NBC’s The Good Place finale sheds light on individual acceptance
By RENEE WANG
“Everything is fine.”
On Thursday, Jan. 30, the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) sitcom The Good Place concluded the four-season series with its 52nd episode, “Whenever You’re Ready.”
Written and directed by Michael Schur, The Good Place consists of six main characters revolving around Eleanor Shellstrop, played by Kristen Bell, a self-absorbed and intentionally mean individual who attempts to become good with the help of her friends: Chidi Anagonye, Tahani Al-Jamil, Jason Mendoza and more.
Throughout each episode, Eleanor steadily learns what it takes to be a good person while facing various challenges as she adjusts to the Good Place, with the last few episodes being less about becoming good, and more about accepting imperfections as a human.
Initially, the show starts off with the main character Eleanor, entering The Good Place, a utopian world made by an immortal architect named Michael. As she would discover, individuals in The Good Place were ranked “good” in a highly-selective point system which determines if an individual would go to The Good or Bad Place based on their decisions made in their lifetime.
As the plot progresses, the characters realize they are in fact in The Bad Place, which was disguised to resemble The Good Place in a morbid experiment to torture people by their own goodness. By the end of the first season, the protagonists work together to find a way out of the Bad Place while facing various obstacles along the way. However, much to the characters’ dismay, it proves to be more difficult than they anticipate.
In contrast to its predecessor, the final season focuses more on the development of each character, rather than the challenges they have faced to avoid being tortured by their deepest fears. In the end, the final episode with the characters having their last wishes fulfilled symbolizes the end of their adventure and by moving on to the afterlife, they are accepting their flaws.
For instance, Tahani, a seemingly overly good person, has made many accomplishments in her life to classify herself as “good,” however due to lifelong jealousy towards her sister, the system perceived her acts of good as corrupt. Yet, when she dies, she still feels unjustified in her pursuit of goodness and makes the decision to become an apprentice architect, in order to utilize her strengths as an organizer, and at the same time, come to a conclusion to accept her feelings of inferiority to her sister. Arguably, Tahani has been a character is subjected to comedy relief, however, the finale gives her justice by making her focus on helping others for the good of it, rather than for herself.
In context, this development contrasts greatly with season one, as in when Tahani found out that she was the second-to-last place in the “good” point system. From there, she performed charity work and tried to help others, but ultimately for the wrong intentions, which was the initial reason for her going to The Bad Place. Her progression by the end of the second season documents her character’s remarkable change of heart and how far she and the other protagonists have come since their death.
According to a Buzzfeed interview with author Schur, helping others to benefit yourself represents the problem of selfishness in the world today, as society pressures many people to compete against one another.
Namely, in the episode of “What We Owe to Each Other,” references philosopher Thomas Michael “Tim” Scanlon’s book with the same title, to explain Eleanor’s central flaw, her lack of human connection, that eventually makes her life miserable in the long run.
Notably, The Good Place finale comes to terms with how good and bad are not exactly black and white. Essentially, the series utterly addresses this in the form of flashbacks, and how certain families negatively affect the behaviors of our protagonists.
Additionally, the show focuses on the importance of having imperfections, as it provides more meaning to life than eternal paradise. For instance, Michael, an all-powerful immortal, demonstrates this idea. Even though he does not have to experience the small, annoying limitations of being a mortal, this makes him desire to experience the uncontrollable events in life. Furthermore, the finale’s decision of making him mortal represents that there is not exactly a perfect utopian world that anyone can feel full satisfaction.
Moreover, the characters’ friendships represent how imperfections can be improved upon with the help of others. For example, with Chidi’s knowledge in philosophy and Eleanor’s lack of moral good, allow both to develop and learn from each other. Essentially, it demonstrates what it means to be human, where having trustworthy friends is so important today.
Overall, The Good Place has been a fantastic journey, from teaching moral philosophy to fighting against an unjustifiable system, the iconic sitcom undoubtedly sheds light on individual acceptance, while valuing the importance of inward growth.