Series / The Good Place

"Why do bad things always happen to mediocre people who are lying about their identity?"
Eleanor

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The Good Place is a 2016 NBC comedy series created by Michael Schur (Parks and Recreation), starring Kristen Bell and Ted Danson.

Bell stars as Eleanor Shellstrop, a woman who ends up in a "Good Place" after being killed by an oncoming truck. Told by Danson's Michael that it's her reward for being a good Samaritan in her mortal life, it turns out there was a mix-up — Eleanor is actually not a very nice person, and her spot belongs to someone else.

Surrounded by nice townies who deserve to be there, Eleanor turns to her system-designated soulmate Chidi Anagonye (William Jackson Harper), a neurotic ethics and moral philosophy professor, to help her become a good person who deserves to stay in the Good Place. Also in the mix are her next-door neighbors, the condescending humanitarian socialite Tahani Al-Jamil (Jameela Jamil), her soulmate, the quiet Buddhist monk Jianyu Li (Manny Jacinto), and Michael himself, who appears incredibly impressed by Eleanor's supposed goodness. Hijinks ensue as Eleanor is forced to hide the truth of her past, or else she'll be sent to the dreaded "Bad Place" reserved for such people.

Despite being a comedy, the show is highly serialized and each episode directly follows from the one before. Therefore, beware of spoilers that may be unmarked.


