The Good Place showrunner Michael Schur has dropped a bombshell confirmation: the season 2 finale of the show really did bring Eleanor Shellstrop and co. back to life. When Michael struck a deal with Gen the Judge to give Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani and Jason one last chance at making it to the Good Place, he proffered a daring plan that could entirely change the way that human souls are judged. The four friends were sent back to Earth, except this time placed in timelines where their deaths had been averted. For fans, it was unclear whether they were really alive, or just in another simulation.
You can hardly blame fans of The Good Place for being uncertain. After all, the big twist in season 1 was that Eleanor hadn't been sent to the Good Place at all, but instead to a neighborhood in the Bad Place that was cleverly disguised as the Good Place. It couldn't be taken for granted that Eleanor and her friends weren't just in another simulation designed to test their capacity for change.
We'll have to wait a few more months before we can find out whether or not Eleanor and co. will finally be able to make it to The Good Place, but Schur has at least cleared up that one nagging question in an interview with Rolling Stone, explaining:
"Normally I don't like to just flatly state what's going on, but here I don't see the benefit of people experiencing ambiguity: The four of them are straight-up back on Earth, in a new timeline where they didn't die... Michael gets the idea, [the Judge] immediately understands what he's hinting at and is reticent to do it because it means changing the timeline on Earth. (That's why he says, 'It's only four people!' Like, 'Eh, in terms of timeline-changing, it's not that big a deal.')"
To recap, in the season 2 finale everyone in the group (except Eleanor) had failed a test to see whether or not they were worthy of a spot in the Good Place, but just before they were all sent back to the Bad Place, Michael and Janet arrived on the scene. Michael pleaded their case, and the Judge agreed to give them one last chance to prove themselves. Eleanor then went back to the moment of her death, except this time someone pushed her out of the way of the oncoming shopping carts and saved her life.
Having been given a new outlook on life by her near-death experience, Eleanor managed to be good for a while... until she found that being good was difficult and didn't offer any rewards. Just when she was giving up, Michael intervened and gave Eleanor the kernel of an idea that led her to travel to Australia and meet up with Chidi - who is also alive and still teaching ethics and philosophy.
The confirmation that Eleanor and the others really are alive, and not just in a simulation, raises the stakes even higher for season 3. Since they've all avoided their early deaths, could they end up living full lives now that they've been given a second chance? Or will they die all over again once the test is concluded? And if the test proves that the current system of labelling people Good or Bad is flawed, will there be chaos in the afterlife?
One more intriguing tidbit from the interview: When asked if time moves differently in the afterlife compared to Earth, Schur replied, "Oh, does it ever. Enjoy episode five!"