By: DANISH IMRAN/ STAFF REPORTER
What do our lives on Earth mean?
That’s a deeply philosophical question, and it’s one amongst many that The Good Place tackles in its own unique, creative, and humorous ways.
The show’s premises are enthralling. Eleanor Shellstrop, played by Kristen Bell, begins her afterlife in the so-called Good Place. She rejoices in all the luxuries it has to offer, but quickly realizes she doesn’t belong there.
Being an anomaly in the system, she sets her mind to leaving her past-self behind, and starting afresh in the Good Place. Eleanor begins this journey with her friends Chidi, Tahani, and Jason.
It’s a light-hearted sitcom, but it covers heavy topics throughout its four seasons. The philosophy is never the focal point of the show, but series-creator Michael Schur is able to provoke the audience to think about the big questions like death, God, and the afterlife while refraining from directly asking the audience.
It’s important to note that The Good Place doesn’t have a “preachy” tone and it doesn’t tell you what to think, rather it tells you to think. And it’s always done subtly.
In my opinion, it’s a never-seen-before plotline, and the continuous plot twists in the first season really hook you in to continuing to watch the show. However, I did begin to question why the series relied so heavily on cliffhangers and plot twists to keep me watching.
By this point, I’d reached a point in the series of no return where a completely new and fascinating direction is set for the show, and from thereon, The Good Place is full of innovative surprises.
Schur’s masterful writing is revealed in multiple forms. Popularly appreciated is the character development we get to see through four seasons. As viewers, we appreciate the struggles each character faces and we acknowledge their strengths and their flaws, and we love them all the same. Through every rollercoaster they’re plunged into, we find ourselves rooting for them.
What I respected and appreciated most about the show, without giving any plotlines away, was how Schur really was able to challenge my perspectives on the big aforementioned questions.
There are many analogies throughout the show that, when applied to our lives, got me thinking such as “does death give meaning to life?” and, “does the scope for self-improvement during and beyond our time on Earth invalidate a need for hell?” or “what does being a good person truly mean?”
It’s a lot of moral philosophy put in a light-hearted sitcom, but Schur’s ability to manage it well is duly noted.
It’s not easy to pick a favorite character in The Good Place as each of them are personable, with their own set of beauties and flaws that you can appreciate together.
At first Tahani Al-Jamil, played by Jameela Jamil, seemed to be a character that I would dislike, but he quickly became a huge reason why I’d continue watching the show.
Her character arc is phenomenal, which can be said about almost all of the characters, but her comedic timing is particularly good. Unabashedly, I’ve recorded a few favorite scenes of hers so I can enjoy a good laugh anywhere, anytime.
Does the show have its share of weaknesses? Of course.
In hindsight, you can see how simplistically the rather-complex theories of utilitarianism, nihilism, Kantianism, etc. are put.
Chidi does his best to put everything in layman’s terms for the audience’s sake, but how far is it okay to simplify theories of moral philosophy?
On another hand, some may think a show that induces existential crises is not for everyone (I personally see this as hyperbolic, I lived through without suffering any crisis of the sort).
One factor that could be viewed as a strength and a weakness is that there isn’t much focus on the romantic relationships in the show. There’s either a lack of synergy between the characters or a completely unfounded relationship altogether.
However, cumulatively, The Good Place doesn’t allow us to dwell on its share of weaknesses. Instead, it distracts us with creativity, humor, and masterful writing. There are constant reminders, life messages, and questions to ponder about that are revealed through well-written examples and reasoning.
It’s clear that I would recommend The Good Place to anyone.