The Good Place provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Aesop Amnesia: In Attempt #803, the four humans don't have the character development they had from Attempt #1 or any other attempt since they've been completely rebooted each time.
  • All Crimes Are Equal: In the eyes of the Bad Place, everyone there merits to be tortured regardless of exactly how minor their transgressions were on Earth, or if they were just jerks instead of actually being evil: Jason was a petty criminal who dealt drugs and would frequently burn things down with Molotov Cocktails to avenge himself against those who "wronged" him, and died trying to rob a restaurant. Eleanor was just unbelievably rude and selfish. Chidi, while a decent fellow, made everyone around him miserable with his dithering. And Tahani did good things, but not for altruistic reasons — it was her way of proving to her parents she was just as good, if not better, then her sister.
  • Ambigusously Bi: Eleanor is really into Tahani.
  • Amnesia Loop: In Season 2, no matter how many times the four humans have their memories erased, somebody (usually Eleanor) always manages to figure out that they are actually in the Bad Place. It takes 802 iterations before Vicky forces Michael to give up . As she threatens to overthrow him he decides to let the the four humans retain their memory in order to work with them for their mutual survival.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking:
    • People get an eternity in the Bad Place for murder, arson, sexual harassment... and taking their shoes and socks off on an airplane.
    • One description of the Bad Place includes "flying piranhas, lava monsters, college improv."
    • When Janet is rebooted and falls in love with Jianyu/Jason, she also comes to hate things, such as "genocide and leggings as pants."
    • Among the many terrible things that Eleanor has done to warrant being sent to the Bad Place is... a brief Instagram flirtation with Kid Rock.
  • Ass Shove: In Season 2, the Bad Place is said to have started testing "Butthole Spiders". They're enormous.
  • Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: Among the things that go wrong the first time the neighborhood goes haywire is the appearance of giant ladybugs and frogs.
  • Beleaguered Bureaucrat: When Eleanor unintentionally throws the Good Place into chaos, Michael ends up working himself into a frenzy as he tries to figure out what has caused his carefully balanced neighborhood to go off-kilter.
  • Bears are Bad News: When Eleanor and Chidi are played an audio clip of what is currently going on in the Bad Place, they hear one of the damned screaming about being menaced by a bear with two mouths. Later on, there is a mention of bears with four heads that fly.
  • Being Good Sucks: A central theme. The Good Place may have its perks and it is easy to want to be a good person, but it is difficult to be one, especially considering taking the bad route is often much easier. Even good deeds done in the name of selfish motives don't count for anything. Eleanor often finds herself at odds with Chidi's teachings, considering she's used to being a self-centered loner; Michael also has difficulty adjusting to ethics class, considering his demonic background and all
  • The Big Board: Played with. Michael has one but it looks like a small desk sized map of the neighborhood. However, since he sees in 9 dimensions, it's apparently much much bigger and messier to him.
  • Big Red Button: There's a Big Red Button situated in a remote corner of the Good Place that is used as a shut-off switch for Janet. As a measure of last resort, Janet is designed to tearfully beg for her life whenever someone goes to press it.
  • Black and White Insanity: Seems to be the criteria for judging people into the After-life, there is no "grey"; when Michael reads Les Misérables he concludes all the characters are going to the Bad Place. Jean Valjean stealing bread to feed his family? Stealing the bread outweighs the reasons he stole it for. There's also the matter that being French automatically sends you to the Bad Place ... even Victor Hugo is there.
  • Blue and Orange Morality:
    • The process that places people into the Good and Bad Places. Lincoln is the only President in the Good Place (beating out forking Washingtonnote ) and even Florence Nightingale (barely) didn't do enough good in life to be sent to the Good Place. Also, artists seem to be rejected just as a matter of course.
    • How the Good Place itself operates. Swearing is physically impossible, but accessing porn is just fine. Though that appears to be a personal preference of the neighborhood, not a universal rule.
    • Now that we know that the main characters are actually in an experimental version of the Bad Place, who knows what the morality is?
  • Book Ends: Season 1 ends with Michael erasing Eleanor's memories and reintroducing her to his Neighborhood, similarly to how he did in the first episode, with some differences.
  • Brick Joke:
    • Janet mentions that she doesn't really eat so for her birthday, she'll just smash cake around where her mouth is. When she and Jason get married, he does just that when cutting their wedding cake.
    • The large clown print on the sliding door to Eleanor's bedroom makes a second appearance at a somber moment in the season 1 finale.
    • In episode 2, Michael is forced to ban flying for 1000 years after a trash-storm unknowingly caused by Eleanor's lies leads to a flyer crashing into a turkey. In episode 11, when Eleanor hosts a focus group to address complaints against her, the first woman to speak up complains about how Eleanor's trash storm caused her to graphically land on the turkey.
  • British Brevity:
    • Unusually for a US network TV show, creator Michael Schur placed a firm 13-episode cap for each season, due to the show's heavily-serialized format.
    • Parodied by Dierdre and Margaret, a British sitcom that Tahani enjoys. It ran for 16 years on the BBC and broadcast a whopping almost 30 episodes during that time.
  • Buxom Is Better: Tahani notes that her bosom is large more than once approvingly. Eleanor for her part calls Janet "busty Alexa" and notes her "rockin' bod".
  • Call-Back: In the 5th episode of Season 1 Jason discusses his breakdancing crew and the way he framed someone for stealing boogieboards as a shockingly correct example of a lesson Chidi was giving on the greater good. In the 2nd episode of Season 2 Jason brings up his breakdancing crew in an effort to calm down Michael who is suffering problems with his people.
    • In general, the highly serialized nature of the show and the necessary attention to detail required by the premise results in a lot of Callback material.
    • Janet mentions in one episode that she can't actually eat anything. This becomes relevant in the finale of season 1 when Eleanor, needing a place to store her message for her future self, has Janet put it in her mouth, knowing she can't swallow it.
  • Celestial Bureaucracy: Michael is actually a part of a giant hierarchy of supernatural beings. When we finally see where Michael used to work before Neighborhood 12358W, he is working in what looks to be a bank with endless rows of desks and a giant vault door leading to the heavens or hells.
  • Cessation of Existence: Michael is an immortal who cannot die under normal circumstances, although it's a possible punishment for a sufficiently disastrous screw-up. In one episode, he completely freaks out at the idea he might cease to exist someday, reducing him to a near-catatonia at first and then has the equivalent of a mid-life crisis over it.
  • Chekhov's Gag: The sexy mailman picture Eleanor wants to hang up to replace one of her clown paintings. Her new "soulmate" is also a sexy mailman, or rather that's who he pretends to be.
  • Comically Missing the Point:
    • Twice, Chidi reacts to the realization that he might not belong in The Good Place by thinking of some incredibly minor "vice" like using almond milk even though it's not the best alternative for the environment. In truth, it's this exact obsession with minutiae, and the indecision arising from that, that led him to The Bad Place to begin with.
