The season 2 finale of The Good Place ended with a twist, a memory wipe, and a complete shift in the status quo. While those statements refer equally to both the show’s seasons, they couldn’t feel more different. Dumped back into their mortal lives, the humans must now prove they can become better people in The Good Place season 3.
Can Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani, and Jason get to the real Good Place? Or, more importantly, should they even try? Let’s dig into the morality of this messed up cosmic system and make some predictions for The Good Place season 3.
The four human characters of The Good Place all represent four different ways of being un-good. (Not evil, I’d argue, and not even ‘bad’). Eleanor, of all of them, was clearly the worst in her life, between deliberately taking advantage of her friends, scamming the elderly, and harassing random strangers. Jason’s sins were of a similar scumminess (knifing tires and harassing flamingos isn’t cool), but in the end, his actions weren’t motivated out of a deliberate cruelty like Eleanor, but lack of awareness.
The other two, meanwhile, appeared good on the surface, but stumbled in the details. Tahani donated huge sums of money to charity, but did it for selfish reasons. Chidi strove to help others, but got so caught up in himself that he would waffle and hurt his friends.
Therefore, to be truly ‘good’ in this universe, you must both act morally and think morally.
We see– multiple times, in fact– that these humans have the capacity to grow past their flaws. Chidi worked past his indecision and cares less about his moral purity. Tahani learned to find self-worth independent of others’ opinion of her. Jason became more aware of the desires of others. Eleanor stopped acting on her own selfish impulses.
Non-humans are capable of growing too. Janet and Michael are both members of the cosmic bureaucracy, and created as opposites. Janet was a passive repository of all knowledge, pure kindness, designed only to serve and have no thoughts or wants of her own. Michael was a demon, imaginative and assertive, trained to use his abilities only to torture ‘deserving’ humans.
Seeing Michael’s gradual transformation into someone caring and considerate (a literal guardian angel) was one of the highlights of season 2. Equally fascinating was Janet’s, which in many ways, was in the opposite. She learned to have her own desires, to act upon them, and to do ‘bad’ things to protect her friends.
Good things aren’t always good, bad things aren’t always bad. Team Cockroach represents the beauty in the moral grey. Where is The Good Place season 3 going to take them?
The System Sucks
The current evaluation system doesn’t have any place for moral grayness. Every person can be perfectly categorized as ‘good or ‘evil’. Every action has a set value of ‘good’ or ‘evil’ it puts into the world.
Not to mention, the good acts don’t count if your motivations weren’t pure. Not that the opposite holds – Chidi only had the best intentions, but he was still damned to an eternity of torture.
People can’t change after they die. That’s the assumption the whole afterlife is built on. When Michael rants at the Judge that this isn’t true, and therefore billions of people have been unfairly punished, the Judge is shaken.
Well, a little. You’d think someone’s reaction to leaning they may be unfairly hurting 99% of a species would be a little more somber.
But then, the Judge doesn’t have to be somber. She doesn’t have to care. She, and the entire bureaucracy, are wholly removed from the humans she governs. Pulling someone’s intestines out of their own mouth would, on Earth, undoubtedly doom any human. But if you’re a demon, that pain you inflict is totally A-OK.
An Unfair Playing Field
Back on Earth, with her conscious memories wiped but retaining her overall character development, Eleanor takes one look at herself and realizes how she’s lacking. She starts being kinder to those around her, takes a low-paying conservation job, stops lying, goes vegetarian…
… and after six months, gives up.
Being moral is hard– but it isn’t equally hard for everyone. Eleanor struggles with a low paying job and living alone after her friend abandons her. Would this be nearly as difficult a problem for Tahani, who was born into a rich family that provided her with funds, connections, and an excellent education?
It’s easier to do good things when there’s less risk. It’s easier to do good things when you have the means. If ending slavery, saving the environment, or curing cancer will all get you the big earner points necessary for eternal paradise, you need to be in a situation which will let you achieve that. Good luck if you were born into poverty in the middle of nowhere and die at age 16 of malaria.
Eleanor’s poor family and living situation stacked the deck against her. Even when she tried to fight it, the toxic influences in her life pulled her back. By seeking out Chidi, she’ll almost certainly overcome those problems… but not everyone gets that opportunity.
In The Good Place season 3, how will Chidi react to a random stranger coming to him for help unexpectedly? How will his and Eleanor’s relationship play out on Earth? How are Jason and Tahani in doing in all this? How long until they die (again)?
The answers to all of these questions are unclear. But sooner or later (probably sooner, considering this show’s usual pace), the humans are going to find themselves dead once more. It seems likely that at least a couple of them will make it into the Good Place. But what will they find there?
It would be nice to think that after all they’ve gone through, there will be a perfect utopia waiting for them. But my money’s on the real Good Place being just as horrible as the rest of the afterlife, just covered in a shiny veneer.
After all, if heaven is really filled with the most genuinely good humans who have ever existed, these are probably the people who would be least accepting of this messed up system. How could they be complicit in knowing so many people are being tortured, including their friends and family? How could they possibly find eternal happiness in that kind of situation?
Considering how often mind-wipes get brandied about on this show, we might already know the answer.
Regardless of the specifics, it seems likely that reaching The Good Place won’t let Team Cockroach rest in peace. To find fulfillment, both for them and everyone, the system needs to be burned down and built from scratch.
The Good Place season 3 has been renewed for 13 episodes, with no official release date yet announced.
Author: Laura B
Lover of fantasy and science fiction, fascinated in how they impact the real world. Professional writer and science communicator.
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