Hopefully, if you’re reading this article, you’ve watched the first three seasons of NBC’s The Good Place. If not, take a moment to watch all of it before you come back to this article (“Do you really want me to watch three seasons before I start this article? I don’t have the time for that,” you say to yourself. Jeremy Bearimy baby. Or Wikipedia).
Are you caught up? If the Wiki was a little tl;dr, here’s a recap.
In Season 1, Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell) dies and is sent to the afterlife, where she is greeted by Michael (Ted Danson), who is the architect for her utopian neighborhood in The Good Place, and his personal assistant, Janet (D’Arcy Carden), who also happens to be a corporeal version of the neighborhood’s mainframe. Michael introduces to her soulmate, Chidi Anagonye (William Jackson Harper), a professor of ethics. To gain entrance into The Good Place, you need to have accumulated a certain amount of points while you’re alive by doing Good things. If you do Bad things, you lose points, and if you don’t have enough points, you get sent to The Bad Place. If only there was A Medium Place!
Eleanor reveals to Chidi that she’s the wrong Eleanor Shellstrop, and should be in The Bad Place; Chidi, as the human form of anxiety and indecisiveness, has no idea what he should do about this. He ultimately demands that she take lessons in moral philosophy from him, so she can learn how to be a good person and deserve her spot in The Good Place, given that her existence is literally shaking the foundations of the neighborhood. However, it turns out she’s not the only misplaced soul; her neighbors Tahani al-Jamil (Jameela Jamil), a British socialite and humanitarian, and Jianyu Li (Manny Jacinto), a Buddhist monk who has undertaken a vow of silence, are actually Tahani and Jason Mendoza, a DJ and drug dealer from Florida (Jason is also forced into lessons on ethics, but he doesn’t take to them as well as Eleanor does).
When The Bad Place finally comes to collect Eleanor (and give back the Real Eleanor Shellstrop), the gang escapes to The Medium Place, where Mindy St. Claire, a cocaine-addicted businesswoman from the 80s lives on her own, having been the only person to score a neutral amount of points; neither side could claim her for their own. Upon their return, in the season finale, Judge Shawn (Marc Evan Jackson) demands that Michael, and The Good Place, give up the two souls that are due to The Bad Place. As arguing breaks out over who will go to The Bad Place, Eleanor has a moment of realization; This is The Bad Place. Michael announces that he’s going to reboot the neighborhood, and Eleanor gives Janet a note, with instructions to give it to her after the reboot; it says “Find Chidi”.
In Season 2, we find out Michael’s motivations. He wants to reinvent the wheel; instead of doing regular old torture, inflicting physical pain (if you’re dead and no longer have a physical form, how are they inflicting pain?), he wants to do psychological torture. Michael had hand-picked Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani, and Jason to torture one another (because hell is other people), and populated the rest of the neighboorhood with demons from the Bad Place; because of their contrasting personalities, and the situations he had placed them in (two believing they belonged in The Good Place, and two having to hide and prove they deserved their spot in The Good Place), he was convinced they would spend at least a few centuries torturing one another without needing much of his interference. Like a wind farm or a field of solar panels, they’d be self-sufficient and only need maintenance. However, he didn’t take into account the effect that Chidi’s lessons would have on Eleanor.
Thus, reboot. And reboot. And reboot again. Each time, one of the four realizes that they’re actually in The Bad Place (on one occasion, to Michael’s ire, it is Jason, the seemingly dumbest of the bunch, who realizes). During Reboot 802, Eleanor and Chidi overhear the demons who play their neighbors discuss if they should strike, given their dissatisfaction with how the experiment is going. Eleanor and Chidi escape to The Medium Place, where Mindy reveals they’ve escaped there before, and other iterations of them have confessed love to one another.
Michael eventually makes a deal that allows the gang (now dubbed Team Cockroach) to keep their memories, in exchange for passage to The Real Good Place; all they have to do is go along with the demon who played Real Eleanor, Vicky, who is now in charge of the neighborhood, the demon strike having struck success, and Michael has to take ethics lessons with Chidi.
Because of his lessons in morality and ethics, Michael reveals that he never had a way to get them into The Real Good Place; their only hope was to petition an Omniscient Judge (Hydrogen, played by Maya Rudolph) for access to The Real Good Place. Michael argues that the afterlife system is corrupt; this leads to time being rewound to before everyone’s deaths, where their behavior is monitored.
Eleanor does a heel-face turn, joining an environmental non-profit after having sold fake medicine to old people, but within 6 months, has reverted to her Bad ways. Michael, breaking the rules that were set for this new experiment, nudges Eleanor towards a video lecture by a professor in Australia, titled “What We Owe To Each Other”. Eleanor, taken by the message of the video, travels to meet the professor, who is obviously Chidi.
Season 3, set almost entirely in Australia, is yet another alternate timeline, but with the players scattered across the globe. When Michael and Janet finally get Jason and Tahani to Australia, under the guise of a study that Chidi is conducting on near-death-experience victims (with his girlfriend, Simone, who he later breaks up with in spectacularly Chidi fashion), The Bad Place sends one of their agents (Trevor, played by Adam Scott, whose guest appearances on the show are my favorite things) to try and ruin Team Cockroach accumulating points.This all becomes moot when Michael and Janet go to investigate the points system and find out that no one has entered The Good Place in over 521 years; modernity has created complex circumstances in which it is almost impossible to live morally according to the standards of The Good Place, because every action has almost infinite unintended consequences, even if the action was well-intentioned.
