Dragon deaths and men in black be damned. The biggest twist of last season didn’t take place on Game of Thrones or Westworld, but instead on NBC’s heavenly The Good Place. Turns out the idyllic afterlife in which recently deceased, less-than-virtuous Eleanor (Kristen Bell) found herself wasn’t the Good Place at all. Spoiler alert: It was really the Bad Place.
After spending Season 1 trying to make herself worthy of the paradise in which she thought she’d mistakenly landed, Eleanor figured out the world was all a scheme devised by afterlife architect Michael (Ted Danson) to torture her and three other imperfect souls: indecisive professor Chidi (William Jackson Harper), egotistical philanthropist Tahani (Jameela Jamil) and Florida DJ Jason Mendoza (Manny Jacinto). The finale ended with Michael wiping their memories, separating the four of them and restarting the whole process—but not before Eleanor left herself a clue: a note telling her to find Chidi.
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“The season premiere is largely about her having this mission,” executive producer Michael Schur teases. “Eleanor recognizes her own handwriting on this note, so she knows it’s important and she has to do it.” Still, while Season 2 may kick off with a hard reset, don’t expect a replay of Season 1. “The audience knowing more than the characters and waiting for them to catch up could get boring very fast,” Schur says. “So the show goes in a bunch of new directions pretty quickly.”
And how. “Last season was a puzzle you didn’t know was being put together for you,” notes Bell. “This season has its foot on the gas. I will say that I ended last season thinking, ‘Where on earth are the writers gonna go from here?’ They came up with ideas I could never have thought of. I love what they did.”
One thing is certain: In spite of its dark revelation, The Good Place will retain its sunny tone. “I still consider it to be an optimistic show,” Schur says. “It’s saying everyone has flaws, everyone screws up. And if you just spend a little time thinking about ways you can behave that are more empathetic, you can actually become a better person. That’s what I cling to.”
The Good Place, Returns Wednesday, Sept. 20, 10/9c, NBC (then moves to its regular timeslot on Thursdays, 8:30/7:30c, starting Sept. 28)