11:58 pm EDT, July 22, 2019

SDCC: ‘The Good Place’ says goodbye and promises legacy like a ‘benevolent virus’

The Good Place reminded us that the reason is friends during its charmingly hilarious, tear-filled, final forking Comic-Con panel and thoughtful press room.

NBC’s The Good Place kicked off its highly anticipated farewell panel with a first look at season 4. In a clip from the first few minutes of episode 4×01, we’re introduced to the third new “Good” Place resident that the demons have selected to torture the Soul Squad: Linda, a woman from Norway so boring “she makes Neutral Janet look like Disco Janet.”

How Linda’s bland politeness will torture our cockroach heroes remains to be seen, but as Eleanor confidently sits at Michael’s desk reassuring everyone around her, it’s a wonderful reminder of just how far she’s come from the frazzled Arizona dirtbag that only cared about herself.

Eleanor’s growth is a parallel to our own in the last three seasons, as we’ve laughed and occasionally cried with our very flawed, very human fictional friends, watching a network sitcom that asks us to reevaluate within ourselves what it actually means to be good.

“What do we owe to each other?” Chidi asks in the season 2 finale. That question has been in many ways the lynchpin of the series, as Eleanor and the Soul Squad struggle to figure out the meaning of life when death has robbed it of meaning. The panel’s moderator, Marc Evan Jackson, made the astute observation that for the show’s duration, Chidi has been the glue that grounds the show. As the most human of the Soul Squad, William Jackson Harper’s interpretation of Chidi is tasked with guiding the audience through this very weird, smartest dumbest show on television.

And while Chidi has in many ways become the mascot of the Soul Squad, William Jackson Harper’s dog Chico has become the unofficial mascot of The Good Place’s set. In a delightfully embarrassing moment that will live on the internet forever, William Jackson Harper obliged everyone by singing Chico’s theme song.

During the panel it was brought up that Jameela Jamil was recently named one of the 25 most influential people on the Internet. “Do you think you’ve fully become Tahani?” Marc Evan Jackson asked her. She responded, “Yes. Her soul has entered me and I’ve become a wanker. It’s bad. I’m morphing into her.”

Manny Jacinto on the other hand, also shares characteristics with his The Good Place character in that he’s long had a dream of dancing professionally with a dance crew. The Good Place gave him the chance to do that, along with trying out new aspirations like photography. Manny’s been taking behind the scenes pictures all season, “in all of the glamour and chaos that ensues” on set. He teased his costar by adding, “Every time I take a picture of Jameela it’s just her middle finger.” “I’ve ruined every picture,” she added.

When asked who makes the cast break most during scenes, Manny also seemed to me the unanimous vote. His delivery of the most inane lines leaves the cast in tears and recently even made them an hour late on their take at seven in the morning when Ted Danson couldn’t stop laughing.

Ted Danson is in many ways the heart of the cast, as a 17-time Emmy nominee and living legend. He’s also apparently terrible at keeping secrets. Michael Schur, the showrunner, was set to send out the script to the actors for the finale episode Friday night (the table read for the finale is on Monday), but he decided to wait to not only temper the actors’ emotions during the Comic-Con panel but to keep Ted from spilling off all of the secrets to the audience.

The cast didn’t need to read the finale script to get emotional at the panel though. Kristen talked about how much she appreciates Mike Schur’s integrity, and insisted that he needs to write something new for her immediately following this season. When the rest of the cast was asked how they were dealing with the show ending Jameela quipped, “Well, Mike isn’t writing us anything…” She then went on to sincerely state though that, “It’s a tragedy to walk away from these people and this show, but it’s also so cool to know that we’re completing this story in the way that it’s mean to be completed. It’s a lot.”

D’arcy Carden echoed her sentiments. “It feels like a break up when you’re still in love with the person but you know it isn’t going to last. It’s sad as hell. We can say it’s great, but it sucks.” The cast teased however, that while they’re all grieving, Ted Danson has already gone out and gotten himself a new job. “Yes. That’s how I handle breakups. You can’t divorce me. I quit,” he quipped. Ted will be working with Tina Fey and Robert Carr playing the mayor of Los Angeles in a new comedy.

In all sincerity though, Ted admitted that he will miss The Good Place. “We’re all so honored to be a part of this show that Mike created. We love that twelve-year old kids come up and watch it religiously. That to me means so much. Thank you for this incredible ride.”

Again and again, Mike Schur’s dedication to creating a good work environment not only in front of the camera but behind it, was a talking point. This upcoming season both the show’s script supervisor and it’s 1st AD will get to the chance to direct an episode—an opportunity that not many shows provide, and a chance for everyone in the production crew to move up.

Kristen Bell said, “The best part about Mike is not that he’s super ethical and an amazing comedy writer. The best lesson I will take from him going forward is that he knows how to empower people around him. It’s outstanding how you look around and see potential in people and hand out opportunities.”

Kristen herself got a chance to direct an episode this upcoming season, and according to her castmates, it went “aggressively smoothly.” “I already feel like I’m pretty bossy,” Kristen said, “I lean in a lot and I’m not going to apologize for it, but I had fun wearing the actual hat where instead of ignoring me you had to listen.”