Team Cockroach goes to plead their case at IHOP (Interdimensional Hole of Pancakes) to Judges Gen and Shawn, who decide that the odds are stacked against humanity’s favor. Therefore, Michael is allowed to redo his Neighborhood “Good Place” experiment, with four “moderately bad” people chosen by Judge Shawn. Michael, finally folding under the pressure of three pretty stressful seasons (and hundreds of reboots), has a panic attack right before the opening of the neighborhood, and Eleanor has to pose as the Neighborhood’s Architect.
The first two arrivals consist of John (Brandon Scott Jones), a gossip columnist from Tahani’s past, and Simone (Kirby Howell Baptiste), Chidi’s ex-girlfriend, who has been wiped of her memories of Chidi. Chidi, afraid his experiences with her will ruin the experiment, asks Eleanor to wipe him as well, leaving him with no memories of her–from this reboot at least. The season ends with her welcoming Chidi into the neighborhood.
So what does this bode for Season 4?
Season 4, like past seasons, begins with a reboot, but Chidi is the only one unaware of it.
Chidi finds proof that the Neighborhood isn’t actually The Good Place
Chidi, as a mind-wiped extra in the neighborhood, may accidentally reveal to The Four his suspicions about the validity of The Good Place, simply because he doesn’t remember that he’s not supposed to (I mean, how are you supposed to know what you don’t know?), ruining the experiment and sending everyone to The Bad Place. This new neighborhood is set up in Mindy St. Claire’s Medium Place, so he may find the sex tape Mindy made of him and Eleanor. Since Eleanor is posing as the neighborhood’s architect, this would be a matter of great confusion.
Jason and Janet, together at last
In the Season 3 finale, Janet and Jason decide to give their relationship another try. However, Tahani still exists, and Janet’s DIY ex-boyfriend/son, Derek (Jason Mantzoukas) is back and more advanced than ever. Derek, sans windchime penis thanks to Mindy St. Claire rebooting him over 500,000 times, is working alongside Janet to populate the neighborhood. Will Janet and Jason work out this time, or will something else get in their way?
Tahani’s great crucible wasn’t the moment in Judge Gen’s test, where she chose to leave her emotionally distant (and at times abusive) parents behind because her acceptance of herself came from within; it was when she confronted her sister in Season 3. Kamilah was also the victim of their parents’ expectations, and Tahani’s eventual acknowledgment and understanding of the circumstances that shaped them both was the moment I was proudest of Tahani’s growth since Season 1. Both sisters were victims and perpetrators (active agents, though guided by their parents’ hands), but their forgiveness, acceptance, and collaboration literally buried the hatchet.
Now, Tahani is faced with another reminder of her life on Earth; John Wheaton, a gossip blogger who specifically wrote fake stories about her. Tahani could try and sabotage him out of revenge for what he’s done to her in the past, but that would doom humanity. But this proves that she’s over her parents and Kamilah, otherwise Shawn would have brought one of those three to the reboot.
Chidi and Simone will get together
With Chidi’s memories wiped, and with the fondness The Good Place seems to have with people hooking up multiple times (I’m not sure if I can use the phrase “hooking up again”, given that it’s often in reboots, so if you can’t remember the past, it shouldn’t count), it would be interesting if Chidi and Simone were paired as soulmates in the Neighborhood. The point of this reboot is to prove that people can become Good even if they were technically Bad while they were alive; if Michael, Janet, and Eleanor are allowed to pair the newcomers with anyone, to ensure their chance of getting Good, instead of within the group of four that’s arriving, it would probably increase their chances of getting to The Real Good Place. However, Michael is a big fan of Chidi and Eleanor together, and it would break Eleanor’s heart to watch him with someone else, so this is more speculation than expectation.
Each of the four new individuals being brought to the neighborhood are designed to torture one of the four originals; either Simone is here to torture Chidi, or her existence and relationship with Chidi is here to torture Eleanor.
Eleanor’s father may show up
If Simone is meant to torture Chidi, not Eleanor, then someone else from Eleanor’s past will come back to haunt her. Either an ex, or her father, since she gained closure with her mother during Season 3.
Chidi and Eleanor will get together
This is a Michael Schur show, so this is a foregone conclusion. Even within the framework of a show like this, based on moral quandaries and philosophizing, Chidi and Eleanor’s relationship is the baseline that everything stands on. They’ve been friends, lovers, and soulmates, and the idea that the love they share (be it romantic love, or platonic) can withstand 300 years of reboots and time travel and perhaps even both defy and be defined by the concept of free will is often one of the show’s strengths (though the occasional over-reliance on it is one of the show’s weaknesses). Will the show end on a note of hope, with Eleanor and Chidi together romantically, finally in The Real Good Place, or will the events of the last four seasons prove too much for the couple?
We see The Real Good Place
Come on. Even if everyone doesn’t end up there, give us just one glimpse.