It’s the penultimate episode of NBC’s The Good Place, and it seems as if we’ve reached the end of the line.
In last night’s “Patty,” the gang has finally arrived in the real Good place, not an anxiety-fuelled torture chamber designed by a demon, or a dusty mail room where an eternity of bliss lies just out of reach. It’s the actual, bonafide Good Place (which, turns out, is the J. Paul Getty Museum in California). But paradise isn’t quite what it seems and it’s up to the Soul Squad to fix one more thing, opening the door to a perfect future.
On the surface, things are perfect. You can listen to conversations where people said nice things about you behind your back, drink milkshakes made of stardust, go Tokyo drifting with monkeys, or get a chance to brag about how your godfather is Big Ben (we love you, Tahani). It’s paradise! Everything is designed to make the people there happy and anything they want can be instantly provided. Sounds perfect, right? Not exactly. Paradise is not without problems.
As explained by Hypatia “Patty” of Alexandria (played by Lisa Kudrow in a pitch-perfect cameo), spending eternity in a place designed to keep you happy all the time can only lead to one thing: brain atrophy. Everyone in the Good Place is a walking pleasure zombie, unable to find true joy in anything anymore because they’ve done everything there is to do. Sure, the first few decades are a blast, getting nonstop orgasms and petting giant superhero puppies. But spending thousands of years stuck in a never-ending happiness montage with no escape is, well, torture.
I loved that this is where the series went in its pre-finale moments. Last week, I figured the Soul Squad was heading to a final test to prove their worth in the Good Place, given how we’d seen them repeating past mistakes in that episode. But instead, we got an interesting look at the downside of “happily ever after.” While going this route still makes me wonder why we spent so much time last week watching the characters pick at old wounds, the actual situation our heroes found themselves in was so much better. It’s a problem none of could have predicted but is also unsurprising. Paradise cannot work if one can never leave it. As Wendy Darling told Peter Pan: “Never is an awfully long time.”
The Good Place architects have spent countless years trying to fix the problem, however, much like the Bad Place, they were working with an outdated manual. There’s only so many times you can make a unicorn cuter (I can’t believe I just said that). So, their solution is to peace out, tricking Michael into taking over as the lone Good Place architect. But, of course, he’s not truly alone. And with their centuries of happiness, sadness, suffering, and perseverance, it doesn’t take long for Eleanor and the others to find a solution.
Both the Bad Place and Good Place failed because people weren’t given a chance to grow. In the case of the Bad Place, it was a matter of changing the entire system to help people reach their best selves. For the Good Place, it was much simpler: Let them leave. Vacations only work because, at some point, they’re going to be over. Make paradise a vacation, a reward for a life (and afterlife) well lived. And then, when they feel truly at peace, they can step through a door and…well, we’re not quite sure yet. It could be reincarnation or becoming part of the greater universe. Maybe they’ll just cease to exist. No matter what, it’s a choice.
There’s only one more week of The Good Place, with a one-hour series finale airing next week, and it seems like most of the loose ends have been closed up. I’m sure there’s more work to be done, there always is, but I’m looking forward to spending a few final minutes with the people who changed death itself. After everything they’ve been through, they deserve all the time they need in paradise. For the record: The episode is called “Whenever You’re Ready.” So yeah, it’s going to destroy us.