The Good Place season 2 finale ending completely changed the status quo of the series, and laid the groundwork for season 3. Thankfully, NBC renewed The Good Place for season 3, so we already know it's in the works.
From creator Michael Schur (Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Parks and Recreation), The Good Place series premiere introduced viewers to four humans who had died and gone to the afterlife: Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell), Chidi Anagonye (William Jackson Harper), Tahani Al-Jamil (Jameela Jamil), and Jason Mendoza (Manny Jacinto). The four wake up in the Good Place, where they're introduced to the afterlife by Michael (Ted Danson) and a guide named Janet (D'Arcy Carden). Much of the conflict in season 1 surrounded Eleanor quickly realizing she was sent to the Good Place by accident, and was meant to go to the Bad Place.
However, The Good Place season 1 finale delivered arguably one of the greatest twists in TV history when Eleanor realized her and her friends weren't in the Good Place at all. They had, in fact, been in the Bad Place all along, which was confirmed by Michael, who's actually a demon rather than the angelic neighborhood architect he pretended to be. The Good Place season 2 featured Michael trying to get his experimental neighborhood - in which the humans were meant to torture each other rather than being tortured by demons - to work throughout a number of reboots. Instead, he was forced to turn to the humans for help, and all five of them began studying to become better people in hopes of earning spots in the actual Good Place.
At the start of the season 2 finale, Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani, and Jason had plead their case in front of Judge Jen (Maya Rudolph) in an effort to go to the Good Place, but all except for Eleanor failed the Judge's tests. Thankfully, Michael convinces the Judge that they deserve another shot, but this time they won't know they're being tested or that their reward is a spot in the Good Place. Now, we break down what happened in The Good Place season 2 finale and how it sets up the season 3 storyline.
What Exactly Is the Judge's Test?
Before anything can be explained to Eleanor, she wakes up moments before her death, when she's fighting with a clean energy advocate outside the grocery store. But, instead of being hit by shopping carts, someone saves Eleanor, and the near-death experience prompts her to live her life as a better person. She quits her job, and starts working with the clean energy advocate, turning her life around for a time. However, after bad things happen to Eleanor despite her trying to be a good person, she devolves back into her bad ways.
Meanwhile in the afterlife, Michael and Janet are monitoring the progress of Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani, and Jason in a room by themselves. When Michael sees Eleanor slipping into her old ways, he appears to her as a bartender - in a fantastic Cheers reference in The Good Place finale - and talks to her about little voices in your head telling you to be a better person. He leaves her with the question: "What do we owe to each other?" The next morning, Eleanor googles the phrase and stumbles across a lecture Chidi gave on that exact topic. Leaving her life behind, Eleanor travels to Chidi's university and approaches him about his lecture.
So what exactly is the Judge's test? Essentially, it appears she resurrected Eleanor - and, presumably, Chidi, Tahani, and Jason - and reinserted them into their original lives. They don't have any knowledge of their time in the afterlife or each other, but they are the people they had become in the afterlife. So, the Judge is testing whether Eleanor and the others have truly changed due to their time in the afterlife, or if they're the same people who wound up in the Bad Place. As Michael argues in the beginning of the episode, the test to determine whether humans deserve to be in the Good or Bad Place doesn't account for the possibility of humans learning to be better (or, conversely, worse) people after death. The best way to determine whether Eleanor and the others have changed, is to throw them right back into their lives - which is what the Judge does.