“The Good Place” and a Comedic Afterlife

“The Good Place” is an NBC comedy that ran from 2016 to 2020, and it deals with the question of an afterlife from a mostly comedic perspective. The main premise is that the main character, Eleanor, has been sent to the “Good Place” which is basically heaven in the show’s universe. However, very quickly, Eleanor and the other residents begin to suspect that not everything is what it seems in this so called “Good Place”. The show follows the adventures of Eleanor and her friends as they discover the truth about the afterlife. There’s plot twists, romance, inside jokes, and plain old slapstick comedy all over the place. On the surface, the show deals with some serious topics regarding ethics, class, and the existential nature of what happens after you die or what it means to live on earth. However, the show keeps a comedic tone throughout all four of its seasons, providing some seriously interesting commentary to the viewer without taking itself too seriously. The show is sure to take plenty of moments to point out the trivial or humorous points of an “afterlife”, and even the most powerful, god-like figures in the show are portrayed as very human-like characters, each with their own mannerisms and weaknesses.

In addition, the main characters, Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani, and Jason each have their own unique characteristics that the show constantly plays off of; Eleanor being the sort of entitled, brash suburban women, Chidi being the very technically correct ethics professor, Tahani being the elitist, definitely entitled type, and Jason being the “Bortles!” failed Jacksonville DJ/crashes his jet ski into a manatee, Florida-man type. The show uses the more absurd and humorous elements of these characters (and others in the show) to cleverly point out how, despite their very different outward appearances and reputations, each character’s lifestyle has come with its own weaknesses and strengths in terms of how they are “evaluated” post-death.

I won’t go too in depth here, but basically, (spoiler alert), the four main characters find out that they are actually all in the “bad place”, and have been fooled by Michael, the kind neighborhood designer, that they were actually in the “good place”; this comes as a shock to characters like Chidi and Tahani who were sure that they actually deserved to be in the “good place”. Michael, the seemingly gentle neighborhood designer, is actually a demon who has designed a torture scheme that pits people with incompatible personalities together, where they will inevitably argue with one another about everything. In an effort to perfect his unorthodox torture scheme, Michael continually resets the memories of the characters, only to have them always figure out they are really in the bad place. The show takes off from there and explores the nature of a binary afterlife system, and the inherent flaws in such a setup. Eventually, the characters reconcile with Michael/the other afterlife gods/beings and are able to prove they are capable of improvement post-death, eventually ending up in the real “good place”. The show also generally keeps a playful vibe in terms of music, colors/sets, etc, throughout, helping the viewer engage in this existential topic in a light-hearted way.

In addition to the more blunt, traditional humor in “The Good Place”, I think it also fits the definition of a romantic comedy. This is because throughout all of the jokes and existential wonderings, the show always comes back to Eleanor and Chidi. No matter how many times their memories are wiped and no matter how incompatible they may seem with one another on the surface, Eleanor and Chidi keep finding their way back to one another, no matter the enormity of whatever post-death scenario they have encountered. In this way, the show ties a lot of its strings to the romance between Eleanor and Chidi, therefore making its comedy and effectiveness dependent on said romance.

Like any TV show, there’s a lot going on in “The Good Place”, so if you have the chance, I’d recommend watching some of it–it’s very thoughtful and also very funny–in order to really understand many of the deeper things it may be trying to say. At the very least, though, “The Good Place” definitely proves the effectiveness of comedy to create both an entertaining and thoughtful show.

One thought on ““The Good Place” and a Comedic Afterlife

  1. Katie W

    I love the Good Place! I completely agree that is talks about a lot of deep and important topics but also provides a lot of comedy!


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