“Pobody’s Nerfect!” Except, of Course, The Good Place

Life and DeathMedia

The Good Place, created in 2016 by Michael Schur, is a fantastic show and will appeal to a wide variety of people. It perfectly balances and mixes sheer comedy, subtle (as well as not-so-subtle) philosophy, and drama.

The show follows four flawed but ultimately good main characters: Eleanor, Chidi, Jianyu, and Tahani. It opens in a white room with a few potted plants and a bland sofa. On the far wall in big green letters is written, “Welcome! Everything is fine.” Eleanor opens her eyes suddenly; she’s surprised by where she is. A man named Michael walks in through double doors and welcomes her into his office, where he explains what’s happening. We learn that Eleanor is dead, and she’s now in “the Good Place,” where she’ll live for the rest of eternity. One by one, we meet the other characters, and they work together in order to keep their blissful lives in the show’s take on heaven (and hell).

Each character has a particular flaw that we dive into throughout the show, and we see these most plainly in the ways that they die. Eleanor’s lack of compassion for other people puts her in a situation where she is, ridiculously, run over by a line of shopping carts. Chidi, a moral philosophy professor, is overly indecisive; he has trouble deciding on a bar to go to with his friend, and while weighing the pros and cons of each, getting preposterously abstract, he gets crushed by a falling air conditioner. Tahani, constantly compared to her sister, is filled with jealousy and dies by getting crushed by a massive golden statue of her sister. Because of spoilers, I won’t tell you how Jianyu dies. Despite these flaws and being dead, they all come together to become better people, with Chidi as a teacher. With actual philosophers helping the writers, the group discusses things like Kant’s “Categorical Imperative,” John Locke’s “Theory of Personal Identity,” and with some Good Place magic, they even experience “the Trolley Problem” first hand. When I first heard that philosophy was a central part of the show, I considered not watching it, but it’s integrated in such a brilliant way that you learn and think about things without even realizing it.

Even though the show takes place after the characters all died, none of them lived perfect lives. One of the show’s goals is to teach us that nobody can live a perfect life. We learn early on that every single thing you do on earth is given a point value. Ignoring a text message during an in-person conversation gives you 1041.54 points and fixing the broken tricycle of a child who is indifferent to tricycles gives you 2.10 points. Failing to disclose camel illness when selling a camel, on the other hand, deducts 22.22 points, and overstating a personal connection to a tragedy that has nothing to do with you deducts 42.30 points. There are a lot more funny ones and I recommend pausing the first episode to look at them. The very best of the best are the ones that get to come to the Good Place. As for everyone else? “Don’t worry about it.” But even though none of the main characters are perfect, they still do something nobody thought possible; they improve themselves significantly after death. And although they all work hard to become better, it’s clear that they shouldn’t have had to. Hardly anyone is good enough to make it to the Good Place, and anyone with fewer than 900,000 points will go down to the bad place.

Not only does The Good Place make the incredibly heavy subject of life and death entertaining and funny, it’s full of twists and turns that leave you speechless. Some jokes had me rolling on the floor laughing and some scenes had me crying. I was already in love with the show before the very last episode aired. The end really hit home; it was beautiful in a sad way, but it fit the story perfectly. It was kind of like that feeling of finding the last piece of a jigsaw puzzle under the coffee table, and slotting it in to bring the whole picture to life, but also bringing the whole experience to an end. It tied the whole show up perfectly.

The show also uses special effects sparingly, but masterfully. The details in the set are there in some places, but everything is very clean and polished, which lends itself to the style of the show. I would give The Good Place a five out of five rating. It’s perfect for such a wide variety of people, I think there’s something in it for everyone. If you haven’t, I hope you start watching The Good Place soon. I’ll leave you with this iconic quote from Eleanor: “Pobody’s nerfect!”

Satya Shaw is an eighth-grader at Saint Ann's School in Brooklyn, New York. He loves to read, sing, and hang out with his friends. His dream is to become an actor.

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