After years of twists, ethical scenarios, and Chidi’s philosophy lessons, The Good Place is ready to take its final bow.
The surprise hit series is gearing up for a two-hour series finale on January 30, 2020.
But you don’t have to say goodbye, you can keep the memory alive by snagging some The Good Place memorabilia to celebrate how much love you have for The Good Place, The Bad, and everything in between.
Here are some gifts to get The Good Place lover in your life (including yourself!)
1. For starters, you need to buy all the seasons on DVR in case Netflix removes them one day and you have no way of binge-ing all your favorite episodes. Snag The Good Place DVD Set now!
2. Funko Pops of the gang that singlehandedly saved Earth from being eliminated by the Judge? If you’re a Good Place fan, owning these are a must. Our favorite is Janet in her little purple uniform. Get your The Good Place Funko Pops right here! Note: these will be released February 24, 2020 but you can pre-order them now!
3. Make sure you’re ready for all of your 2020 appointments and festivities by jotting them down in the 2020 The Good Place calendar. This is probably similar to what Michael to keep track of the neighborhood he designed. Get your The Good Place Calendar now on Amazon!
4. You know there’s no swearing in The Good Place, but boy did Eleanor try. Her classic “AHA” line? “Holy Mother Forking Shirt Balls.” Wear this shirt and connect with all the other Eleanor’s in your life. Or have an Eleanor in your life, get her/him this! Get the Holy Forking Shirtballs Sweatshirt right now!
5. Another classic Eleanor phrase that can now adorn the cup you drink your morning devil juice from (coffee): “That’s Bullshirt.” Nothing has ever summed up our internal thoughts so succinctly. Get your That’s Bullshirt Mug now!
6. Have a chef in your life? Then you need to get them the “Forking Good Unofficial Cookbook.” In addition to illustrations that only make sense to The Good Place fan, there are plenty of recipes you can make ahead of a night of philosophy discussions. And for dessert… frozen yogurt! Get your Forking Good Unofficial Cookbook for Fans of The Good Place on Amazon now!
7. Every time Michael rebooted his neighborhood, our friends Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani, and Jason saw the “Welcome: Everything is Fine” message on a green backdrop. Now, you can wear it loud and proud. Get your Everything is Fine T-Shirt right now.
8. Some people just belong in The Bad Place along with Sean, bad Janet, and the lava monsters. There’s nothing wrong with that. Get them (or yourself) this t-shirt! Get your The Bad Place T-Shirt right now!
9. And for the ultimate gift… a philosophy book that would make Chidi proud. In this book titled, “The Good Place and Philosophy,” twenty-one philosophers analyze different aspects of the ethical and metaphysical issues raised in the show. Get your The Good Place and Philosophy book now!
The Best Episode of The Good Place Is… “Best Self”
I have a pet peeve.
I can’t stand it when people turn a TV show on to play in the background. It eats away at me that they aren’t putting their full attention to the piece of art on the screen, and are missing jokes or character moments because they’re browsing the internet or doing something awful like playing with their cat.
My annoyance isn’t fair or justified. Everyone is allowed to enjoy whatever content they want in whatever way they want. No matter how you enjoy something, odds are someone else will enjoy it differently. That can be hard to accept; we tend to want other people to extract the same level of enjoyment out of something as we extract ourselves, and we assume we know the best way to do this.
Like when you take your best friend to your favorite burger place, where they have the best toppings and secret sauce, and your friend gets a plain, topping free, sauceless burger.
“No,” you say as politely as you can mustard, “you have to try the secret sauce. You need to get the whole experience.”
“No thanks,” your friend says, in the least aggressive way possible.
“Why did I even bring you here?”
This is how I feel when someone makes a grocery list while watching TV. This is how I feel almost every time someone watches The Good Place Season 2 Episode 10 “Best Self,” even if they’re paying attention.
***Spoilers for The Good Place Below***
The Good Place is hilarious. Because it’s funny and charming, it makes a great background show to throw on while you’re dusting your living room.
It has a unique setting and plot as well, which also makes it fantastic viewing for those who like to sit and pay more attention.
But there is a third layer to the series. It’s deep and philosophic and is available to be analyzed and digested by those who want to do so.
I want to do so. To my devastation, my friends don’t always want to do so. So I’m going to do it for them!
