The following contains massive spoilers for The Good Place series finale.
So what’s the end of NBC’s beloved sitcom The Good Place all about? Oh, just the death of nearly every character you love and hold dear.
Ultimately The Good Place‘s penultimate episode, “Patty,” pretty clearly articulated what was to come for The Good Place’s ending. In that episode, our heroes finally reach the titular Good Place only to find that it’s filled with bored, uninspired zombie-folk. Eternal paradise is great but it turns out that the “eternal” part of the equation tends to be a problem.
Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani, Jason, Michael, and Janet all come up with an ingeniously simple solution to the eternity problem: let people die. Seriously. They just introduce a door that any one in heaven can walk through when they feel like they’ve accomplished everything they need to know. The Good Place creator Michael Schur told The Hollywood Reporter before the finale aired that many religions and cultures around the world incorporate a semblance of cosmic death into their afterlife rules.
“It’s a pretty constant theme in any religious writing or fiction writing about the afterlife. That idea comes up again and again. It’s sort of an inescapable conclusion: It doesn’t matter how great things are, if they go on forever they will get boring,” Schur says.
Still, it’s one thing to introduce a heavenly suicide door and it’s another thing entirely to walk through it. The Good Place finale, titled “Whenever You’re Ready” finds our characters grappling with the very concept of being ready for the end. By episode’s conclusion, exactly half of the cast opts to walk through the door at some point while the other half carries on a little bit longer.
The Good Place characters who decide to stay behind are Tahani, Michael, and Janet. At first, Tahani believes that she is ready to walk through the door but then she realizes that there is still something yet that she can accomplish. She asks Michael to help her become the first human architect in afterlife history. And so he does and Tahani begins her training under Shawn, Vicky, and Glenn.
As a demon (more specifically a fire squid), Michael is unable to walk through the door. But he still feels bored and dissatisfied with what his afterlife has become. Nobody needs his help anymore and he can’t even learn to play the guitar effectively. That’s when Eleanor, possibly Michael’s closest friend, realizes exactly what he needs. Eleanor successfully petitions the Judge to let Michael take a one-way ticket to Earth to live out the rest of his days as a human being. He will live, breathe, eat, sleep, struggle, triumph, one day die, and then enter the new afterlife system. It’s a risk because who even knows what the system will be like when Michael’s time comes. But it’s exactly a risk that Michael is looking for.
Janet, as the search engine of the afterlife has no choice but to continue on. The system that Chidi created is working well. More and more people are getting to The Good Place every day, including: Jason’s dad, Eleanor’s mom, Chidi’s parents and friend, John, Simone, and of course: William Shakespeare. Brent remains stuck in The Bad Place, unable to improve, thank God. But someone like Janet needs to be around to make sure it all continues to run smoothly. So instead Janet serves as an emotional guide for those who wish to leave.
Those who wish to leave end up being Jason, Chidi, and Eleanor. Jason is the first to realize that he is ready to go. Jason spends roughly 2,242 Bearimys in the afterlife hanging out with his girlfriend (not a GIRLfriend) Janet and playing Madden with his dad, Donkey Doug. After Madden is well and truly defeated, Jason holds a going away party before heading off to a mystical woods and walking through the vinelike final door. Or so we think! Jason actually hangs back in the woods looking for a bracelet he intended to give to Janet. In the process of spending thousands of Bearimys in solitude, Jason finally becomes something like Jianyu – the silent monk he once pretended to be. Then he heads off into the unknown.
Chidi is the next to go, 326.2 Bearimys later. His life with Eleanor is peaceful and happy but after an unassuming dinner with Eleanor and her parents one night, Chidi realizes he has accomplished everything he needs to and walks confidently through the door (though not before leaving Eleanor a fantastic calendar featuring many steamy images of himself).
It takes awhile for Eleanor to come to terms with the end. She is only able to do so after helping both Michael and the Medium Place’s Mindy St. Clair enter the system. Janet takes Eleanor to the woods where she finally enters through the door and The Good Place gives us a very touching final scene. As Eleanor steps through the final door, she begins to glow and the camera pans up to reveal a host of tiny, yet bright lights in the sky.
Ultimately, this finale isn’t about the finality of endings and death but rather the mysteries of them. No one knows what happens when you walk through the door, not even Janet whose job it is to know literally everything. Are the bright little lights souls, scattering around in the cosmic winds, waiting to join one another in the infinite? Maybe! That would certainly dovetail with what Chidi told Eleanor earlier. Not many of Chidi’s Western philosopher friends approached death from a human, communal perspective. For spiritual stuff, you have to head to the East. The Buddhists say that life is like a wave. “You can see it, measure it. It’s there 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,” Chidi says. Perhaps death is merely returning to the water after you’ve gloriously, briefly crested.
The point is that none of us know. And that’s what makes’s the show’s final moments with Michael particularly important. Michael is blissfully happy leading his life, operating microwaves, learning guitar, and making friends. In the final scene the lights from beyond the final door drift down to Earth and slowly fade away as Michael delights in getting a Coyote Joe’s Marketplace rewards card in the mail. When Michael’s neighbor tells him to take it easy, he responds with.
“I’ll do you one better. I’ll say this to you my friend with all the love in my heart and all the wisdom of the universe: take is sleazy.”
Michael Realman, despite once being literally in charge of heaven, has no greater insight into the end of it all than we do. The important thing is to enjoy the simple and tangible while you have it. Keep riding the wave until it crashes, and then concern yourself with the ocean.