First, a SPOILER WARNING: we’re going to talk about all the big twists and developments in The Good Place seasons one and two. Strap in.
Now, as you’ll remember, in episode one, no-good human being Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell) arrived in The Good Place and was greeted in this heavenly afterlife by angel Michael (Ted Danson) – but she had a secret: this was a case of mistaken identity. She wasn’t meant to be here.
Keen to avoid being banished to the Bad Place and tortured for eternity, she enlisted the help of her assigned “soulmate” Chidi (William Jackson Harper), an indecisive philosophy professor, to help make her a better person and disguise her identity. Also along for the adventure were name-dropping, virtuous socialite Tahani (Jameela Jamil) and Taiwanese monk Jianyu (Manny Jacinto), later revealed to be another fraud: his real name was Jason Mendoza and he was a delusional amateur DJ and a very amateur criminal.
The four of them were found out – but just as things were reaching a crisis point, Eleanor had an epiphany. This wasn’t the Good Place! This was the Bad Place! Michael was actually a demon, and he’d designed this “perfect” situation specifically to torture them all!
Sadly her epiphany was not to last: Michael’s demon boss Shawn gave him one last chance to make the experiment work, and the situation was rebooted. Memories were wiped and everyone went back to day one. The end.
After leaving us gasping at such a massive twist, The Good Place returned for a second season – but this time we were clued in to what was really going on, even if Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani and Jason were not. But they worked it out yet again! In desperation, Michael kept rebooting the neighbourhood over and over, but it was no use: each time, Eleanor eventually realised they were in the Bad Place.
Ultimately, Michael truly befriended the foursome and tried to help them enter the real Good Place. The didn’t quite make it all the way there, but the Judge who heard their case agreed to give them one more chance on Earth to prove they could become better people.
In the final part of thee season finale, Eleanor survived her accident and – with the help of a nudge from Michael – became a more moral person, even coming across Chidi’s online philosophy lecture and flying to Australia to meet him.
It shows Michael heading back to Earth to prevent the deaths of Tahani, Jason, Eleanor and Chidi. But what will happen next?
Do Chidi and Tahani and Jason also become better people back on Earth? Will Eleanor’s improvement actually count, given that Michael had to intervene? Have they done enough to end up in the actual Good Place? And – will they all die again?
One thing’s for sure: this wasn’t just a simulation.
Series creator Michael Shur told Rolling Stone: “Normally I don’t like to just flatly state what’s going on, but here I don’t see the benefit of people experiencing ambiguity: the four of them are straight-up back on Earth, in a new timeline where they didn’t die.”
But here’s another idea – what if the new timeline and the old timeline collide…?
Kristen Bell has also dropped some clues: “Metaphorically, this next season is about how you can play chess with people who don’t know you’re playing with them and doing so in a way that doesn’t affect the greater universe.”
She added: “Our characters don’t know there’s a greater mission. We’re meandering on Earth… all left on Earth separately. And what we learned from the first two seasons is that our strengths come when we’re together.”
This article was originally published in summer 2018