“Best Self” is the most deeply human episode of television I’ve ever seen. Peel away the clever jokes and gags, and the next layer of the intricate plot, and you get to a core that is all of life packed into 22 minutes.
The episode starts with reformed demon Michael telling our heroes Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani, and Jason that they are finally all going to head to the real Good Place together. The four humans have one last round of fro-yo together and fantasize about the heaven that awaits them.
Once their magic balloon arrives, they have to pass the magic gate that only opens if they’ve become the best version of themselves. Of course, Chidi can’t get on because he isn’t sure that he’s his best self.
Then Michael reveals confesses that he lied, that the magic balloon won’t work even if they all pass the gate, and he has no idea how to get them into the actual Good Place. They’re stuck in the neighborhood, and by morning the Bad Place demons will come and get them, dragging them into an eternal hell of torment and torture. No matter what they have done or what they do now, they’re screwed.
Every single living organism on this planet, in this universe, is screwed. No matter what it knows or does, each living thing is going to eventually die, and there is absolutely nothing that can be done about that. In this way, every living thing is equal; no life is better or more valuable than any other life because, in the end, it won’t be life at all.
Most life, though, can’t actually perceive or understand the finality of our dooms, and our ability to do so is what separates us and makes us definitively human. It’s the same reason Michael couldn’t truly understand humans until he understood death in “Existential Crisis.” This ability to understand the finality of life is what allows us to truly live.
So that’s what the humans decide to do on their last day. Eleanor orders a ton of alcohol from Janet, and they begin to party. The friends dance, get drunk, talk about their feelings and their fears, and take comfort in the only thing they can take comfort in; each other.
If you just watch this episode as another chapter in a story about a crazy afterlife that houses demons who have holiday weekend Ikea as an entire department of torture, it’s honestly a little boring. Very little happens, as basically the cast just hangs out in a single location for 22 minutes, making it a bottle episode. It’s fine, but it’s no “Dance, Dance, Resolution,” with its insane 300 mph pace, or “Michael’s Gambit” with an incredible twist.
Analyze a little deeper, though, and you’ll find an episode of television that perfectly encapsulates human existence.
The unrealistic hope they display at the start as they fantasize about the perfect Good Place, the heartbreak Eleanor feels when Chidi dreams about meeting his soulmate, the pain Michael experiences when he disappoints his friends after revealing he lied to them about getting into the Good Place; the range of emotions captured by these characters in such a short time reminds you of the rollercoaster that is human emotion.
The humanity doesn’t end there. The silly jabs at each other during their toasts are funny character jokes, but also a display of how we cope with our own and each others’ faults. They’re a display of love between people who have shared the trials of (after)life together. There is a comfort we feel when someone truly knows us well enough to point out the specifics of our personalities, and what is human life but trying to create that kind of bond with others?
And then there is Michael’s Human Starter Kit. Made an honorary human, the demon Michael gratefully opens his gift and pulls out car keys, band-aids, a stress ball, and a Dr. Oz diet book; all “garbage that [he has] no real use for.”
And yet he does find a use for them. By assigning meaning to the objects as they pertain to people and as they relate to him as a gift from his friends, Michael finds value in something meaningless. “Welcome to being human,” Eleanor tells him.
The episode immediately shifts to the friends doing the same thing, as they create meaning in their last day by dancing and having fun with each other. They take what’s left of their lives and they live it. Tomorrow they will be doomed forever, but for now, they are free. Free to laugh, free to cry, free to feel, and free to dance.
In the end, after discussing what their personal Bad Place will be (a nice contrast to the start of the episode where they discuss their Good Place), the friends decide to do the most human thing of all.
“Attempt something futile, with a ton of unearned confidence, and fail spectacularly.”
We cannot win. We can’t escape our own doom, and we can’t create some transcendent meaning to our lives. All of our attempts at it will fail, but my goodness, we are going to keep trying.
“Best Self” packs in so much about human existence and reminds us that even if we don’t have a larger purpose, we’re responsible for creating the meaning in our lives, and we do so through each other. We can’t stop the end from coming, but we can make the time we have left worth something to us and the people around us. We can find meaning in the void.
“In a way, the Good Place was inside the Bad Place all along.”
