A perfect series finale caps off four seasons of top-notch TV
SPOILER ALERT: stop reading if you haven’t watched the series finale of The Good Place yet.
OK, you’ve been warned.
Throughout its four tremendous seasons, The Good Place has consistently shown that it’s one of the smartest, funniest and thought-provoking shows on television today. However, I was anxious going into the series finale wondering if the show was going to be able to nail the landing. After all, after four seasons of exploring the meaning of the universe and what happens to us when our time on Earth is up, it wasn’t an easy task for a television show to finally come up with an answer to the question that has eluded countless philosophers and scholars throughout the history of time.
As Vulture points out, again and again throughout its four seasons, The Good Place pulled the rug out from under you. The show’s first twist, the most impressive and indelible, was the discovery that Chidi, Eleanor, Tahani, and Jason were actually in the Bad Place. Then came an almost constantly running machinery of twistiness, as the show doubled back on itself and pulled off restarts and surprises again and again. They were rebooted! Many times! They were sent back to Earth, the guy with the ultimate key to goodness was actually miserable, the Bad Place was broken, the Good Place was broken, the entire system was a disaster! Meanwhile, the show’s bigger question about how we should live remained shielded within a layer of unknowing. It was the mystery of existence packaged inside the mystery of “No, seriously, what is really going on?”
In its perfect series finale, the show chose to finally abandon the twists and curveballs that have driven its narrative to date and instead embrace the obvious. The answer to “What happens after we die?” came in Chidi’s Buddhism-inspired speech to Eleanor about waves in the ocean, an image of water that temporarily forms itself into a powerful, meaningful, organized thing, and then recedes back to where it belongs. The answer to “What is the nature of goodness?” was the same answer The Good Place has been offering up from its earliest seasons: Goodness is about balancing your own happiness with the need to connect with and help others. There is no closing hairpin turn, no last moment where the show reboots everything all over again. The final twist is that everything ends, we don’t know exactly what that looks like, and that’s okay.
The Atlantic summarized the finale perfectly its its review, pointing out how again and again, the finale emphasizes the show’s most optimistic conclusion: Ethics and morality can be a losing game, but how people show up for one another will always matter most. In a rather meta sense, this principle applies to the finale itself too. At the end of a series set in a breathtakingly complex world with countless rules and points and running gags, what viewers are left with isn’t an encyclopedic knowledge of the philosophers referenced or a clear timeline of each afterlife reboot. As The Good Place bows out, what remains is how its characters made the show’s audience feel.