Note. This is a full spoilers review/recap
I have an odd relationship with The Good Place. The first two seasons I absolutely adore. Incredibly tight plotting combined with great writing,fantastic characters and performances made for some of the best TV comedy of recent years. Then Season 3 happened. Season 3 has any number of great moments(the Janets episode, Michael McKean talking about his composting toilet,Peeps chilli and several more) but it quickly became clear the writers had no real direction they wanted to take the story and throwing a bunch of dispirit plot ideas at the wall to see what stuck. The characters were still great but for a show that had been so reliant on its plot up until that point this presented a big problem. Season 4 retained some of the plot focus but the writing was nowhere near as sharp as it was during its prime.
I was worried about the series finale before sitting down to watch it. The end of episode 12 suggested that the ending was going to be a very straightforward ” The Good Place is not all it’s cracked up to be” and then send the characters into the great beyond.
To my surprise the finale was absolutely brilliant. It’s brilliant not because it’s as sharply written as the show had been as it’s best but because it knows how to pay off character arcs that have been present since the start of the show in a way that’s incredibly emotionally satisfying. Jason gets to play the perfect game of Madden and gets a final moment with Janet, Tahani gets to reconnect with her parents and sister, Chidi is finally able to make decisions as well as finally getting together with Eleanor and Michael is able to craft a version of The Good Place system that’s effective before abandoning his demon life to go down to on earth and Eleanor realises that not all good things can last forever. A much less confident show would have had this take place over a compressed period of time but by having the majority of the time the character spend in The Good Place take place off screen it enables the audience to buy into these emotional moments and conclusion of character arcs much more effectively. It’s a textbook example of how to craft a series finale.
Whatever my issues with the second half of the series overall all I thought The Good Place finale was practically perfect at what it set out to do. The finale makes clear that the writers always knew that these characters and performances were something special even if they weren’t entirely sure what to do with them from a story perspective. It will be used as an example of one of the great TV finales in years to come.