My Good Place is shutting the lights off and over analyzing everything I see on screen, but everyone’s Good Place is different, and no one’s way is right. So if you want to do the dishes while watching TV, go for it. Have it on while you vacuum the floor, put together the furniture you got over the holiday weekend at Ikea, and cook up a plain, topping free, sauceless burger. It doesn’t matter, we’re all doomed anyway, so watch TV, and live, in whatever way makes you feel alive.
Be your “Best Self” and watch here!
Why the First Two Seasons of Person of Interest are Far From Irrelevant
Much like its characters, Person of Interest flew under the radar. I don’t care that the CBS show routinely attracted over 10 million live viewers; no one seemed to watch it.
Or maybe, perhaps in the age of prestige TV, the wrong people watched it. Most of these viewers were casual watchers who enjoyed tuning in for one episode here and there. The show began and ended with its time slot, with little discussion being furthered in the greater television community.
Which is a shame because Person of Interest (POI) demands to be talked about.
It’s a layered and intelligent series with an eerie relevance to our times. I desperately wanted people to know that, so I hopped from friend to friend to that random guy at the bar, hoping to convince someone to give it a chance.
I’d explain the show as concisely as I could. “After 9/11, a billionaire genius named Finch built a supercomputer called “The Machine” to spy on everyone and predict terrorist attacks, but since it also predicts smaller “irrelevant” crimes as well, Finch hires an ex CIA operative named Reese to help him act on the crimes The Machine predicts and stops them before they happen. They save a different person each episode that the government deems irrelevant.”
“Oh,” that guy at the bar said, “It’s a…procedural.”
Yes. POI can accurately be described as a crime procedural. It can also accurately be described as one of the best science-fiction shows in recent memory, I just hadn’t gotten to that part yet.
“But then, near the end of season two, you start to learn more about The Machine, and there is this psychopath named Root who is on a mission to set The Machine free from Finch’s control. And then ANOTHER machine, Samaritan, gets made, and the two supercomputers go to war with each other.”
“Oh,” that guy at the bar said, “I’d watch that. Can I just skip over some of the first two seasons?”
I get it. Person of Interest consists of over 100 44-minute episodes. That is a large amount of time to dedicate to one show. Back in 2016, in an attempt to get my friends to catch up before the final season aired, I went so far as to write out a guide of which episodes were absolutely necessary to get one caught up to season five.
The problem behind skipping most of the first two seasons, or the promise that “it gets really good if you just stick with it,” is the implication that the episodes dealing with cases of the week are “fillers” and therefore aren’t as important or relevant as the show’s serialized episodes.
I was guilty of this mindset myself until I watched the finale and heard the show’s final message.
By the time the fifth and final season of POI ends, the plot has taken us through storylines exploring the worrying implications of uncontrolled artificial intelligence. Samaritan (the “bad” computer) is attempting to run the world in the way it deems right, disposing of anyone who is irrelevant to that goal, and our heroes and The Machine (the “good” computer) are trying to stop it from gaining control of humanity. Both machines have become characters in their own right, and I wouldn’t blame anyone for being so taken in by their story that they forget what the show is actually about – people.
The idea that the show is about people; about individuals with lives, dreams, and flaws, is easy to forget when we focus so closely on the serialized plot and the fate of the world.
In the pilot episode, Finch enlisted Reese’s help to save the people The Machine predicted would be in trouble. This was their purpose. As the show forged a grander path in Season 3, they obtained a grander purpose as well. This made for more compelling and thought-provoking television, and in my original viewing of the series, I was looking forward to the day that they’d leave the cases of the week behind.
They never did, and it defines the message of the show.
At the climax of the finale, Reese has an exchange with Finch where it seems as though he is speaking directly to everyone who finds the first two seasons of this show a bit of a slog to get through.
“I’ve been trying to save the world for so long, saving one life at a time seemed a bit anti-climactic. Then I realized, sometimes one life, if it’s the right life, it’s enough.”
Even while saving the world – one life matters.
This is something the finale doesn’t let you forget about, as mere moments after Reese’s words, The Machine recalls a lesson it learned from a police officer who said that “Everyone dies alone, but if you mean something to someone, if you helped someone, or loved someone if even a single person remembers you, then maybe you never really die at all.”
