8:31pm PT by Rick Porter
How 'The Good Place' Season 3 Finale Could Set Up the Show's Endgame
This story contains spoilers for the third-season finale of The Good Place, "Pandemonium."
To presume to know how The Good Place will finish its run based on the events in the season three finale would be begging to be proven wrong.
The series changes its status quo every half-season or so — sometimes more frequently than that — so viewers are due for at least one more big shakeup in the fourth season. But the way "Pandemonium" played out — far less hectically than the title implies — at least suggests where the show will head when it returns.
The finale was quieter than the prior two seasons. There was no dramatic reveal a la season one's "This is the Bad Place!" or major shift in setup as when Eleanor, Chidi, Jason and Tahani were returned to Earth at the end of season two. The major twist — Chidi (William Jackson Harper) sacrificing his memory and therefore his and Eleanor's (Kristen Bell) relationship in order to save the experiment from Bad Place chicanery — comes midway through the episode.
That lower key, however, doesn't just make room for a genuinely touching scene like the movie Michael (Ted Danson) shows Eleanor and Chidi of their life across the hundreds of afterlife reboots they've experienced, it also underscores that the four dum-dums have a pretty serious mission at hand now.
Up until a few episodes ago, the four humans were primarily concerned with proving they'd changed enough to be worthy of the Good Place. Since that point, and with Michael's discovery that the afterlife points system just can't fairly handle the complexities of modern life, their job has become saving the souls of all of humanity, or at least the ones who aren't active jerks.
That's a big task, even without accounting for the fact that the former editor of The Gossip Toilet (Brandon Scott Jones as John) is now in the afterlife with Tahani (Jameela Jamil) and a memory-wiped Simone (Kirby Howell-Baptiste) is there alongside her memory-wiped ex, Chidi, and Michael is not over his crippling self-doubt.
The fulcrum here is Eleanor, who is really good at lying but also now a much better person than when she honed those skills in her life on Earth. It's not hard to see a scenario in which juggling pretending to be the architect of the neighborhood, keeping her knowledge of and love for Chidi quiet, in addition to dealing with whoever from her life the Bad Place sends at her, makes her crack the way her old self did midway through the first season.
The dizzying pace at which The Good Place has moved over its three seasons — see above — also probably means the show is closer to the end of its run than to the beginning. Creator Mike Schur admitted as much to The Hollywood Reporter, saying he and his fellow writers have already "given a lot of thought" to how the series should end, and that the plan would start to reveal itself by the end of the season.
The series Schur has worked on, from The Office to Brooklyn Nine-Nine, take a fairly hopeful view of humanity, and the very thesis of The Good Place is that people can help one another become better. It seems unlikely that the series will end, whether it's next season or a year or two after that, with Bad Place boss Shawn (Marc Evan Jackson) doing a victory dance on the skinsuits of the show's heroes.
Again, it's foolish to speculate on the exact nature of how The Good Place will get where it wants to go. The track Schur and Co. have laid so far does suggest they have a plan.
The Eleanor Shellstrop of season one wouldn't have been able (or willing) to pull off taking over for Michael for even the limited amount of time she does in "Pandemonium." The show has taken the steps to make her transition into that role believable, and it feels like a natural progression.
Of course, the new setup may get drastically altered again by midway through next season, if not sooner. But amid the constant shakeups and amazing background puns (Beignet and the Jets and Foot Lager were the most prominent ones Thursday), The Good Place takes its characters seriously and has arguably set a path for its endgame, whenever that may come.