In the last six or so months, my Netflix account has enjoyed more consistent attention since before I learned how to drive. There’s a good chance I could say the same for all of you. This just means that I may or may not have more blog posts about all my favorite television shows that I’m re-watching than I normally do. You have been warned.
Before I continue, I should add another warning about how this blog post will almost certainly spoil the major details of the show in question for those of you that haven’t seen it. To be honest, it’s kind of hard to write about my favorite moments from the show without spoiling anything, so sorry in advance. You have been warned…again.
The NBC show, The Good Place, first aired in September of 2016. It follows Eleanor Shellstrop, a morally askew woman who, after her untimely demise, has still somehow made it into what’s known as “the Good Place.” Of course, this turns out to be a huge mistake and now Eleanor has to figure out how she can earn her place among the best of humanity.
The Good Place has been praised several times over for it’s phenomenal acting, tight storytelling, and modern inclusions of some of the biggest ethical questions humanity has ever faced. And these moments are some of the best examples as to exactly why The Good Place deserves every recognition.
“Flying,” Season 1 Episode 2
Despite her shady past behaviors, Eleanor displays on several occasions what it means to have a good heart and still be a flawed human being. While she’s often inclined to act toward her own desires, at the end of the day she does feel sympathy and guilt and eventually learns how to channel these feelings into good deeds. The first of which is when she takes personal responsibility to clean up a mess she made after trying to cut corners on the job earlier in the episode. It’s a simple act of kindness, but it’s also the first time in the series Eleanor shows she’s able to act with selfless intentions.
“The Answer,” Season 4 Episode 9
Speaking about character growth, the one character that I didn’t notice much growth from in the series was definitely Chidi. To be fair, he was probably the most selfless of the group to begin with which makes it difficult to notice when he learns or understands something new about how to be a better person. However, I thought this entire episode brought the most emotional and revealing account of Chidi’s life—before and after death. Like the whole sha-bang.
We not only see his indecision manifest from the tension he’s experienced in life, but we finally can begin to understand why Chidi is always in search of the One Answer to the best way to live life. And just before his final reset we see him make the most certain decision he’s ever made—one that isn’t certain logistically, but one that Chidi feels is right. Sprinkle all the feels right on top and this episode will have anyone sobbing.
“The Trolley Problem,” Season 2 Episode 5
Since this show is based largely around that big looming question of what it means to live a good life, we should probably talk about the show’s approach to one of the most well-known ethical dilemmas—”the Trolley Problem.” This ideal—popularized by Judith Jarvis Thomason in 1976—boils down to making a choice based on sacrificing one to save many. At first glance, you may approach the problem from a utilitarian viewpoint—where it’s more ethical to align your good actions where they’ll benefit the most people. AKA, save the many. But some may say that making the choice to sacrifice someone is active participation in wrongdoing, which is immoral. The show does an amazing job of tackling all the what-if’s most students and scholars discuss in classes and lectures, proving The Good Place isn’t just all fun and games.
“Everything is Bonzer!” Season 3 Episode 1
Everything about the season 3 premiere set up the complexity of making choices in our everyday lives. After unknowingly being given a second chance at living—under the ruse of gaining enough points to really make it into the Good Place—our four main characters make some drastic yet selfless choices in order to better themselves. However, after just a few months of random acts of kindness, each character slowly but surely struggles to find meaning in their good deeds.
I think this episode shows how difficult it can be sometimes to constantly make what you know is the “right choice” when you rarely see those actions paying off—something so raw and real for all of humanity.
“Pandemonium,” Season 3 Episode 12
Let’s talk about Janet for a second. Despite being all-knowing, like all our other characters, Janet does just as much evolving throughout the series. In the season 3 finale, as Eleanor is preparing for a new neighborhood simulation with new test subjects, she confides in Janet about the meaning of life and the purpose to everything their group is doing. Janet admits she doesn’t have a straight-shot answer, but that’s the beauty of existence. Janet postulates that in a world where things are constantly changing, we should do our best to hold onto the things that make sense.
There’s something beautiful about the fact that even though Janet says she doesn’t know the answer to Eleanor’s question, she still manages to get it right.
“Michael’s Gambit,” Season 1 Episode 13
Let’s leave the mush alone for a second to talk about one of the greatest twists in television history. I’ll admit, I really didn’t see this one coming. Although looking back on it, it all makes sense. None of the characters were ever really happy in that first neighborhood and I did find myself occasionally thinking that everything seemed just shy of utopia. This episode proves that the entire first season was well-thought out and carefully planned to set up the satisfying reveal.
“A Chip Driver Mystery,” Season 4 Episode 6
This episode may have my favorite quote to live by, which means we had to make sure to squeeze it onto the list. In this episode, Michael is talking to Bad Janet—who is in captivity by our main characters for trying to thwart the latest experiment—about why he continues to root for the humans, believing that all their plans will succeed.
What matters isn’t if people are good or bad.
What matters is if they’re trying to be better today than they were yesterday.
Michael perfectly sums up the thesis to the entire series. It’s hopeful to think that even when you make a bad move, all you have to do is try to make a better one after. That’s the most human quality of all.
This clearly isn’t a comprehensive list of everything the makes The Good Place the masterpiece that it is. I mean, we haven’t even talked about D’Arcy Carden’s amazing performance in “Janet(s)” Season 3 Episode 9 or how fiercely the humans display in the face of adversity “Jeremy Bearimy” Season 3 Episode 5. We didn’t’ even have time to weep and awe at the simultaneously heart-warming and gut-wrenching series finale “Whenever You’re Ready” Season 4 Episode 13. The Good Place was all parts fantastical, humorous and inspiring, and there truly has never been a show quite like it.
* * *
If you’ve never given it a watch, seriously head over to your Netflix account and get started. Just be ready for the occasional existential crisis every now and again.
If you want to stay up-to-date on all my latest projects—like perhaps more TV show reviews—then make sure to follow me on Facebook and Instagram, and subscribe to the blog if you haven’t already. Thanks for reading, and make sure to leave all your favorite moments from The Good Place in the comments section below! See you guys next week!