NBC’s beloved philosophical comedy The Good Place ended its fourth and final season on January 30. The last episode of the series had an extended air time of 65 minutes, compared to the usual twenty; the gift of extra time matched perfectly with the series’ ultimate conception of what the Good Place is.
Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell), with the help of the rest of the Soul Squad, solved the problem of purposelessness in the Good Place in the previous episode: any Good Place inhabitant can leave on their own terms, thus relinquishing their theoretically infinite existence. “You can sit on that bench as long as you’d like, and whenever you’re ready, you just walk through,” repeats the endearing not-girl, not-robot Janet (D’Arcy Carden) to each member of the Good Place who chooses to depart. Unlike the snazzy, intricately carved bronze door to Earth, or the glittery green doors that allow Good Place residents to go wherever they intend instantly, the final door is constructed from the intertwined branches of redwood trees, matching the process that links all of life and that gives it meaning.
As the episode progressed, the audience watched each of the bunch find their own ways to eventual peace. Jason Mendoza (Manny Jacinto), the adorable pre-successful DJ/60-person dance crew leader/Molotov cocktail expert, was first to go. His exit early in the episode was certainly enough incentive for a torrent of tears sure to come from the eyes of viewers who have fallen in love with his naiveté and caring heart.
The object of both love and hate, Tahani Al-Jamil (Jameela Jamil), decided upon her ending next. Her time in the Good Place reached its highest satisfaction when she received the familial bliss she so craved and deserved. However, she soon switched to a new goal: becoming an afterlife architect. While this made sense for her character, her path felt out of place, especially in contrast with the other three original humans.
Eleanor and Chidi Anagonye (William Jackson Harper), the unlikely, yet highly compatible couple of everyone’s afterlife dreams, embraced their endings as well. Chidi’s disappearance, after Bearimies upon Bearimies spending his days with the people he loved, was heartbreaking, yet it made sense. The Good Place beautifully and poignantly defined what it means to go beyond what we know:
Picture a wave in the ocean. You can see it, measure it, its height, the way the sunlight refracts when it passes through, and it’s there, and you can see it, you know what it is. It’s a wave. And then it crashes on the shore, and it’s gone. But the water is still there. The wave was just a different way for the water to be for a little while.
Chidi’s explanation of the Buddhist conception of death is typical of the show: The Good Place continuously places valuable philosophical nuggets of wisdom in the ongoing stream of clever food puns and silly jokes about human experiences.
Each of the four departs the Good Place after finding their eventual peace, but Eleanor finds herself having the hardest time. It felt a bit forced that she needed to go as well. After assisting Michael (Ted Danson), whose ending perfectly culminates in him becoming a human (a process that happens a bit vaguely), and the ever-stubborn Mindy St. Claire (Maribeth Monroe) (who reappears randomly), she is ready as well. The ending of the series is grounded in the endings of these four humans, whom the audience has truly grown to treasure. The show has seen the characters die, live in the illusion of the Good Place, travel to the Medium and Bad Place, re-live once more, return to the afterlife, and, finally, make it to the Good Place. All throughout, the four humans experienced almost everything: fear, trust, confusion, love, vulnerability, growth, joy, and more. All at once, the path of these humans’ lives came to a close, almost too quickly. It was heartbreaking to see them go, but the show beautifully depicted that they arrived at the position to be able to decide.
Although the season ending contrasted deeply in tone with the exciting hijinks of all the previous seasons, the final episode “Whenever You’re Ready” was subtle and peaceful, despite being tinged with melancholy. For a show about the afterlife, The Good Place managed to highlight the human experience perfectly throughout its four seasons. Like Chidi reflected in the second-to-last episode, the true gift of the Good Place was time: to do things you want, to explore, and to renew relationships. The Good Place was the perfect complement to a human existence, and the show itself a perfect ode to it.
“What do you think happens when people walk through the door? It’s the only thing in the universe I don’t know,” asks Janet while sitting with Eleanor after leading her to the doorway.
“I don’t know either,” she admits. “The wave returns to the ocean. What the ocean does with the water after that is anyone’s guess.” Turning to Janet with a smile, Eleanor reminds her: “But as a very wise not-robot once told me, true joy is in the mystery.”