Paradise Is Another Problem for the Group to Solve on ‘The Good Place’ (RECAP)
[WARNING: The following contains MAJOR spoilers for The Good Place Season 4, Episode 12, “Patty.”]
It was somewhat apparent going into this episode that The Real Good Place couldn’t be everything the four humans had always hoped it would be.
Sure, it would’ve been nice if the four humans could settle into a joyful eternity where everything they wanted to do is always possible, and everyone they love is always near. But that’s never been The Good Place’s style. There’s always been a nail-biter of a twist, a wrench thrown into the best-laid plans. It’s no surprise that the show’s vision of eternal paradise isn’t accurately summarized by those two words, but what is surprising, and emotional, is the revelation that realization produces.
“Patty” is The Good Place’s penultimate episode, but it feels like a series finale. As insightful as ever about the nature of humanity, relationships and happiness (and with yet another jaw-dropping guest star appearance), it invites viewers to reconsider traditional ideals of the perfect afterlife and asserts a heartwarmingly bittersweet vision of what the perfect afterlife truly is.
A New Rock to Push Up a Hill
The gang arrives in The Good Place and checks in. They’re greeted by the committee from earlier episodes, who let them know there’s a party being thrown in their honor that’s tailored to their specific tastes. Michael (Ted Danson), however, won’t be attending — he’s going to be sworn in as an official Good Place architect. (So, to the fans who said Michael would end up being an angel… in a way, you were right!)
While Eleanor (Kristen Bell) and the rest of the humans attend their party, Michael heads to his swearing-in ceremony. He’s honored and excited right up until the moment after he signs a document he doesn’t bother to read (always read the fine print, Michael!). Suddenly, the committee members dash out the door, declaring that he’s now in charge.
Dumbfounded, Michael wanders the halls of Good Place HQ but doesn’t find anyone else there — although he does find some scattered ideas about how to “improve” paradise, which don’t make much sense. Everyone has packed up and left, leaving him with little more than a rainbow medal and a brightly colored robe. What’s a reformed demon to do?!
At the party, each of the humans busies themselves with something fun. Because they all walked through the door together, the bash ends up being a delightfully absurd conglomeration of all of their favorite things. There are shrimp machines and VIP sections, bookshelves and Jacksonville Jaguars jerseys.
Anything they want to do is possible, so Jason (Manny Jacinto) go-karts with monkeys, thus achieving his lifelong dream. Tahani (Jameela Jamil) endeavors to talk with the residents so she can spill the beans about them to her friends. A fanboying Chidi (William Jackson Harper) asks Eleanor to accompany him while he goes to talk to Hypatia of Alexandria (Lisa Kudrow). Surprisingly, she keeps current on everything happening on Earth, and she tells Chidi to “call [her] Patty.”
Overwhelmed by the newcomers, Patty invites them all to get milkshakes (they’re made of stardust, because of course they are). There, it becomes apparent that “Patty” has lost her edge. She can’t remember the word “philosopher,” and as the group adjourns to a gorgeous garden, she explains why existence in The Good Place eventually morphs into something atrocious. “On paper, this is paradise… but when perfection goes on forever, you become this glassy-eyed, mush person.”
Letting Them Leave
Chidi, Eleanor and Patty meet up with the rest of the group, and they’ve all discovered fatal flaws in the system. Tahani’s attempts to chat with the residents revealed how zombie-like they all are, having been numbed by years and years of getting and doing and exploring everything they could ever want. Jason laments that go-karting with monkeys “got old,” and after a while, he just wanted to go back to his friends. Janet got a taste of life as a Good Place Janet and didn’t much care for it. But how can they fix the problem?
The squad — and Patty — sit down at Good Place HQ to get the afterlife straightened out again. Eleanor refers Michael back to something she said when she tried to explain human nature to him; that humans are always a little bit sad because they know they’re going to die one day, but that’s what gives life meaning. “The way to restore meaning to the people in The Good Place,” Eleanor says, “is to let them leave.”
Everything is Fine
Everyone returns to the party, where Michael and Eleanor present the idea. They’ll construct a door in the neighborhood where residents can depart The Good Place when they’re ready. What’ll that mean for the people who step through that door? No one can decisively say. “All we know is that it will be peaceful, and your journey will be over,” Janet says. Judging by the applause the presentation receives when they conclude, whatever it does, it’ll be a whole lot better than a lifetime of boringly blissful oblivion.
Thus, having solved the afterlife’s problems yet again, Eleanor and friends head out to explore their own little corner of paradise. Michael recreated Eleanor and Chidi’s home from The Fake Good Place (albeit with fewer clowns and a nicer view), gave Tahani the mansion she always wanted and granted Jason his lifelong wish of living in his favorite restaurant.
“You know, Michael,” Eleanor says, “at the end of the day, you were right. Everything is fine.” And as Eleanor and Chidi snuggle on their couch and watch a vibrant sunset, at last given enough time with each other, it seems everything really might be.
The Good Place, Series Finale, Thursday, January 30, 8:30/7:30c