TV

The Big Twist In ‘The Good Place’ Finale Was When They Managed To Break Our Tiny Hearts

The Season 3 finale was not what we expected.

The Good Place Season 3 Finale

“What’s that thing you humans say when you’re playing chess and you trap your opponent into an inescapable position? Oh right — eat butt, ya ding-dongs.”

The Good Place season 3 has not been an efficient game of chess. There’s been pieces careening wildly across the board, a hundred false starts, a couple of resets of the entire board, a weird section where we played in Australia for no good reason, and a vague suspicion that maybe we’re not even playing chess. That’s a bingo! I don’t know what chess is.

Earlier in the season I was hoping for evidence of a grand, chess-master level plan — we’d had so many shocking reveals and clever twists in the first two seasons of The Good Place, that I was willing to give Mike Schur a lot of faith with the somewhat meandering plot we were getting in season 3.

I went full conspiracy theorist, looking for clues about a dramatic plot shift in the unlikeliest of places: could the Australian accents prove that, in some way, we are all stuck in the Bad Place? Are Chidi’s abs somehow proof that god exists? Are we all stuck in Janet’s dream? I dunno.

The writing team of The Good Place are sneaky! Who knows what shenanigans they were up to?

I don’t think there’s evidence of an overwhelming purpose with this season unfortunately — but the season 3 finale did manage to navigate our protagonists into a inescapable trap.

And instead of that being a huge narrative twist like past seasons (finding out they were in The Bad Place, etc) the shocking reveal managed to be more heartbreaking than mind-bending. Hit us right in the feels.

And it was very effective television!

Emotional Twist

*Spoilers, duh*

This episode starts with Michael having a panic attack, right at the point of welcoming the first human into The Nu-Good Place, overwhelmed by the responsibility of saving his friend’s souls one final time.

We need to give credit to Michael’s development as a character, because this makes sense. His journey into “humanity” has been horribly real — he had a brief period of being basically a psychopath, then he learned about love and friendship, and then he was absolutely crippled by how awful the world can be when you love something. True and real!

So — Eleanor steps up to the plate and takes over as the Architect, and things seem to work out, with the first human — Jon — entering a very familiar Good Place.

But, after it’s revealed that Jon is a trashy gossip blogger who has a particular vendetta against Tahani, we discover that the four new humans have been specifically engineered by the Bad Place to fuck with the main characters. And the coup de grace is when Chidi’s ex, Simone, is brought in. (btw, it’s very sad that she is dead!)

Simone was Chidi’s girlfriend back in Australia (remember that? Feels like years ago), and her memory of Chidi and the gang would actively sabotage the whole experiment, dooming all their immortal souls.

It’s a clever (if fortuitous) move by Shaun and the Bad Place demons. The Judge decides to wipe Simone’s memory of the gang being in Australia (if only we could do the same with those accents tbh), but Chidi realises that it still won’t work. He won’t be able to not be a weird freak around her.

Which is very Chidi, even though you want it to not be.

So, he decides that he has to have his memory wiped too. The entire romance of Eleanor and Chidi, which this season has painstakingly pushed, is suddenly at stake.

It’s beautifully done too — Michael makes a love montage, there’s some gorgeous tender moments, and friends, it’s pain. I’m not sure I’ve ever particularly believed in Eleanor and Chidi’s romance, but it has been cute, extremely cute.

Chidi manages to make the line “It’s Jeremy Bearimy, baby” extremely romantic. How?

And this episode at least made me absolutely feel it. It was pretty devastating, and an unexpected sacrifice. Always before they’ve done things as a group — it was a twist to make Chidi sacrifice himself for the rest of his group. It was a twist to just break Eleanor’s heart into 1000 pieces.

It was a twist to leave us feeling sad and bereft, rather than on the edge of our seats, or blown away by some dramatic reveal.

Janet Stole The Show

I think I’ve made it very obvious that at Junkee, we collectively idolise D’Arcy Carden and Janet.

But her final monologue, in which she wonderfully and romantically talks about love helping to find meaning in the chaos of existence, was a show-stopper. Goddamnit! I thought this was a comedy.

It Was All A Dream

That said, this has GOT to be the last memory wipe/ reboot for a while.

It’s hard for us to even remember, but barely anyone in this show except for Michael has many memories of the last two seasons anymore. They’ve all been rebooted so many goddamn times.  Eleanor saw a bunch of videos of her and Chidi, so she has a better idea of their past lives — but still.

It’s beginning to erode the stakes, to make the characters less real to us. The more Jeremy Bearimy and timey-wimey stuff that goes on, the more you just start think: this will all be solved by pressing a (sometimes literal) big button that will solve all our problems.

This Is Eleanor’s Show

One of the problems with the third season was essentially that all four main characters had their goals and desires subsumed into one collective need — which I guess was “not being in the Bad Place”.

However, The Good Place started off as Eleanor’s show — she was the original character whose fraudulent journey through pseudo-heaven defined what the show was about for us. And while I love all the other characters, I think it’s only a good thing to focus again on Eleanor’s progress.

And we’re in such a cool place for her — can you imagine the risk adverse, inherently selfish Eleanor from the first season ever putting herself forward to RUN The Good Place?

I think this will be a great test for her.

Jason’s Arms

We all went nuts for Chidi’s abs, but we should not sleep on Jason’s arms when he’s wearing his monk outfit again. Hello! More like A Big Warm Hello To Arms (this was a bad Hemingway joke).

Anyway! I’m excited for The Good Place Season 4, which is definitely happening, but we don’t have a confirmed date yet.

Patrick Lenton is the Entertainment Editor at Junkee. He tweets @patricklenton.