“An excellent comedy that also offers a thought provoking look into the implications of humanity”
Creator: Michael Schur
Comedy/Drama/Fantasy (2016 – )
Seasons One and Two Available on Netflix
*Contains spoilers for Season One and Two*
When this show first appeared on a list provided by my preferred streaming service I thought it to be little more than an easy watch comedy, something that I could simply let flow over me whilst doing something else, like having dinner or checking my twitter feed for the hundredth time that day. What I was treated to was a female led, multicultural show that presented deep discussions into the morality of human existence and the ethical implications of an individuals actions; all the while managing to successfully remain genuinely funny and heartwarming, in addition to not wasting time on certain tropes that, in other such shows, would have been dragged out for as long as the viewers remained.
Easily perceived as just a simple comedy, The Good Place ticks all of the boxes associated with the elements of a well produced drama, its narrative (and themes) often resembling that of shows such as Westworld, or films such as The Wizard of Oz; an impressive feat especially as the characters have little stakes placed against them on account of them already being dead by the start of the Pilot episode.
Tricked into believing they are existing within the Good Place (the shows non-denominational version of Heaven, Moksha, Paradise, Nirvana etc) the protagonists quickly come to the realisation that they are in fact in its exact opposite, the Bad Place. This season one cliffhanger offers the climax that eagle eyed viewers should have started to suspect, especially as much of the comedic efforts were generated by bad or uncomfortable situations happening to the main characters, something that would not have happened in the Good Place. The show is wonderful with its presentation of this building tension, as the first season ends with our characters unknowingly beginning another cycle through this created hellscape.
One of the main draws I found to this show is that I could not expect where events were going to lead. Often, if a show is not very good, you can figure out the path of a plot rather early on, making the events when the finally appear less dramatic. Yet The Good Place constantly had me guessing, especially surrounding the character of Michael the “demon” (Due to its non-denominational status the show makes conscious efforts to stray away from Christian iconography, however the term Demon is an easily recognisable one and fits in with the motive of the character).
As the plot progresses the character is tasked with learning the ethical implications of being human, something he is obviously not an expert on, and is best characterised by his initial misunderstanding of the trolley problem thought experiment popularised by British philosopher Philippa Foot. In the penultimate episode of the shows second season we see this character finally understand as, after already having expressed his gratitude at having an individual to call a friend, he sacrifices himself to save the main characters. This was a thoroughly touching moment that was well earned, well executed, and abided by the elements of drama.
The Good Place may be just seen as a comedy, but I believe that it is much more than that. Just because something is funny does not stop it from being a thought provoking look into the implications of humanity that offers a, surprisingly realistic, view of what it means to be alive; despite the fact that all of the main characters are dead.