‘The Good Place’ series finale ties up all the loose ends, in this world and the next
Without giving away the series finale episode’s plot, please know that all the characters get the endings and/or beginnings and/or open-ended fates they deserve.
“Mortality offers meaning to our lives and MORALITY helps navigate that meaning.” —William Jackson Harper’s character Chidi, conducting a class in “Afterlife Ethics 101” in the series finale of “The Good Place.”
Take a tour of TV Comedy Land in 2020, and the basic premise of the best and most popular shows is relatively clear-cut.
“The Big Bang Theory”: funny nerds.
“Curb Your Enthusiasm”: Larry David is our favorite a------.
“Modern Family” and “Blackish”: sharply executed humor combined with sometimes poignant social and cultural insights.
“The Good Place”: With a foundation built on on Sartre’s play “No Exit,” famous for the observation “Hell is other people,” four deceased souls are the centerpieces in an extended exercise in contractualism, in which morality is defined as practicing certain rules of behavior nobody could reasonably reject as being anything other THAN moral.
Shew. Anybody got a Tylenol and a power drink?
Add to that a dizzying array of twists and turns (including an instant classic of a shocker to close out Season 1), not to mention a bounty of existential supporting characters, PLUS all the Easter Eggs and in-jokes sprinkled throughout, and I’ll admit there were times when it felt like swimming upstream just to keep track of all the players and who/where/what/why/how they were.
With “Modern Family,” et al., you can drop in on any episode and laugh it up. You might not get every comedic callback and inside reference, but you’ll be able to grasp the situations from the get-go.
With “The Good Place,” if you just randomly called up, say, Episode 9 of Season 3 as your intro to the show, it might as well be in Sanskrit. You have to hop on this trolley from the start.
Ah, but laced within all the complex developments were traditional, time-honored elements of half-hour comedies (mix-ups, mishaps, potential romances, feuds and reconciliations), and a veritable meteor shower of stinging pop culture jabs right out of “Saturday Night Live,” e.g., when a gathering of demons breaks into their theme song — and it’s “1-877-KARS-4-KIDS.”
Thursday night marked the finale of the four-season run of “The Good Place” on NBC, with an extended episode titled “Whenever You’re Ready.”
Given all 52 previous chapters were on some level building up to this moment, the pressure was on. Would the brilliant showrunner Michael Schur and the wonderful ensemble cast be able to give the viewers a satisfying moment of closure to mirror what we hoped would also be closure for the characters themselves?
SPOILER ALERT: Yes.
I’ll not give away any plot details in case you haven’t yet caught the finale. Suffice it to say Eleanor (Kristen Bell, who has been hysterically funny and at times deeply empathetic as Eleanor evolved), Chidi (William Jackson Harper), Jason (Manny Jacinto), Tahani (Jameela Jamil), Michael (Ted Danson) and Janet (D’Arcy Carden) all get the endings and/or beginnings and/or open-ended fates they deserve.
The episode also finds time for us to revisit myriad supporting players from past seasons, and to drop in some fantastic cameos.
If you’ve been with “The Good Place” all along, I think you’ll find yourself laughing and thinking and pondering, and yes, choking back a tear or two as events play out. (There’s a beautiful sequence set to “Arvo Part — Spiegel im Spiegel,” because: Of course.)
If you never tried the show, I urge you to go back to the beginning and soak it all in.
It’s not just a Good Place to start. It’s the only place.