And so, at the climax of the series, when we are so focused on whether or not Samaritan will finally be defeated, The Machine takes a lesson from one of those “irrelevant” people that were so heavily focused on in the beginning of the series. “I know I’ve made some mistakes, many mistakes,” The Machine says, “but we helped some people, didn’t we?”
Every single case of the week episode contributed to this moment. Those first two seasons, which included week after week after week of Reese and Finch saving random people on the streets of New York, mattered. The final lesson here, that we can continue living on through helping others, would be empty if it weren’t for all those “filler” episodes.
As I said before, I get it. It’s a lot of television to get through. Yes, you can successfully understand the plot of the show by watching the most serialized episodes, but skipping the procedural elements of the series will lessen the impact of this final lesson.
I find a certain irony that the episodes we most highly recommend are the serialized pieces that mostly sideline saving an individual. It feels like an almost Samaritan way to watch the show, where we dispose of the irrelevance to arrive at the goal more quickly. Without those first two seasons, and without those procedural episodes, POI is about the birth of artificial superintelligences and a fight for a faceless humanity, because like so many other ambitious sci-fi tales before it, the little people would have gotten left behind.
But POI doesn’t leave them behind. It never forgets that the world is only worth fighting for because of the individual people who live in it, and that long after the battle is won, we should continue helping anyone we can.
That message only carries the weight it does because of those first two seasons. The case of the week “filler” episodes are the backbone of the show’s final message.
I started this piece mentioning that despite 10 million viewers tuning in for the show, the “right” people didn’t watch it, and therefore the series doesn’t rank amongst the more popular peak TV titles. That statement isn’t quite fair, just as discounting the procedural elements of POI isn’t fair.
Every person matters, and every person who watched or was touched by this show matters as well. POI will likely never achieve the recognition it deserves in our current landscape, but perhaps, just as “[one life is enough],” knowing that it touched so many people can be enough, too.
I Didn’t Make It Past the First Season of Game of Thrones
It was the biggest small screen phenomenon of the 2010s. Each season, nay, episode, was an event. Discussion of the show would flood social media every night the show aired and the morning after. Premiere parties were thrown. Cosplays were made. Memes were created. Game of Thrones was a cultural icon.
I didn’t make it past the first season.
Game of Thrones was a young show when I stumbled upon it. Season one had recently ended, and I heard rave things about the editing, the production value, the music, the acting, and more. I was told by friends that the show was shocking and would blow my mind; that I’d never be able to see what’s coming next. I jumped in.
As I watched the opening scene, I noted how elaborate the setting was and how detailed the costumes were. Dead bodies started to appear, and soon I was watching a man get decapitated. As his head was tossed into frame, I remember thinking: “this feels like it’s trying to shock me.” Maybe I was biased by having been told I won’t know what to expect, but the trend of feeling like the show was constantly trying to blow my mind persisted, both in the show’s imagery and jarring character actions.
Westeros isn’t our world, and the premiere needs to establish the environment the story is taking place in. The more shocking the violence, the better we’ll understand what kind of awful place Westeros is. It establishes a world where no good man stands a chance and you never know what’s going to happen next, and it really establishes this. By the time the premiere “Winter is Coming” ends, viewers have witnessed multiple beheadings, rape, incest, and (attempted) child murder. Yes, Jaime Lannister pushes 10-year-old Bran out the window in the final shot of the episode.
This cliffhanger didn’t grip me. It left me disliking Jamie a hell of a lot, that’s for sure, but I wasn’t dashing to hit play on the next episode. I didn’t care all that much about Bran, so the fact that he may now be dead didn’t affect me. It was a bit of a bummer that he’s a child, for sure, but asides from just not being invested in the characters yet, it felt again as if the show was trying to shock me with its brutality. As I understand it, this moment had massive implications on the story to come, so to say it was there for shock value only would be completely false. In the framework of the episode, though, there had already been so much emphasis on stunning me that it was impossible to distinguish between a plot development and a moment meant for shock value, even if in theory they were intertwined.
This only got worse as the season went on, as the White Walkers and the beheading in the premiere weren’t followed up on. Bran’s storyline also seemed stagnant as he developed amnesia after the fall. The lack of follow up made me question the point of these moments. The blood, violence, and nudity continued as well, and the intense imagery began to make me numb to shocking plot points and character twists. They melted into each other, each trying to outdo the other in blowing my mind. Between watching an innocent canine get slaughtered, watching Danearys eat a heart, and witnessing Little Finger’s betrayal, Ned Stark’s death became just another moment. I wasn’t surprised by this development because the show had trained me to expect these twists.
