- “Mortality offers meaning to our lives.”
The series “The Good Place” doesn’t just embrace death but makes it the subject of its entire 4 season hit series. At first it might seem like the backdrop of heaven (aka “The Good Place”) might be blissful, but the twists and turns of the plot reveal as much complexity in the after-life as life itself. In the end, the moral of the story is that even immortality has its drawbacks…to be embraced.
A thoroughly inspired and fun romp, “The Good Place” reaches one of its finest moments when it embraced its own mortality as series. Rather than milk the audience’s enthusiasm and the characters’ personas, it decided to embrace the end and nobly drop the curtain when the story had run its course. As the Slate article “The Two Philosophers Who Cameoed in the Good Place Finale on What They Made of Its Ending” noted: “[The finale] seems as much an argument about television as it is about morality: Better a good ending on your own terms than dragging things out until they’re dulled by repetition.”
The entire series is ostensibly about death, but the finale treats the topic with a bit more poignancy. The “Heaven” of the final episode is a place where failure has been removed completely from existence. And that seems to be its downfall. The moral of the story is that if such a Heaven did exist, people would fail to want to be there.
- “If you live forever, then ethics don’t matter to you because basically there’s no consequences for your actions. You tell a lie? Who cares? Wait a few trillion years…the guilt will fade.” – Chedi
Another pervasive theme throughout the show’s run has also been embracing the failure of knowing. That intellectual humility, personified by the character Chedi, is underscored in the finale with several skeptical reflections. If there is one question that is so ultimately unknowable it is “what happens when you die?” (you can believe various things, but you can’t ‘know’ it).
- “That’s what makes [life] special. I won’t exactly know what’s going to happen after I die. Nothing more human than that.” – Michael
- “The wave returns to the ocean. What the ocean does with the water after that is anyone’s guess…The true joy is in the mystery.” – Chedi
It’s not just the big questions that merit “unknowing”, but it is also the mundane things. Like how to play a guitar. The final episode opens with the character Michael’s (played by Ted Danson) “attempt number 803 of my new project…” The all-knowing and all-powerful assistant Janet offers “a magic guitar that plays the notes for you? It’s the number one request for men over 50 who gotten in here.” But Michael declines saying, “No! the whole point is to figure out how to do stuff without after-life magic.” Later in the episode, Eleanor comments on Michael’s transformation from demon to human commenting on how he is getting on:
- “He’s messing up. And trying again. And messing up again. And then getting things wrong. Andf then trying to make them right. That’s what everyone does.”
For a superb, post-finale commentary, check out The Take’s review “The Good Place, Ending Explained – What Happens After?” (below).