Before the fourth season aired, The Good Place creator Michael Schur announced that it would be the show’s last. The writing staff, alongside Schur, took the decision to end into their own hands, making a move that foreshadowed the final season more than any of us could have known.
Thirteen episodes later, The Good Place chose to end with a 54-minute-long finale: ‘Whenever You’re Ready’. It would have been easy for the show to make its ultimate message one of accepting endings, finding resolution in its own closure. In some ways it did, but as poetic as focusing on this may have been, it could have been slightly too on-the-nose.
It is a relief, then, that the show ends by once again attempting to answer the thousands of Bearimy’s-old question of what it means to be human. In our review of the third season finale we noted that, as Janet (D’Arcy Carden) points out, finding happiness despite hurdles is what life is all about. ‘Whenever You’re Ready’ asks us what life means when those hurdles are gone.
Perhaps heaven is too much of a good thing. When you get rid of life’s difficulties, you get rid of the reason to discover your own happiness. When all you’re faced with is bliss, what is it worth when there is nothing to value it against? The Good Place teaches us that the best thing we can be is human, and the best thing we can experience is life itself, no matter the troubles that come with it.
The Good Place thrived because of its characters. Comparing where they stand in this finale to their first appearance, it’s no surprise they’ve lived multiple lifetimes. It’s also a testament to the cast and crew and the clear connection they all share; it really feels like you are watching people who care about each other, and it’s obvious that the same sentiment is shared behind the scenes.
It’s a shame, however, that the finale rushes the last moments we have with these characters, wrapping up five stories —that have spanned over fifty episodes— in less than an hour. At about double the length of a standard episode, there seems to be plenty of opportunity to tell the stories they deserve but, unbalanced with a slow mid-season handful of episodes, there is something left to be desired. Characters with something to lose aren’t shown to grieve, whilst others celebrate achieving goals we never knew they had.
The episode jumps around with time, with the individual stories spanning thousands of Bearimy’s, but what this lacks in context it does not quite make up for with quirkiness. Of course, it is hard to put a number on eternity, but it is even harder to expect an audience to understand how the characters feel when we have no idea how long this episode really spans. Of course, a show would want to save its most important moments for the final episode, but especially considering this was their decision to end it comes as a surprise that it is not better paced.
That’s not to say the stories themselves don’t feel justified. There’s a rather cyclical nature to the end of the series, with familiar faces returning in ways that seem natural and resolutions that reflect back to the very first season. It’s impressive for a show which started so comedy-heavy to end so bittersweet, and it shows its strength in how the transformation occurred in such a relatively short run.
Ultimately, The Good Place was never about the wacky world of the afterlife but instead the people inside it and, as we are reminded, what it means to be human. It sparks a genuine inspiration to find the enjoyment in life and the people we surround ourselves with. While it will be missed, it reassures us that sometimes things have to end and that, as they told us right from the start, ‘Everything is Fine’.
by Georgia Carroll
Georgia Carroll (she/her) is a broadcast journalism student from Manchester. She loves all things sci-fi and 80s, but will not watch a horror movie even if you pay her. Outside of film and TV Georgia loves music and radio, so she is a sucker for a good soundtrack (anything synth is an instant bonus). You can find her on Twitter @georgiacarroll_