A review of the final episode of The Good Place
by Ryan Pfingst
After investing four years into The Good Place and becoming way too emotionally attached to the characters, I sat down to watch the finale in January, praying that it didn’t let me down: I have been burned too many times by a great show ending in a terrible finale (Looking at you, Game of Thrones, How I Met Your Mother; need I go on?). Thankfully, though, this time I was not disappointed. The 90-minute finale brought a bittersweet end to the incredible journey this show took us on.
(Warning: Major spoilers for the series and the finale ahead—but, if you haven’t seen it by now, wyd sweetie?)
Season 1 began with the iconic Eleanor Shellstrop (played by the goddess Kristen Bell) arriving in the afterlife, welcomed by Michael (Ted Danson, one of the few acceptable Boomers). This afterlife consisted of the Good Place and the Bad Place, and she is mistakenly placed in the Good Place, despite living an incredibly selfish life. She then meets Chidi Anagonye (sneakily hot William Jackson Harper), who helps her try to become a better person.
The three of them, along with the characters Tahani (the delightfully problematic Jameela Jamil), Jason (the underrated Manny Jacinto) and Janet (the incredibly talented D’Arcy Carden) then embark on a philosophical journey about what it means to be a good person for the next three seasons. Eventually, they become good people despite their incapacitating flaws on Earth, and make it into the actual Good Place, proving that no one is beyond redemption.
The final episode ends the show on a positive note, each character finding fulfillment and one by one deciding to leave the Good Place forever. The first two to go are Jason and Tahani, which is fitting as they have almost been reduced to secondary characters in the latest two seasons. Jason heads for the final door in a fake out before spending eons wandering the woods because he forgot to give Janet something (btw Janet and Jason? not sure I can ship it—Janet will forever be too good for him.). Tahani, after reuniting with her parents and doing everything on her eternal bucket list, decides to become an afterlife architect, demonstrating that she is now a woman for others. Ok Miss Jesuit 2020, we see you.
Finally, the finale focuses in on the heart of the show—Eleanor. She first has to learn to let go of Chidi, as he is ready to go through the final door before she is. She then takes this lesson of learning to let go, and convinces Mindy St. Clair to let go as well, and enter the afterlife that everyone else has existed in. Her final good deed is to guide Michael to live a mortal life, the only thing that will make him truly happy. After this, she passes through the final door as well, and I start crying (obviously).
Overall, the finale did what it needed to do—every character gets a satisfying ending to their story, showing just how much each character has grown from the first time we met them until now. That is, except for Janet. While we do see her love Jason and the others in a way that wasn’t possible before, we do not get a solid ending to her character, which is criminal. She made sure every other character got the fulfillment they needed, and yet no one ever asks her how she can find fulfillment (typical).
“Whenever You’re Ready” is an episode based mostly on nostalgia, with a few humorous moments built in. However, I think that the finale was missing the real magic of the show, and I think that’s because it exhibited something that The Good Place rarely did: certainty. The show was best when it showed that being good was hard work. It’s messy, and imperfect, and even though you may have the best of intentions, your actions could still have a negative effect on someone else.
The answer to this messiness was to have friends, people who also want to be good. Friends keep us in check and guide us on how to live a respectable life. No one is a good person alone. Of course, no one can ever truly know if they have surrounded themselves with the right people, or if their actions are actually good—there is uncertainty in it—which is why the idealistic certainty of the finale fell a little flat for me.
Nevertheless, it was nice to see the characters get the happy ending they deserved. While it feels a bit more idealistic than realistic, it was still a beautiful ending to a beautiful show about good people—a breath of fresh air in the world we live in today, and it will surely be missed.