What’s Actually Happening on ‘The Good Place’?

‘The Good Place’ has ended its second season with a little less punch than last year. Or has it?
By  · Published on February 7th, 2018

‘The Good Place’ has ended its second season with a little less punch than last year. Or has it?

Warning: Spoilers for The Good Place season 2.

While the second season finale is excellent and manages to subvert expectations yet again, it’s undeniable that it’s not quite as intense as last year’s. And that’s okay — after the bombshell of the first season’s end, it would have been hard to finish on an equally high note.

But if I were writing the show (and luckily for us all, I’m not) I would have ended with a direct parallel of last year — Michael snaps, Eleanor opens her eyes, and we see her now-near-death experience. It would be just enough to grasp what’s happening, and it would leave us more on edge for what the third season back on earth holds.

But that’s not what happens.

Instead, we get a long, long look at Eleanor’s life on earth and her (sort of) transformation into a good person. And the season ends, instead, with her meeting with Chidi. This is our a-ha moment, the one that’s supposed to carry us until next year. How can that measure up to last year’s final minutes?

Maybe it’s because there’s something more at play here.

One thing that’s bothered me consistently is Chidi’s language. In the very first episode, Chidi tells Eleanor that from his perspective he, and everyone around him, is speaking French. The show has since established that he’s lived and taught extensively in Australia, and in his memories, we’ve seen him communicate, presumably in actual English, with multiple characters on earth.

But here he and Eleanor are, supposedly in real world Australia, supposedly speaking English together for the first time. It’s undeniably different.

Was that line about the French just a throwaway, a fun idea from the pilot that was immediately abandoned? Or is it a clue to what’s really going on here? It might be a sign that Chidi and Eleanor aren’t actually on earth at all.

But if they’re not on earth, then where are they? Does Michael have something more devious up his sleeve? I wouldn’t count on it. Mostly because I’m not at all convinced that Michael is the one in charge.

Michael has always been the show’s most fascinating character. If we give Eleanor credit for her transformation, what can we possibly say about Michael’s? She ripped her friend’s dress and was mean to an environmentalist. He’s a literal demon.

And the changes Michael has made — not just making friends but putting himself at risk to help them — is unprecedented demon behavior. My smart money is on this entire setup being centered around him. Maybe this is a Good or Bad Place for demons. Maybe Michael isn’t even a demon — maybe he’s just another poor soul bumbling through the afterlife to be taught some kind of lesson.

But where would that leave our poor humans? Are they just pawns? Are they even real? That would be a heck of a twist, and the kind I’d like to expect. Except… Is this the sort of show to reveal late in the game that everyone else exists just to aid in the transformation of its one white man? I don’t think it is. And that’s the biggest clue that my whole theory is a wash.

But if any show were to present that idea as the status quo and then actively rebel against it, it might be The Good Place. Here’s to hoping for many more twists in the near future, even if they’re not my silly one.

Related Topics:

Liz Baessler is a frequent contributor and infrequent columnist at Film School Rejects. She has an MA in English and a lot of time on her hands. (She/Her)