the inordinately high standard for entry into the Good Place, one might conclude there would be more people in the Medium Place than just Mindy St. Claire. And yet, there she is, gardening naked and dreaming wistfully of some nose candy. She’s also suspiciously accommodating to a group of strangers she claims to be indifferent toward. Is she a plant by Michael and Shawn as a means to further toy with Eleanor and the others, or is the Medium Place an actual location that might serve as a safe haven should the four recover their memories?
What the Heck Is The Good Place (and the Bad Place) Like, Anyway?
At the end of ‘Michael’s Gambit’, it becomes clear that no one has seen the real Good Place, or the real Bad Place for that matter. Eleanor and everyone else have had their memories wiped (again, á la Westworld) and started over in what they believe to be the afterlife – complete with buff soul mates who love to work out. But since season 1 was a long con by Michael and everyone else living in the fake Good Place, it raises a lot of questions as to how accurate a representation of the real Good Place this kinda sorta Bad Place really is.
From what has been described, the real Bad Place is full of fire monsters (polite though they may be when trying to schedule the conference room), horrible pits, and endless torture, but Michael’s Beta Place doesn’t seem that bad. In fact, it seems objectively better than the Medium Place. So did Michael come up with his faux Good Place from whole cloth or did he base it on the real version?
This may be where The Good Place gets to have fun in its second season (which, hasn’t been announced, but hopefully will soon), as there could be drastic differences between the Beta Place and the real Good Place that extend far beyond the way the town is set up and what it offers those living there. Michael’s insistence on there being a soul mate for everyone didn’t really work out as planned, and actually only made things worse for the members of his test group. Maybe that concept is straight from the Bad Place, as a way to put unfair expectations on people and watch them fail when trying to meet them.
At any rate, there’s a whole new Good Place yet to be explored. But, then again, maybe, like the Bad Place, it’s best left to the imagination.
Screen Rant will have news for you on the future of The Good Place as it’s made available.