February 2, 2018

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Finale Review: “The Good Place”


It would have been impossible for the Season 2 finale of THE GOOD PLACE to match the gut-punch of Season 1’s climactic twist, partly because until it happened, we hadn’t even known to look for one.  The Good Place was a broadcast network sitcom, albeit a whimsical one, and its creator Michael Schur, while certainly imaginative (the time-jump that Parks & Recreation took, for example), had always been a fairly straightforward storyteller.  We weren’t parsing The Good Place the way we did puzzle-box shows like Mr. Robot or Westworld, so when it flipped its own premise and revealed that the show’s purported version of heaven was actually hell, and kindly angel Michael (Ted Danson) was really a heinous demon, the entire show seemed to explode before our eyes.

That would have been a tough act to follow, and tonight’s Season 2 finale, written and directed by Schur, didn’t really try.  Although it gave its narrative another left-turn, it was in an almost retro direction, far from the wild inspirations that marked earlier stretches of Season 2, especially the “Dance Dance Resolution” episode (brilliantly written by Supervising Producer Megan Amram and directed by Executive Producer Drew Goddard) that recounted the hundreds of reboots Michael had given the afterlives of our heroes Eleanor (Kristen Bell), Chidi (William James Harper), Jason (Manny Jacinto) and Tahani (Jameela Jamil).

The main character arc of Season 2 was Michael’s own journey from pure demon-hood to something more like a fairy godfather, working with his humans at first for his own safety lest his boss Shawn (Marc Evan Jackson) find out that his “Good Place” experiment had failed, and gradually bonding with them.  In the finale, his latest plan to save them from eternal torture, imparted to Chief Judge Gen (Maya Rudolph, briefly returning from her terrific turn in the previous episode), was a fairly obvious one:  prove that the humans had really become better people by putting them back on Earth and letting them prove it.

That led to a half-hour that was much more like a conventional sitcom than we’ve seen before, concentrating on Eleanor in her newly-extended life on Earth, as she did try to live a better life after her near-death experience, but then backslid, until a helpful visit from Michael in the guise of a blatantly Sam Malone-ish bartender put her back on the right path, which in the final sequence led her to seek out Chidi.

It was a charming episode, with plenty of funny writing (on meeting Chidi in this life, Eleanor pronounces his last name as “Annakendrick”), but subdued compared to The Good Place‘s usual conceptual fireworks, and a bit empty with just a bit of Chidi, and no Jason or Tahani at all after the opening sequence.  If Season 3 continues in this vein, presumably Eleanor and Chidi will come into contact with the two of them as well, and it may feel, well, earthbound.  But if The Good Place has taught us anything, it’s not to underestimate Michael Schur, who no doubt has plenty of surprises teed up.  Even if the finale episode was a bit of a softball, Season 2 of The Good Place as a whole was in a different, and quite heavenly, realm compared to any other comedy on commercial TV.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."