Everything Is Fine!

The Good Place Review


NBC/Official The Good Place poster

The Good Place offers a view on what heaven might be like for someone who’s not really supposed to be there

She opens her eyes and blinks. The woman is in a small waiting room, with green lettering on the wall across her proclaiming ‘Everything is Fine!’ A door opens to the room, and a man steps in.

“Hello Eleanor,” he says. “Come on in.”

Eleanor follows him into a small office and sits across from him. The man places his hands on the table.

“You, Eleanor Shellstrop, are dead,” he says, smiling. “You’re in the Good Place.”

Welcome to The Good Place, one of NBC’s many new hit comedies, which just finished its third season. The show is another one of Michael Schur’s creations, his name being attached to other popular shows including The Office, Parks and Rec, and Brooklyn 99. Unlike his other shows, most of which take place in different kinds of offices and real-world spaces, The Good Place takes its viewers somewhere completely new: the afterlife.

When Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell) dies, she is sent to the Good Place: a perfect afterlife utopia where the best of the best go when they die. Welcoming her to the Good Place is Michael (Ted Danson), the supernatural architect who built Eleanor’s neighborhood. Assisting Michael is Janet (D’Arcy Carden), a cheery, humanoid vessel of all the knowledge in the universe. The Good Place itself is divided into millions of “neighborhoods”, each one containing 322 people, each of whom are paired up with their “soulmate”. In the Good Place, the sun always shines, the grass is always green, everything is perfect and there’s enough frozen yogurt for all of eternity.

However, shortly after arriving, Eleanor realizes that there has been a mistake: she isn’t supposed to be there. Another Eleanor Shellstrop, one who advocated for innocent people on death row, has been sent to the Bad Place, while our self-proclaimed “Arizona trashbag” has been sent to the Good Place. In the words of our Eleanor, “Somebody royally forked up.”

Somebody royally forked up.”

— Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell)

Trying to earn her place in utopia, Eleanor teams up with her “soulmate” Chidi Anagonye (William Jackson Harper), a Senegalese moral philosophy professor, to learn how to be a better person. Chidi agrees to teach Eleanor about ethics in secret, so she isn’t exposed and sent to the Bad Place. Of course, that proves difficult, especially dealing with people like her neighbors Tahani Al-Jamil (Jameela Jamil), a rich, celebrity-name-dropping socialite, and her soulmate Jianyu (Manny Jacinto), a silent but mysterious Buddhist monk. As the neighborhood begins to malfunction due to her bad choices, Eleanor realizes she has to learn how to be good- and learn fast.

In later seasons, the show features many guest stars including Maya Rudolph (SNL), Marc Evan Jackson (Thrilling Adventure Hour), Adam Scott (Parks and Recreation), Jason Mantzoukas (The Dictator, Brooklyn 99), and Mike O’Malley (Sully).

The Good Place is unique in its ability to integrate comedy and philosophy together seamlessly. As Eleanor tries to improve herself, Chidi teaches both her and the audience about moral philosophy in a way that never really feels forced or unnatural. The show is often able to blend some of the serious philosophy with its comedy. Unlike other sitcoms, whose sole purpose is to make people laugh, The Good Place also makes you think. It makes you ask yourself big questions like: ‘What makes someone or something good?’ or ‘How should people’s actions be judged?’

The humor in the show is also what makes it unique. One aspect of the show that it probably is most famous for is the curse-filter that all Good Place residents are subject to. Anytime a resident tries to swear, they end up actually saying something that sounds close to but not exactly like the real swear, such as “motherforker,” “bullshirt,” “ashhole,” or “bench.” One of my other favorite running jokes include Tahani’s constant name-dropping of celebrities she knew on Earth.

Another unique trait The Good Place has that sets it apart from other sitcoms is its present and intense plot. Most sitcoms have a tendency to “return to the status quo” at the end of every episode. The settings, characters and their circumstances may change during the course of an episode, but they more or less return to normal at the end of it. While this is true of many of Schur’s other shows, The Good Place does everything but return to the status quo at the end of every episode. The plot, settings, and characters are constantly changing, and I wouldn’t really consider any episodes to be “filler.” Every episode has at least some consequence for the plot, and nearly every episode ends in a juicy cliffhanger. With the first two seasons on Netflix, it makes for a very “binge-able” show (personally I watched the first two seasons in a week). The only drawback to such a plot-heavy show is the inevitably shorter seasons. The first three seasons are all 12-13 episodes in length, with 20 minute episodes.

The show, however, is not without its faults. Some moments feel cringely melodramatic and some actors have a tendency to overact. While these moments are few and far between, they are hard to forget and harder to watch through. The soundtrack also gets repetitive after a while. The music fun and it fits with the tone of the show, but you can only see Eleanor have an epiphany to the same tune every other episode so many times without getting tired of it. The shot composition is not very creative, but this is true of most comedies so it is forgivable. There are also a few episodes that use CGI that worked in some instances, but felt clunky and rough in others. The occasional use of animation greatly improves and becomes smoother as the seasons go on, but probably the roughest and least professional-looking CGI scene is at the end of the very first episode.

However, these faults don’t greatly affect the unique story of The Good Place. The characters are memorable, and the show does a very good job at making you care for and sympathize with them. It’s hard to pick a favorite character, because you end up loving all of them for different reasons. The Good Place is a unique and new style of sitcom that has the ability to make you laugh and think with neither feeling forced, and has a complex plot that continuously drives the plot forward.

The show was been renewed for a fourth season, but has yet to have a release date.