Part of what makes a twist effective is the pulling of the rug from under your feet. You realize that things aren’t what you thought they were, and now the status quo has changed. Due to Game of Thrones’ method of storytelling, there didn’t seem to be a status quo. Season one established a world with no rug, so I was unable to get comfortable with any situation or any scenario.
This style made the show prime “edge of your seat” viewing, and for some viewers, that lack of security made the ride thrilling, but for me, it felt like there was nothing to hold on to. With Game of Thrones’ “no one is safe” philosophy, I found it hard to become invested in anyone’s story. You win or die when you play the Game of Thrones, so at any moment their story could come to an end to serve the larger purpose of the show. This isn’t to say that the show never put character at the forefront. It may have; again, I didn’t watch so I don’t know. The emphasis on head trauma and blowing minds in season one, however, implied to me that the show’s priorities were different than my own.
That’s not to say that I hated it. There are several aspects of the first season I enjoyed. I loved that Ned’s role in the story advanced the theme that those who are noble and play by the rules are doomed to fail. Arya seemed pretty cool, and I liked her dog that was still alive. She was so loyal! I considered watching the second season for Tyrion alone (I had my poor sister update me on Tyrion’s journey every week).
I almost jumped back onto the show several times over the last eight years; four times to be precise. Once when I saw the trailer for season two and heard Varys say to Tyrion, “A small man can cast a large shadow.” Once when I heard that Joffrey got poisoned in season four, cause he was annoying AF. Once when a girl I was into was more into Game of Thrones than she was me. And lastly when season eight was starting, because I bought into a Game of Thrones pool at my sister’s office and wanted to see how I did (I did pretty well). Unfortunately, the characters I was invested in weren’t enough to balance out my fear that the characters would end up serving the show, nor enough for me to put up with the gratuitous violence and the diminishing returns of the shocking moments.
I kept tabs, though. I was curious about how the show would manage to keep surprising its audience in any meaningful way since I had already been conditioned to expect the unexpected in season one. From what I could gather, it’s almost as if the show became a game itself. Viewers guessed about who would die and when, and speculated over who would obtain the throne, hence my sister’s office pool. Between The Red Wedding, Battle of the Bastards, and “hold the door;” Game of Thrones consistently swerved, shocked, and impressed the audience, or at least that’s what my news feed implied. However, that sort of thrill ride can compromise a story.
The promise of the unexpected cannot hold universally true if you want to tell a coherent story. Even with dozens of smaller characters, a story will always center around the few meaningful pieces: Danaerys, Jon Snow, Arya, Cersei, my boy Tyrion, etc. The Game of Thrones writers knew this, which is why every name above made it through 8 seasons, and innately most viewers know this, which is why everyone knew Jon Snow wouldn’t stay dead. These are the characters audiences are intended to hold on to, but if your storytelling philosophy relies so heavily on shock and a constantly shifting status quo, what happens to these characters when your plot lines start to wrap up? What happens when the answers are provided, the pieces are in place, and all that’s left to watch is the main players finish their arcs? Characters may end up getting sacrificed to maintain the ride. This is where the crux of my fears and the decision to stop watching lied. After wrapping up the first season, I felt that eventually the characters I was interested in would become subject to the machine, sacrificed to keep the engine that powered Game of Thrones running.
I didn’t want to get invested in a character’s story only to have them literally axed in the middle of their arc. I didn’t want to watch Tyrion lose his swagger because the plot needed him in a different place than he would want to be. And I didn’t want to watch more beheadings, rape, and thirteen-year-olds drink out of their mom’s.
I don’t know if characters were sacrificed for plot or philosophy at any point after season one. Considering all the praise Game of Thrones got, I imagine they weren’t, at least not until the last two seasons. The conversation around season seven got heated (I remember a lot of talk about characters warping across the continent), and the internet erupted in season eight. What I saw was mostly negative, such as characters acting out of character, plot lines being rushed, and arguments over the difference between foreshadowing and character development. I don’t know if these complaints were the realization of my initial fears or completely unrelated. I will never know for sure.
I never made it past the first season.
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