The latest episode of The Good Place revealed a disturbing truth about the Good Place. But what’s really going on behind the scenes?
The Good Place season 3, episode 10, provided one piece to the show’s long puzzle. In “Janet(s),” (amidst much gaping at the incredible skill of D’Arcy Carden) Accounting copped to the fact that no one — not one single human being — has earned enough points to make it into the Good Place in 521 years.
To paraphrase Jason, that is super not dope.
In an effort to discover how half a millennia of good people have been doomed to eternal torment with bees in their noses, Michael takes a literal shortcut. Michael, Janet, Jason, Eleanor, Chidi, and Tahani swoop up from Accounting through to what appears to be the mail room of the Good Place.
Praise the Judge! We’ve arrived! The hard part is over! Now all that remains is… to figure out why no one has gotten into the Good Place in so long.
Through Michael, The Good Place suggests one explanation for the unanswered knocks on Heaven’s door. The demons of the Bad Place have somehow hacked the points system, creating an imbalance that has sent millions of people to the Bad Place.
Clearly this is a plausible option. It’s not like the powers that be in the Bad Place have demonstrated much by way of scruples or concern for fairness. Both within the domain of the Bad Place and beyond, the demons are clearly only concerned with causing nastiness and misery, and they’re more than happy to break the rules when it suits them. (Traveling to Earth illegally being just one example.)
And it’s certainly true that head demon Shawn seems to know that something is up in the Good Place.
In the previous episode, “Don’t Let the Good Life Pass You By,” Shawn taunts Michael about his hopes for getting his four favorite humans into the Good Place — and his choice of insult is telling.
“You’re just delaying the inevitable, Michael,” he says. “The Bad Place is going to get all of them eventually. These four, their loved ones, even your precious pee-pee king, Doug Forcett.”
Shawn puts this belief up to “a hunch,” and Michael (understandably, but frustratingly) punts him back through the Bad Portal to the Bad Place before he can say anything more.
So we may indeed have the answer to this eschatological mystery right here: Shawn and the minions of the Bad Place have somehow borked the system of right and wrong, ensuring that all of humanity is theirs to torment. Easy-peasy, problem solved.
Well… maybe. But this is The Good Place, and it’s hard not to wonder if something else is afoot. For example, if something is wrong on The Good Place in the actual Good Place.
Consider: Throughout the entire run of The Good Place, the Good Place itself has remained almost entirely mysterious. Viewers’ first glimpse of the place is the mail room, which looks decidedly underused. Not abandoned, maybe, given the clutter, but definitely not a hub of activity.
The room is full of sacks of mail and strangely old-fashioned implements — antique telephones and at least three different sets of scales. The chandelier has pedestals for candles; the shelves, desk, and chair are heavy, dark, and dated. While there’s clearly electricity available in the Good Place, the lamps and rickety fan clearly date to a much earlier era.
Perhaps most telling is the row of files trays on the table. Only the tray labeled “EXTREMELY IMPORTANT” is stacked high with files, but who is tending to these dire issues? Not only is no one in sight, but the place has clearly not been updated in a very long time.
Why the apparent emptiness of the Good Place? Why no one has been admitted since, like, 1497? What will Michael, Eleanor, and the crew discover in the realm that has so long been closed to them?
All this weirdness could be the outside influence of the Bad Place. But maybe the problem comes from the Good Place itself. Maybe the Good Place has given up, closed its doors on purpose. Maybe the points system has been hacked — but by Shawn’s beatific counterparts, instead of the demons of the Bad Place.
Maybe the angelic agents of the Good Place have decided that humanity is just too fundamentally rotten to deserve eternal delight.
Yes, that’s a super dark possibility. (And it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what may have happened 521 years ago to inspire this closed-door policy; brief research on Wikipedia doesn’t offer up much more than a standard sucky spate of time in the Middle Ages.)
But one long-running theme of The Good Place has been the question of whether people can, truly and selflessly, be good. Eleanor and Michael’s journeys from terrible trash person and literal demon to aspiring saviors of humanity suggests that the answer is yes. But could the agents of the Good Place, after millennia of ushering in members of our decidedly flawed species, have decided otherwise?
So much effort has been expended on The Good Place toward persuading bad actors — be they human or demon — that good can come from humanity. Michael has been convinced, Eleanor has been convinced; maybe now, the work of The Good Place is to make that argument to those who are supposed to arbitrate good, rather than punish bad.
With only three episodes left in The Good Place season 3 and circumstances shifting with every installment, it’s hard to tell what kind of work is in store when the show returns. But it seems like there might be room to hope that there is room for this story to be more complex than the machinations of a few evil and weirdly determined demons.
The Good Place season 3 returns in 2019.