The Good Place is not your average Netflix series. If you’re a lover of puns, Friends and watching something that stirs up your insecurities while carefully and precisely testing whether or not you’re a good person, then this NBC comedy is definitely your (admittedly rather bitter) cup of tea.
A single-camera comedy centred around the exploits of the recently departed Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell), a poor soul who accidentally ends up in the Good Place (heaven) rather than the hell she was destined for, the show follows the deliciously unlikeable hero as she decides to become a better person in order to keep the mistake hidden from afterlife architect, Michael (Ted Danson).
The deliciously unlikeable hero as she decides to become a better person.
But then everything gets flipped on its head. In the season one finale, we learn that Eleanor isn’t actually in The Good Place. She is, in fact, in The Bad Place, the twist forcing us to re-evaluate everything we’ve learnt about the characters – particularly Michael.
See, it turns out he’s not actually a Good Place architect, but instead a demon enacting his own unique torture methods on unsuspecting souls, and bringing four dead humans to a fake Good Place in an attempt to make their lives a living hell. He might have first presented as a bumbling, jolly old man, but before too long his joviality sours and becomes something more sinister. A particularly conniving kind of sadist, Michael pulls apart the faults of our heroes life on Earth and uses his understanding of their weaknesses to manipulate them, convincing Jason (Manny Jacinto) he’s a silent monk and partnering Eleanor and Chidi (William Jackson Harper) together as soulmates.
The Good Place is basically Friends 2.0, and Michael refers to the popular ’90s sitcom throughout the series. The other four humans who “accidentally” ended up in The Good Place are Eleanor’s soulmate Chidi, a highly indecisive ethics philosopher who guides Eleanor on her journey towards becoming a better person, Tahani (Jameela Jamil), a wealthy philanthropist who cared more about fame and being ahead of her sister than helping people, and Jason, an amateur DJ who died by suffocating in a safe during a botched robbery attempt.
Each time Eleanor discovers the truth about the Good Place, the memories of Michael’s subjects are wiped, creating a fresh new power dynamic each time the characters meet again. Chidi conducts lessons in human ethics, which also become valuable to the audience and create an engaging and intellectually coherent discussion about Kant’s maxim on lying (that to tell a lie is absolutely wrong, no matter the case), the trolley problem (would you kill one person to save five?), and Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling (a philosophical novel that favours free-will over determinism).
The Good Place has you questioning who you are and what mark you’re leaving on the world.
What makes this show stand out from your usual Netflix original series is the messages it leaves in its wake. Unlike your typical comedy series that might prompt a chuckle and very little else, The Good Place has you questioning who you are and what mark you’re leaving on the world. What makes you ‘good’? What makes you ‘bad’? Where would you end up if you were a character in the show?
Producer Michael Schur (Parks And Recreation) ends each episode with unexpected twists and cliffhangers, which become darker and stranger until they’re completely warped in comparison to the sting in the tail of the opening episode.
You’ll find yourself pressuring all your friends to watch the series, just so you have someone you can discuss the messed-up plotlines with. The Good Place is in no doubt, one of the best shows currently airing right now – Schur has well and truly outdone himself.