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The chaotic good of ‘The Good Place’

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“The Good Place” is, in two words, chaotic good. The past three seasons have been filled to the brim with dry humor, philosophy, questions of religion and the afterlife, phenomenal twists and a cast of characters who you can’t help but love (even if they are complete ash-holes sometimes). This current season is the fourth and last season in the critically-acclaimed fantasy comedy and I, for one, will be sad to see it end. 

If you haven’t watched it yet … you definitely should. And because I want you to see it so badly, I won’t spoil anything major, because trust me — it’s worth it to see the plot twists unfold for yourself. 

“The Good Place” starts right off the bat with Eleanor Shellstrop (the hilarious Kristen Bell) waking up in the afterlife to Michael (Ted Danson) revealing to her that she is in the Good Place, a utopia that is not quite like any religion’s version of the afterlife. Michael, the architect of the neighborhood in which Eleanor is placed, guides her through the first few days as one of the only people who has lived a truly righteous life and deserves to be in the Good Place. The only problem is that Eleanor was a truly awful person on Earth, and she was sent to the Good Place by mistake. With the help of her new soulmate Chidi Anagonye (William Jackson Harper), who was a moral philosophy and ethics professor on Earth, and Janet (D’arcy Carden), a “knowledge bank” in the form of a woman who can provide any information or object the neighborhood residents desire, Eleanor must learn how to be a good person so she can earn her place for real. As it turns out, however, Eleanor is not the only one who doesn’t belong in the Good Place. Hijinks ensue. 

As the seasons progress, everything the viewer knows from the first episode is turned on its head. The main cast explores what is means to be human, with an unwavering optimism that people can change if they have the desire and support to do so. “The Good Place” always remains a comedy, but it also delves into some tough choices and hard truths. As Jenna Scherer says in a Rolling Stone article, “The Good Place” proves that “slapstick and banter can coexist alongside tragedy and hardship … a show doesn’t need to be self-serious to be serious-minded.” As millions of viewers are coming to find, the fourth season continues to do what it does best as it begins to wrap up this critically-acclaimed show. 

The fourth season is, literally, a return to where everything began. As Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani, Jianyu, Michael and Janet return to the neighborhood, the viewer gets to see the first season in a new light, this time from the perspective of the architect as they try to help other residents become better people. Instead of struggling to prove that they belong in the Good Place, “Team Cockroach,” as they are called, has a new goal: to help new humans become better people in order to reevaluate how the afterlife sorts people based on their earthly lives. While I found it a bit lacking at times in seasons two and three, the humor, wit and hope that originally drew me into the show in the first place return for the final season. The stakes are much higher and the tone is a bit more solemn as the series climbs towards its resolution to solve the biggest question of the series overall: can humans truly change for the better? Up until the last minute of the final episode, I will be cheering on the protagonists as they struggle to complete their mission to save all of humanity from eternal damnation. As Michael says, they will attempt “the most human thing of all: attempt something futile with a ton of unearned confidence and fail spectacularly!”

Contact Caroline Keyes at ckeyes22 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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