5 Essential Good Place Episodes to Watch Before the Series Finale Breaks Our Forking Hearts

My face during the series finale.
My face during the series finale.
Photo: NBC

Our time in the Good Place is almost at an end, having spent four forking fantasic seasons with Eleanor, Chidi, Jason, Tahani, Michael, and Janet. As we get ready for the series finale of The Good Place, we thought we’d look back at its most pivotal episodes: the ones that made us cry, the ones that made us think, and the one that reminded us how surprisingly jacked Chidi is.

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Be sure to leave a comment with your standout episodes of The Good Place, and join us on Friday for our roundtable discussion on the series finale. In the meantime, all we can say is goodbye...and thanks for all the shrimp.

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“Michael’s Gambit” (Season 1, Episode 13)

The Good Place started off with a bang (which is why we also recommend revisiting the series premiere), but it’s the first season finale where we saw exactly what this show was capable of. In a shocking twist that may go down as one of the best television surprises this side of the Red Wedding—for those who didn’t read the books—Eleanor (Kristen Bell) realized that she and the others weren’t actually in the Good Place. They were in the Bad Place, part of Michael’s (Ted Danson) newfangled experiment to get humans to torture each other. This reveal didn’t just raise the stakes on The Good Place, it yanked them out of the ground and hurled them toward the sun. Just like that poor puppy from season one. RIP.

“The Trolley Problem” (Season 2, Episode 6)

Part of what makes The Good Place so, well, good is how it uses comedy to explore the realms of moral philosophy and ethics. This is perfectly encapsulated in series standout “The Trolley Problem.” Chidi (William Jackson Harper) is trying to explain ethics to Michael as part of his attempt to become a better person, but the demon-turned-student can’t quite seem to grasp the practical applications of something as hypothetical as the Trolley Problem. So, Michael brings the thought experiment to life! Chidi’s indecisiveness is put to the test again and again, each experiment resulting in a bloody, pulpy disaster. It turns out that Michael is just forking with Chidi, which Eleanor rightfully points out as being a pretty shirty friend move. Eventually, Michael sincerely apologizes, signaling the first steps toward his own growth.

“Jeremy Bearimy”—Season 3, Episode 5

What would you do if you found out you were doomed? Would you simply give up, or would you try even harder to leave something good behind? That’s the dilemma the Soul Squad faces in “Jeremy Bearimy,” with varying results. Eleanor and the others (who think they’re just normal, living people) learn that they’ve been dead for over 300 years, looping around in a constantly shifting timeline known as the Jeremy Bearimy. They were only brought back to Earth as part of an experiment to see if they deserve a second chance at the Good Place—an experiment they’ve failed now that they know it exists.

Without hope and out of options, each of our heroes responds to this news in different ways. Eleanor tries to go back to her old ways but finds she can’t, instead heading on a quest to return a guy’s wallet. Tahani (Jameela Jamil) and Jason (Manny Jacinto) donate a bunch of money and get (platonically) married so they can continue to do good works. It’s only Chidi who completely loses his grasp on reality, resulting in some hilarious scenes and a reminder that Chidi is pretty stacked.

“Janet(s)”—Season 3, Episode 10

This episode was a fantastic exploration of identity, carried entirely on the purple-vested shoulders of actress D’Arcy Carden. Janet and Michael are on a mission to figure out what’s actually going on with the Good Place’s enrollment policy but they have to keep Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani, and Jason hidden. So Janet stashes them away in her Void, which means they all turn into different versions of Janet. It’s amazing how well Carden captures each of the characters, my favorite being her version of Jason. Things get intense when Eleanor starts having an identity crisis inside of the identity crisis, doubting herself and her relationship with Chidi, and it isn’t until Chidi reminds her of how strong she is that they’re able to truly return to themselves.

“The Answer”—Season 4, Episode 9

The most recent entry on this list, “The Answer” felt like a perfect way to wrap up the series before heading into the endgame. It centers on Chidi as 300 years of experiences and memories are thrust back into his head. We’re taken through all the ups and downs of his life, the ways he perceived the world around him versus how things actually were, and how much his time in the afterlife changed him for the better. It’s sort of like a clip show, revisiting some of the best moments of the series, but having it focus on Chidi provides a new perspective on familiar events. And in the end, he comes to realize the truth about the universe: “There is no ‘answer’ but Eleanor is the answer.”

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The Good Place returns for one last time with its two-part series finale tonight, followed by a 30-minute live interview with the cast and team behind the series.

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Video Editor and Staff Writer at io9. My doppelganger is that rebelling greeting card from Futurama.

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DISCUSSION

westerosironswanson
The Ron Swanson of Westeros

It may seem like the worst kind of appropriation in the world (and perhaps it is), but I have to say that one of the best things about this show is that it’s taught me the importance, and value, of representation. Specifically, I feel like Chidi represents me in a way that no character ever has before or since. And it is a heck of a revelation.

Now, I realize that me, a white man, saying that I have been represented by a person of color, is on general principle a very Brent Norwalk way to talk and think. But allow me to explain.

I have an extremely high-functioning form of autism. And I grew up in an extremely religiously-conservative community, where the only thing they really value is “stay in your lane”. Which isn’t a terrible deal: as long as I don’t say anything to anyone except “Please” and “Thank You”, and nobody starts talking about The Lord of the Rings, it’s “Welcome sir, there’s a table right here waiting for you.” But it also means I live a life without connection, because, to be blunt, these people only care about you so long as you Remind Them Of Themselves, and it’s impossible for me to do that once I open my mouth.

I know. I’ve tried as hard as I could, for as long as I’ve could, to figure out how to blend in and pass. And I can’t, largely because most of the things that would help me to pass, like being able to recognize emotions on someone’s face in the moment, or remember to look someone in the eye for four seconds, then look away, then look for another four seconds when you’re talking to them, or know how the fuck to follow some guy’s line of sight when he points at something, are just things my brain can’t process.

And almost purely by accident, one of the things I did to try and pass, to try not to be blamed for violating social norms, was to learn everything I could about ethics. Which means that while Chidi and I came from very different places, we ended up somewhere very similar: we both studied ethics because, at core, we both thought that this is what we can give to the world around us. And instead it only kind of paralyzed us, and made it even more difficult for us to integrate with the world around us. Like Chidi, I don’t for a second regret the work I’ve done. But it was probably the bitterest lesson of my life to realize “Oh, these people act the way they do because they’re shitty human beings. They don’t actually care about any of these moral principles. They just don’t want to feel bad about themselves, and me moralizing and talking philosophy reads to other people as me being holier-than-thou, because that’s what they believe they’d feel in my position.

The fact that they would take a person like Chidi, and not make him the holier-than-thou stick-in-the-mud? And instead make him the beating moral heart of the show, and the reason why an Arizona trash bag could save the afterlife? That was a revelation. I’ve identified with many characters in genre fiction over the years; Odo, Lennier, Stannis. But I’ve never felt represented as I do with Chidi. And at the risk of Brent Norwalk-ing, I have to say it’s an amazing feeling to feel represented in fiction. I get it.