A Metaphorical, Existential Ending for The Good Place

Written by: Rachel Goodman – February 2, 2020 10:00am pst

Bring the forking tissues and prepare for an hour full of tears and painful goodbyes. The Good Place finished with a heavy, emotional punch, wrapping up the entire show in a tight little existential bow.

By the end of our penultimate episode—Patty—the show left our crew in a seemingly good place; pun very much intended.

They’d saved humanity from extinction and fixed all the issues in the Good Place by giving people the option to leave (re: cross over into what the characters believed would lead to their non-existence), and all seemed to be well in the Jeremy Beremy universe. Eleanor, Chidi, Michael, Tahani, Janet, and Jason sailed away into the non-physical sunset, ready to ride the long wave of eternal happiness.

Alongside their fulfillment at the end of Patty, there seemed to be a foreshadowing of sadness to come. Just how would they handle the idea of forever now that they had all attained this status? Remaining in a place of happiness forever, from what we’d witnessed, eventually resulted in a person losing their soul and meaning.

Most movies or shows, when they end happily, stop at the point where the character begins their journey into their hopeful future.

Instead, the show’s finale, Whenever You’re Ready, dived deeply into what happens when you’re ready for Nirvana: the ultimate letting go. We sped through the golden years these characters experienced together, and it was with a heavy tone that the hour-long finale guided us through the “after” we usually don’t see.

We watched as, one by one, each character eventually embraced the idea they needed to move on after thousands of years together. Jason reached this moment first, admitting to Janet he knew it was his time to go. He brilliantly described the feeling as, “like the air inside my lungs was the same as the air outside my body.”

The heaviest moments arrived once it became obvious to Eleanor that Chidi wished to leave. From Patty, we might have expected they’d choose to leave together, but ultimately the show decided to focus on selflessness over true love. At first, Eleanor begged Chidi to stay, but eventually this new, evolved Eleanor realized she couldn’t keep someone from leaving if it was their time (and their wish) to go.

Still, we got one more tender scene between them before Chidi made his definite choice—another character arc—to cross over the rainbow bridge.

“Picture a wave in the ocean,” Chidi told Eleanor during their final moment together. “You can see it, measure it, its height, the way the sunlight refracts when it passes through, and it’s there, and you can see it, you know what it is, it’s a wave.”

He added, “And then it crashes on the shore, and it’s gone. But the water is still there. The wave was just a… a different way for the water to be for a little while. That’s one conception of death for a Buddhist. The wave returns to the ocean…. where it came from and where it’s supposed to be.”

Perhaps the greatest line he finished with was when he said, “None of this is bad.”

This seems to partially hit on an experience we all go through. Not wanting to let go of people, but sometimes having no choice. Though the show has focused on the afterlife, it almost feels as if the truest metaphor for the afterlife is what happens once you step into the unknown forest.

The show forced us all to reconcile ourselves to the fact that no human being is eternal. We must all eventually cross through our own door and face the uncertainty of death.

When Eleanor does finally decide it’s her own time, we see her step through and begin to fade away, her essence transforming into little balls of light. The pieces of Eleanor float down to Earth where they encourage a man to pick up a letter, instead of throw it away, and deliver it to his neighbor (who happens to be Michael).

What this ending implies is that we are all connected in the greater scheme of things. Perhaps we don’t know what happens once we die, but there’s a greater sense of purpose bringing us all together, eternally connecting us. Isn’t this what life is all about?

The Good Place closes after four seasons, but something tells me the show will always be a part of our hearts.

About The Author:

Rachel Goodman is a Los Angeles based actress, host, and writer originally from a suburb of Philadelphia, PA. In college, Rachel wrote for the Penn State Abington Literary Review and was an editorialist for The Lion’s Roar and The Montgomery County Ticket.

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