Sometimes to move forward, you have to go back. Right after the Judge made a decision that would change the world forever, The Good Place hit the pause button on humanity’s salvation to bring us a new angle on what’s happened so far. It’s time to look at The Good Place…through Chidi’s eyes.
I was a little disappointed last week when “The Funeral to End all Funerals” didn’t end with Chidi waking up and screaming incoherently for 30 seconds. But the midseason finale, “The Answer,” appropriately explains why. Technically, the episode take place over the span of a few seconds, but it’s actually 800 years worth of story as Chidi (William Jackson Harper) regains his memories from his life and afterlife. This gives us an opportunity to get to know Chidi in a different way and become more familiar with how much he’s grown over the course of the series.
First, we travelled through Chidi’s childhood and adult life, right up until his death. From the very beginning, Chidi was obsessed with finding the answer to everything. Whether it was the right seat to choose in his classroom or the perfect relationship. It seemed like Chidi could never be happy if there was a chance that something could catch him off-guard. This is especially shown in the detailed presentation he gave his parents to convince them they shouldn’t get divorced. I was anticipating failure, which would show him how there were things even he couldn’t solve but it actually seemed to work. His parents stayed together, albeit not for the reasons Chidi thought (more on that in a bit).
Those stomach ache-inducing anxieties carried him into the afterlife, and we see exactly how Michael (Ted Danson) created a world designed to torture him. From the very beginning, Michael tormented Chidi with the idea of choice. Sometimes he would give Chidi a false sense of comfort by making decisions for him, like providing a fridge that would choose his perfect(ly bland) breakfast every morning. But that was only so Michael could make Chidi feel worse when he was forced to choose something again. Let’s not forget the season one episode where Michael and Janet tried to find Chidi a hobby.
What I loved about this episode was how well it called back to previous moments and memories from the series, albeit from a different angle. For example, we return to Jason and Janet’s wedding, with Chidi questioning Jason about how he’s able to make irrational decisions without thinking of the consequences. Other times, they created new memories folded into the older stories. I, for one, fell in love with Esmerelda (Kate Berlant) the strange and beautiful goth queen who lives in a bird nest. She wields knives because she’s prepared. This woman knows what’s up.
But the episode is mostly here so we can see how Eleanor and Chidi’s relationship progressed from his point-of-view. We’ve often viewed the relationship from Eleanor’s perspective, which is fine because Kristen Bell is an amazing actress, but sometimes it made things feel one-sided. I appreciated the time the series took in this episode to show us what Eleanor means to him, especially as the series is winding down. They laughed, they loved, they fought like crazy. But in the end, these two found each other, over and over and over again. They made something special, and they made it work because Eleanor showed him it was ok to let things, well, be.
The memories end on perhaps the strongest scene in the episode, with Chidi and Michael sharing a moment right before Chidi gave up his memories for the new experiment. Michael tells Chidi how he used Chidi’s desire for “the answer” to torture him with things like the promise of a soulmate because in the end there is no perfect person. Soulmates are created, Michael suggested, time and work are what make relationships succeed—which is what happened with Chidi’s parents, who decided to go to therapy after their son begged them to stay together. It wasn’t because baby Chidi had made a strong analytical case, it’s because of their love for him…and how he reminded them of their love for each other.
In that moment, Chidi had an epiphany, a rare moment of clarity and certainty. Which means that, when he woke up, it wasn’t with a stomach ache. He wasn’t afraid, he was calm and confident. Because he’d realised the ultimate truth about himself, the universe, and everything in between and he wrote it in a note Janet kept for him all this time: There is no answer, but the answer is Eleanor. How that’s going to translate to “please create the next afterlife or we all disappear” is anyone’s guess. We’ll see when The Good Place returns on January 9.
We’ve been long overdue for a true Chidi-centered episode, but I’m glad they waited until this moment to bring us into his world and mindset. This was the right time to show us where Chidi has been and everything that happened to inspire a profound change in his life. And I’ve gotta say: Harper knocked it out of the park.
I know Jason’s cocktail would probably kill me, but dammit I’ve never wanted anything more in my life.