The panel concluded with a standing ovation for the cast, with a very pointed final ovation for the show’s creator, Mike Schur. “You can’t write about decency and what it means to be a good person and how to lead a good life unless you truly lead a life like that. It’s been an honor that will catch up with me as I go through life,” the cast said of him. Mike, a team player until the end finished by saying, “Like every great thing in this world it’s collaborative. There are a very large amount of people that deserve thanks.”

You can now watch The Good Place’s entire 2019 Comic-Con panel below.

After the panel, Hypable joined the cast and creatives in the press room, where emotions continued to run high.

First up was Jameela Jamil, who reflected on Tahani’s growth over the four seasons and her own journey as an actor – prior to booking The Good Place, Jamil had never acted before, and was known to British audiences as a successful TV and radio presenter. Hypable asked her to summarize what she most wants for Tahani before the series comes to an end.

“I want her to find peace, because I still think we see her desperate need for validation throughout this show, and I think so many people can relate to that, and also, I would like her to get along with her goddamn sister! The episode that’s between the two of us where we make up and I realize she’s been painting me all along, it made so many people look at their relationships with their siblings and it made me look at my relationship with my own brother in a different way, as in how your parents can affect your dynamic, and so I hope that that would be resolved.”

For executive producer Drew Goddard, we needed to ask the existential question that has been plaguing so many fans since the news of showrunner Michael Schur’s decision to wrap up the show after four short seasons: what are we meant to do now??? The Good Place has been an anchor and an inspiration, a needed reminder in these trying times of what we owe to each other when the ways of the world see the human race falling so far, treating itself more callously and more threateningly than ever before.

“I can only speak from personal experience: being around this show has made me a better person, has made me ask questions about how to be a better person. Thinking about the show and living in the show, I really believe that – and I’m not the only one – and just watching the show, it’s made me more conscious of other people and all of those little things the show is about and I know that that’s going to radiate outward. I know it is. You can feel it. It’s like a benevolent virus radiating outward and that stuff will matter. And creatively, we’ll see that change, as all of us go to do other things, like a dandelion they will sprout up in other places, and I think that will be really special.”

As well as this fundamental lesson, season 3 went hard into the idea of questioning the system, as the events that played out revealed the level of brokenness at play. We asked Marc Evan Jackson to speak about that element, and whether these revelations may cause Shawn to do any questioning of his own, in whatever way.

“Shawn’s a demon… I suppose Michael is too, but I don’t know Shawn has the potential for growth that we’ve seen in Michael. But the system gets addressed. The judge is involved – we see this at the end of season 3, that these questions with accounting are brought to bear, and big things happen in season 4 that I am simply unable to tell you about…”

Ted Danson and D’Arcy Carden shared a bit about what the opportunity to tell very human stories through the lens of the non-human characters Michael and Janet has been like. Michael and Janet are not meant to want things, so what do the actors want for their characters, and what do they think the characters want for themselves now?

“You have to watch the end. I can’t tell you,” Ted Danson teases, implying that there is an important story there. D’Arcy Carden agreed, but was happy to share a bit of her mindset about where the characters stand now.

“They are two characters who have been helping and they want the best for other people, and me, D’Arcy, I just want the best for them. I want them to be happy and fulfilled.”

“Every character here, the humans, get to develop and grow,” Danson follows up. “So it’s pretty amazing to watch a… mainframe or whatever you are, a “Not a Computer,”-computer and a demon learn how to become more human. And that journey kind of highlights one of the themes of the show. How do you become a decent human being, even if you’re not!”

Speaking with Kristen Bell and William Jackson Harper, everyone was keen to delve into Chidi and Eleanor’s relationship, especially after the events of the heartbreaking season 3 finale. Hypable asked The Good Place’s beloved odd couple about the introduction of the lovely Simone, and whether the legitimacy of Chidi and Simone’s relationship ever made them wonder if the Chidi/Eleanor love story wasn’t, in fact, endgame, and that their shift into friendship after losing memories was the right way to go.

Kristen Bell tackled this question with the most incredible, intelligent grace – one of the most profound answers we’ve ever witnessed in a press room, so there’s nothing really to do but transcribe it in full for you all.

“Let me organize my thoughts, because I think it’s important. What I love about Chidi and Eleanor is that they are not perfect matches, they are not the puzzle piece that was waiting for one another, they are two polar opposites that challenge each other and force one another to grow. And they balance each other. And for me, what I took was maybe that’s a great thing for the human soul. Maybe growing together is what makes everyone their healthiest. Maybe what love is, is a commitment to grow with one another. [Hypable: A choice.] Yes, it’s a choice! And Simone is so much more like Chidi, she’s also just so spectacular and wonderful, it was hard not to want Chidi to go with Simone, to have that. But! The very important thing is they never let you forget about the history of growth with Eleanor, and I think there’s something to be valued in your history of growth with someone, that life is not going ‘You’re great, we’ve been through a lot, let me see who’s over your shoulder,’ that this definition of love that we’re all searching for is looking at the person in front of you, recognizing their flaws, recognizing your own and saying ‘let’s get through it together,’ not searching for a different perfect person. So for me, it was like that concept all rolled into one. So I liked that they challenged us, in wanting to have Chidi go for Simone, but I also liked that he came back and said “No, I’m gonna grow with you, Eleanor.”

Insert Janet Crying GIF Here.

‘The Good Place’ returns September 26 at 9/8c on NBC

We want to hear your thoughts on this topic!
Write a comment below or submit an article to Hypable.

Introducing the Hypable app

Free for iOS and Android