Call no man happy until he is in The Good Place

Call no man happy until he is in The Good Place

"It had to end. One way or the other..." Michael-The Good Place-


Bruce Robinson

With the finale behind us, I look back at the series to review the whole picture that The Good Place has painted for us. The biggest thing that jumps out is the feeling that this show was planned out from the beginning. The Good Place has the all the clear signs of a well plotted ending. Michael Schur seems to have known exactly how he wanted the series to end even from the very moment that Eleanor opened her eyes. Each episode builds seamlessly on the one before creating a beautiful JeremyBearimy of a story. The Good Place is many things, but the key to the treasure of this story is the ending so clearly planned from the start. Now I have thrown a lot out already so let's rewind and cover some helpful exposition.

The Good Place follows the afterlife of four humans in their pursuit of bettering themselves. Their merry band is rounded off by a reformed demon and Janet, an entity that functions as a caretaker but eventually grows into a more conscious being. These six unlikely people, and not people, make up our core cast. They study the many paths of moral philosophy in their makeshift classroom and, in many ways, the audience is given an intro level course in moral philosophy through them.  As our heroes push toward their goal of bettering themselves to earn their way into the Good Place the discover what the creator has been leading the audience to believe all along, the system is broken. Indeed, the very concept of eternal anything is intrinsically flawed. Their can be no moral universe where anyone can be tortured for all time for, at best, a hundred-year life. Now with all the key plot and philosophical points outlined, let us return to the crux of my thesis.

As the title eludes, I am a bit of a philosophy buff myself and nothing strikes my heart more than the philosophy of ancient Greece. Within the teachings of the Greeks one of the most common through-lines is “the good death". The good death is best summed up as the ability to look back at one’s life from the end. To see not only how your life was lived and ended but also that of those who follow you, most commonly how you shaped your children to live good lives even after you have gone. The Athenian lawmaker and poet, Salon, put it thus, “Count no man happy until he id dead.” Strong stuff, if I do say so myself. What a way to view the world, but this also affords us the opportunity to use this same metric in different veins, say perhaps the media we ingest. 

With my lack of subtlety, I am sure you have divined where I am going with this. The careful planning by the creator and writing staff of The Good Place led us from beginning to end with nothing superfluous, nothing wasted and left us feeling complete. The show did not drag on past its prime, looking at you Jim Halpert, or lose steam as it entered the station, and you Jon Snow, it ended exactly when it needed to. It tied up each loose end, each character arch and waved goodbye with a bright red door.

In closing, The Good Place may very well have earned its “good death”, not only in the spectacular storytelling we have grown to expect from them, but in the lessons it imparted on us. It wasn’t just good television; it was good moral guidance. Guidance for those who may have slept through a philosophy lecture or two or just needed that last push to see what we really do owe to each other. Only time will tell what lasting efects it will have on us but I for one can comfortably say the future looks brighter having put The Good Place to a well-deserved rest.


Bruce Robinson is a former art snob, a current existentialist, and a future lawyer.  


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