The Good Place | Review


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The Good Place airs on NBC and is available on many streaming services. The show has also won several awards ranging from the People’s choice to the Critics’ Choice.

Recently, I sat down and watched through the NBC show “The Good Place.” The 53-episode, four-season long show follows main character Eleanor Shellstrop, a rude and stuck-up girl from Arizona who’s dead.

Eleanor wakes up in the afterlife where she is greeted by Michael, an overlooker of the afterlife. Michael tells her that while the afterlife isn’t Heaven and Hell, or any other system envisioned by different religions, there is a good place and a bad place, and that she has made it to the good place.

Quickly, as Eleanor is praised by others for how good of a person she was and the incredible life she lived on earth, she realizes the Eleanor Shellstrop they think they have is a different person, and that she is not supposed to be in the good place. Upon this realization, chaos ensues and Eleanor must find a way to stay in the good place. 

This show was one of the best shows I have seen in a while, especially in the first season, and this is because of several different elements throughout the series.

I want to start by talking about the afterlife this show presents. It’s very clear that the point of the show is not to establish a new idea of the afterlife, or to debunk the preexisting ideas and notions about it. That being said, it does provide lots of indirect commentary on these ideas, especially those presented by Christianity. As we  are following Eleanor and the other supporting characters in the show, we watch all of them grow in different ways. The growth they experience just by being in each other’s presence raises the question: What deems the end of our lives on earth the end of our ability to change for the better, or worse for that matter? The viewer learns this lesson indirectly in the first season, but in the latter seasons it is addressed directly.

The show also dabbles into the idea of what makes someone a bad person, and how traits that are viewed as inherently good or bad could be the opposite because of the motivation behind them, however this question approaches spoiler territory so I won’t say more than that.

Moving on from the commentary on the afterlife, let’s get into the basic elements of an episodic series like “The Good Place” and what makes this show so good from a direct standpoint.

The worldbuilding in this show is very well done. Of course, the show takes place in the afterlife, and is therefore making an inference of what exists past life on earth, but as I said before, it never seems to be prioritizing the concept it’s created. The world around everyone is never too intrusive, and the introduction of every new thing in the world never seems too outlandish. This, however, changes after the first season.

Without getting into spoilers, as the plot progresses onto other things, it seems the writers bit off more than they can chew, and have to do a little bit too much imagining of the systems in play within the afterlife. There is something, however, that keeps the story gripping and incredibly entertaining regardless of this, and that’s the characters.

The main cast of characters in the story are very well developed. Of course, not initially. They all do a lot of developing over the course of the story, but watching them become the best versions of themselves and the unique and fun interactions they have with each other are always entertaining, heartwarming or hilarious depending on the situation. There is never a dull moment with the main group.

Because of the strength of the characters, even if the environment around them becomes too much at times, their presence makes up for it. Each character in the main group exemplifies some sort of negative trait, and at the beginning of the story these traits are obnoxiously apparent, but that’s the point. It makes them so much more gripping and loveable later on when they overcome these flaws.

Again, considering the show takes place in the afterlife, whenever a crazy visual thing happens, they use visual effects (VFX) and computer generated imagery (CGI). It’s not always the best, and it kind of took me out of the moment at times, but in the moments where the CGI usage is very heavy, it’s related to some comedic or dramatic moment that would pull me back in.

The pacing is mostly well done throughout the series. Similar to some of my other comments, I think it was done best in the first season, but it’s never genuinely bad.

I also can’t review this show without addressing the acting. The cast features several big names like Kristen Bell and Ted Danson, but all the cast members are incredible in this show. The dialogue is very well written and hilarious, and it’s portrayed incredibly well on screen through the actors.

Also, a very small note, but I loved the soundtrack in this show. All the music follows a very ambient sound, but the main melodies are quite staccato. The instrumentation choices fit very well, using many mallet instruments like xylophones, marimbas and vibraphones, but also using very warm sounding instruments like pianos and guitars. The transition between minor and major keys in the different tunes is done very well, and the music always fits the mood of the scene that is playing out perfectly.

I don’t plan on spending too much time on specific events in the story, but the ending to season one of the show is one of my favorite twists in all of the television I’ve watched. If the viewer is being extremely diligent they can pick up on clues, but I only noticed them the second time watching. Even though the ending is unexpected, it’s not too outlandish or impractical. It makes total sense but is still totally shocking.

I’ve done a lot of praising of season one and haven’t really talked about the other seasons. Again, without getting into spoilers, season one is overall the strongest season, and while season two does shift gears a good amount, it is still very entertaining and the narrative makes sense. I personally think season three’s primary arc is the weakest in the show, but it is still necessary in the grand scheme of things, and we get to see the main characters’ interactions in a new light. The show is almost fully vacant of any filler content where it strays away from the main plot. Season four’s first half is also slightly weak and boring at times, and it’s heavier in CGI which can make it harder to watch, but it is also very climactic and entertaining. The final episodes of the season, which are  also the end of the entire show, are incredibly satisfying but also the most bittersweet television I think I’ve ever watched, and I mean that in the best way possible. The show’s ending brings up lots of existential ideas but works as an incredibly good send off to the characters and show as a whole.

So overall, “The Good Place” is an incredible show, with very well done and developed worldbuilding and characters. The plot is very well paced and any twists that happen, while often shocking, are never outlandish and make sense. The show is treading a fine line as it takes place in a theoretical afterlife, but it does it right and never makes its concept too intrusive to the narrative. While the show sometimes struggles with it’s VFX and CGI, the hilarious comedy and incredible acting by the cast make up for it. The ending of the entire show is incredibly well written and makes any bad parts of the show worth it. I would give this show a 10/10, and I highly recommend you watch it.