The Good Place is slowly inching towards a Chidi/Eleanor after-endgame. But do they belong together in a cosmic sense? We investigate.
It’s not a question of whether or not Chidi/Eleanor are meant to be together. Clearly, they are. Reboot after reboot they find each other, drawn and/or pushed together repeatedly, and each time they end up almost-ing or just barely-ing into romance territory.
The question is who or what means them to be together.
In the first episode of The Good Place, we’re introduced to the idea of soulmates: in the supposed Good Place, each soul is united with its other half, destined for, as Michael puts it, “eternal happiness.”
Eleanor’s soulmate is Chidi. Tahani’s soulmate is Jianyu, the silent monk.
Except actually, Chidi’s soulmate is the ‘real’ Eleanor, and Jianyu is really Jason Mendoza, and the ‘imposters’ messed up the system.
Except actually, there is no system, none of them are soulmates, and there might not even be an actual soulmate pair-up service in the Good Place, because this isn’t the Good Place at all.
As Michael explains in season 2, he actually selected Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani and Jason for his Bad Place experiment specifically because their particular personalities would clash in perfect disharmony, exacerbating the eternal torment of their souls. And that’s definitely the case — at first, anyway.
Because by the end of the second season, something’s changed. Michael has realized that Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani and Jason’s souls are in fact becoming better in each other’s company, not worse, and he now orchestrates their reborn reunion with the intention of letting the humans improve each other. And it’s working.
What does that mean? Certainly, that Michael’s (and the universe’s) initial assumptions about human nature are wrong: we are built to improve, not corrupt each other — if sometimes with a little nudging from TPTB.
But it might also mean that these four humans are, in some sense, made for each other. It is this particular constellation that works together, after all — or at least that’s what Michael believes — and the entire experiment of trying to make them worthy of the Good Place hinges on them finding and staying together.
I’ve previously expressed the firm belief that none of these four characters (with the possible exception of Jason, who feels like the odd one out) would ever be truly content if they got into the real Good Place without the others, and indeed, in the season 2 finale we essentially saw them choose each other even if it meant eternal damnation.
As long as they were together, ‘hell’ was still preferable, because at the end of the day, their ‘Good Place’ is not a place at all, but a group of people. (The reason is friends!)
Out of all of them, Eleanor and Chidi undoubtedly have the deepest and, arguably, purest connection. It was their friendship that started it all (ironic, that the entire Bad Place experiment hinged on her going to him for help and him being willing to help her), and their friendship has been the constant driving force of keeping the 4-6 main characters united.
Which begs the question: are they in fact real soulmates?
After all, Michael put them together in the first place because they were perfect opposites — which turned out to mean that they perfectly complemented each other. And is that not just another way of saying ‘two halves of one whole’?
They definitely complete each other in ways nobody else has done before. Chidi quite literally makes Eleanor a better person, but arguably it goes both ways: Eleanor makes Chidi more decisive, and challenges his views on ethics and moral philosophy. With Eleanor, Chidi can have those conversations he’s professed to imagining himself having in the actual Good Place.
They are not the only people that can make each other happy (see: actual Best Person Simone), but they are the pair that are ‘meant’ to be together, sometimes because of Michael and sometimes in spite of him.
In the second season, Michael kept rebooting them in order to keep the torture experiment going .But in every reboot, they found each other, and grew closer. In every reboot, they made each other better.
And, in every reboot, these particular two characters spent more time together than anyone else. They didn’t fall in romantic love in every reboot, but they did grow to love each other.
“I just wish we met the way normal people meet, like at a philosophy conference, or after one of my philosophy lectures, or you came knocking on my office door asking for help with philosophy.”
And once they got back to Earth, Eleanor found Chidi’s videos on YouTube and decided to fly across the world to meet with a ‘total stranger’, already knowing that he would help her. They struck up an instant friendship that had been 100 years in the making, even though they remembered none of that. It was, shall we say, a soul imprint.
And that is perhaps the key: whether or not Chidi and Eleanor’s souls were ‘mates’ before they arrived in the Bad Place together, they appear to be soulmates now.
From being pushed together by Michael and making each other miserable in season 1, to finding each other even when they’re halfway across the world in season 3, Chidi and Eleanor have grown so codependent that splitting them up would in fact be the real torture (not to give the Bad Place any ideas).
Of course there’s a little bit of main character bias and a little bit of comedy romance expectation at play here that might exacerbate Chidi and Eleanor’s connection in terms of story significance. And I don’t think anyone would argue that their budding romance is any less special for their connection being wholly circumstantial and accidental.
One obvious wrench in the soulmate theory is that we don’t know if soulmates are even real in the world of The Good Place, or if it was just a gimmick made up by Michael for his fake Good Place to force these humans to live together.
Not once has the concept of soulmates been mentioned in the context of the real Good Place, which mostly just sounds like it’s full of fancy famous people having intellectual debates.
But of course, just because soulmates don’t exist in the real Good Place doesn’t mean they don’t exist, nor that the concept of ‘soulmate’ can’t be a flexible thing.
The question of whether Chidi and Eleanor are real soulmates goes hand in hand with the question of fate, and what The Good Place is trying to say about it. It seems to me like the show is posing fate as something of your own making: you don’t ‘belong’ in any place, or with anyone, but you yourself can foster belonging.
The Good Place is clearly positing the universe’s current system as being flawed: a soul cannot be labelled definitively ‘good’ or ‘bad’ after a measly 70-ish years spent on Earth, because as Michael is trying to prove, human beings (and all other beings) are in a constant state of development and evolution.
The traditional idea of soulmates would clash with that notion, being a predestined thing, but the idea of souls growing into belonging together would not.
Chidi and Eleanor can very well be soulmates in the same way the four humans can come to belong in the Good Place: they can grow into it, slowly and surely.
At the top of their Jeremy Bearimy timeline, their souls probably were not two halves of the same whole, but now, I’d say they probably have to stay together in order to remain happy, good people. Wherever they go in the afterlife, them being together is a key factor in whether that place feels Good or Bad.
(That goes for all four humans but, arguably, Eleanor’s soul would more easily find contentment without Jason than without Chidi.)
How The Good Place might choose to subvert the traditional notions of a soulmate as a fixed, destined thing by positing Chidi and Eleanor as soulmates would certainly be interesting to see.
What do you think? Will Eleanor and Chidi turn out to be actual soulmates, or is their relationship special because their souls connected by chance?
‘The Good Place’ season 3 airs Thursdays on NBC
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