06. It’s Possible To Be Too Selfless
As Seen In… Season 3, Episode 9 – “Don’t Let the Good Life Pass You By”
The Rundown: It’s a running joke throughout the series that Doug Forcett (Michael McKean) – an unassuming, average dude from Canada – has come the closest of all humans to figuring out what the real afterlife is. Naturally, he came to this conclusion as a teenager on a shrooms trip. Michael and Janet (D’arcy Carden) pose as newspaper reporters and visit Doug’s home to find out how the most ethical human in history lives – but, they find that Doug is so preoccupied with maximizing his afterlife point total that he leads a miserable existence. He only eats lentils and radishes, and he only drinks his own filtered waste. When he accidentally steps on a snail, he embarks on a weeks-long walk to Edmonton to donate $85 to a snail charity (sending a check in the mail would increase his carbon footprint).
The Lesson: We should be mindful about the consequences of our actions. We should be conscious of our environmental impact and our effect on others, and strive to keep getting better. But, if you end up drinking your own urine on a regular basis, you might want to take a step back and reevaluate your lifestyle.
Good to Remember When: Your coworker needs a ride to the airport early on Sunday morning, but you’re really busy this weekend, and you were looking forward to finally having a chance to rest, do laundry, and call your grandma. It would be really generous of you to help out, but it’s just not in the cards this time. You might feel bad for saying no, but it’s okay to set boundaries and understand your own limits. Maybe next time around, you’ll be able to say yes.
07. Bureaucracy Can Be Counterproductive
As Seen In… Season 3, Episode 10 – “The Book of Dougs”
The Rundown: Michael discovers a horrific injustice in the afterlife system: it is now impossible to get enough points for The Good Place, so every human who has died in the last 500 years has gone to The Bad Place. When he points out this crisis to The Good Place committee, they are appalled, and present Michael a plan: they will spend 400 years selecting members of an elite investigative team, and then once that’s done, they will get to the bottom of this. When Michael balks, a committee member replies, “Michael, we have rules, procedures. We’re the good guys – we can’t just do things.”
The Lesson: Yes, rules exist for a reason – but, if you follow the rules so closely that you lose your sense of empathy, then you risk forgetting that helping each other is more important than filling out administrative forms perfectly.
Good to Remember When: You’re a professor, and your syllabus states a no-tolerance policy for absences on exam dates. A student misses an exam, but later provides proof that she had to rush home for an unforeseen family emergency. It might be a pain to readminister the exam, but… Remember that bit about not being an ash-hole?
08. No One Is Beyond Redemption
As Seen In… Season 4, Episode 7 – “Help is Other People”
The Rundown: To quote Jason, Brent (Benjamin Koldyke) is a “toilet full of broccoli.” He mentions every chance he gets that he went to Princeton, but that’s not even close to the worst thing about him. He’s the epitome of every reason why the #MeToo movement exists, making off-handed comments about how, on Earth, he was really good at burying HR complaints. When Janet won’t wear skimpy outfits at his request, he decides that he doesn’t belong in The Good Place; he belongs in The Best Place. Simone (Kirby Howell-Baptiste) and John (Brandon Scott Jones) have given up on helping Brent, but Chidi throws a hail mary, lashing out at Brent to try to explain to him why he sucks so much. Slowly, Brent starts to understand.
The Lesson: In the finale, we catch a glimpse of Brent trying – however minimally – to better himself. He asks, to paraphrase, “So I can’t tell a woman to smile, even if it’ll make her prettier? Aren’t I helping her?” For the Brents of the world, it may take thousands of Bearimys to learn how to treat others, but the best part of the afterlife is that time is infinite.
Good to Remember When: You go home for Thanksgiving, only to run into your middle school bully at the supermarket. He’s actually not that bad, and apologizes for being a ashhole way back when. You’re pleasantly surprised, but also, fork that guy – you don’t owe him shirt.
09. Eleanor Is the Answer
As Seen In… Season 4, Episode 9 – “The Answer”
The Rundown: The humans, Michael, and Janet are scrambling to figure out how to design a new, fair afterlife. You know, just your average, simple task. But Chidi – the resident philosophy professor – is “asleep” after completing the experiment. When he wakes up and reunites with his friends and his soulmate, Eleanor, he asks Janet to give him back a letter that he gave her before his memory was erased (it’s a long story). The letter reads: “There is no answer. But Eleanor is the answer.”
The Lesson: Whether it’s a romantic partner or a 60-person dance crew, our relationships with the people we love are what make life worth the struggle.
Good to Remember When… You’re stuck in a dead-end 9-to-5 job, and it’s fine, but it doesn’t fulfill you. You wake up every morning thinking, “Is it the weekend yet?” and your co-workers say, “Mondays, am I right?” at the water cooler. It’s not ideal, but it’s a good thing you have friends and family to cheer you on.
10. The True Joy’s In the Mystery
As Seen In… Season 4, Episode 14 – “Whenever You’re Ready”
The Rundown: In the series finale of The Good Place, the four humans, one-by-one, decide to pursue the afterlife of the afterlife. Janet, the all-knowing not-robot, reveals to Eleanor that what comes next is the only thing she doesn’t know. Sagely, Eleanor replies, “As a very wise not-robot once told me, the true joy’s in the mystery.”
The Lesson: There’s so much we don’t know by the end of The Good Place, but it feels fitting that we don’t have all of the answers. These are questions that we’ll spend our lives trying to figure out: what do we owe to each other? Why do bad things happen to good people? Is a good person just someone who is trying their best? We don’t know the answers, and neither does series creator Michael Schur. But the true joy’s in the mystery.
Good to Remember When… The credits roll after your favorite TV show’s series finale, and you realize that there are no episodes left to look forward to, but you still don’t know if Michael finished writing his psychedelic jam, “The Purple Train to Groovy City.”