    • Tahani's reaction to learning how she died (being crushed by the golden statue of her sister that she was trying to topple) is disgust that she died in Cleveland.
  • Contrived Coincidence: The way that people end up going to the wrong place. It's implied that part of the problem is Michael's inexperience, and that a more veteran architect would have been able to catch the mistakes.
    • "...Someone Like Me As A Member" reveals that the whole plot of the show is based on one: Two people with the exact same name, in the exact same place at the exact same time, both killed when one makes a desperate attempt to save the other's life. What are the odds of that? Michael and Trevor imply that this is the first time this has ever happened. Definitely the first time they've ever seen it, and possibly the first time it has happened in the history of the universe.
    • "What's My Motivation" reveals that Jason got in through a similar coincidence. Jianyu entered a meditative trance so deep that the system thought he died. At that exact moment, Jason (who had the same IQ as Jianyu) died, and the system accidentally took him since Jianyu wasn't available (due to still being alive).
    • The end of Season 1 reveals these are all lies, as our four main protagonists have been in an experimental version of the Bad Place all along, with Michael pulling the strings to ensure they spend eternity driving each other crazy.
  • The Cuckoolander Was Right:
    • An obscure early moment from episode 4 was the truth all along. Jason says that the "good place" might actually be an alien zoo, or a prank show. Well, as it turns out, he was right. The entire thing, everything that has ever happened in the show, was a giant prank set up by Michael to torture Eleanor, Jason, Tahani, and Chidi for a thousand years by getting them to torture each other. He's also right about the "alien zoo" part, as the Good Place is essentially a zoo for Michael and the Architects. This is even lampshaded by Jason when everything is revealed.
    • Not long after that, the cuckoolander has another idea. He also suggests stealing Michael's phone and using the secrets contained within to blackmail him. There are a few steps missing in his plan, but he's dead right about Michael having some very compromising secrets. And it's VICKI who does this!
  • Continuity Reboot: Played with in-universe: The events of Season 1 still happened in the show's continuity, but Michael has wiped the main characters' memories so many times that for the most part, those events don't really matter and the Character Development that resulted from them is negated. However, there are exceptions: Even after over 800 reboots, Janet still feels the attraction to Jason that she developed in Season 1, which becomes a source of conflict in "Janet and Michael", since Janet's attempts to cover up her jealousy of Jason and Tahani is causing her to glitch out and pose a danger to the neighborhood.
  • Dead to Begin With: Eleanor is dead in the first episode, launching the show's plot, and everyone else in the Good Place aside from Michael and Janet are deceased as well.
  • Designated Driver: Flashbacks show that Eleanor usually conned her way out of being a group's designated driver. When her friends figured it out and forced her to be the evening's designated driver, she hooked up with a good-looking bartender and ditched the group after they were already too drunk to drive home themselves.
  • Doorstopper: Chidi's life's work is a 3600 page book that tries to encompass the entirety of Ethics. For reference, Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics, considered one of the definitive works on the subject, doesn't even clear 200 and the only other books of any genres that are longer are all series with multiple volumes. Michael, who's near omniscient, had given up part way through because it was so convoluted that it made no sense, and Michael's boss, who is omniscient, can't understand it either. It even got a tenured professor at the Sorbonne to simply get up and walk away from his prestigious profession.
  • Double Entendre: Eleanor thinks that when philosophers talk about knowing yourself, they're talking about knowing yourself.
    Chidi: For the last time, none of these philosophers are ever talking about masturbation.
  • Easy Road to Hell: Implied to be the case, since the Good Place only takes the very best. Even Florence Nightingale wasn't good enough to make the cut apparently. It becomes explicit in the season finale when we learn that none of the protagonists earned a spot in the Good Place. Tahani did extraordinary amounts of good deeds, but her motivations were selfish. Meanwhile, Chidi's motivations were pure, but he caused the people in his life a lot of pain through his inability to make decisions.
  • Eldritch Location: The eponymous Good Place, built by beings with nine-dimensional vision, that sells frozen yogurt in flavors that are literally abstract concepts (as well as regular flavors), and can be seriously warped by people's actions while there. * Empathic Environment:
    • Whenever Eleanor does something selfish, it affects the whole neighborhood. Subverted; season 2 confirms Michael staged this to torment her and Chidi.
    • Eleanor's negative reaction towards Tahani causes the plant Tahani gave her as a housewarming gift to suffer. First it wilts and whimpers in pain before spontaneously combusting when Eleanor's actions become too much. It revives and grows bigger when Eleanor begins to genuinely respect her.
  • The Ending Changes Everything: The entire show changes after the season 1 finale reveals that everything took place in The Bad Place from the start, and that the main four characters are all just being manipulated by Bad Place staffers who make up every other character we meet, except Janet and Mindy.
  • Enemy Mine: In Season 2 Michael realizes that the situation has gone completely out of his control and the only thing that might save him is to team up with Eleanor and the other humans.
  • Eureka Moment:
    • In the season finale, everyone is arguing as to which two go to the Bad Place. Eleanor sighs out on how this is all torture... and then it hits her that they've been in the Bad Place all along.
    • Michael has one in the flashbacks to him designing the neighborhood. He wants to do something more fun, but his coworker tells him "Don't worry about making it interesting, just do a good job." That gives him the idea to throw out his old design and make a Bad Place neighborhood where the residents think they're in the Good Place.
    • "Dance Dance Resolution" gives us a montage of those as Micheal keeps putting Eleanor into different scenarios and yet each time she realizes that she is actually in the Bad Place. Apart from the time it was Jason who figured it out. That one really hurt Michael.
  • Everyone is a Tomato:
    • Michael? He is the architect, but he works for the Bad Place.
    • All the residents of Neighborhood 12358W? They're demons acting out the roles of "good people."
    • And the main four? They're all "bad people."
  • Evil Is Petty:
    • Trevor and the other representatives of the Bad Place never miss a chance to be unnecessarily unpleasant, and the torments of the Bad Place involve a lot of persistent nagging inconveniences (e.g., the train going there makes a million unnecessary stops and the restaurant car is always closed) along with more traditional forms of Cold-Blooded Torture.
    • After Michael is revealed to be evil, he deliberately knocks over a small potted plant. It is a completely unnecessary action that was done simply to make a bit of a mess.
    • The entire basis of the series is that Michael thought it would be more fun to trick humans into torturing each other by making them think they're in the Good Place.
  • Fantastic Drug: The demons from the Bad Place snort time... in cocaine form. They also consider snorting ground-up unicorn horn.
  • Fate Worse Than Death: "Retirement" isn't a pleasant experience for architects.
    Michael: We call it "The Eternal Shriek". My soul will be disintegrated and each molecule will be placed on the surface of a different burning sun. And then my essence will be scooped out of my body with a flaming ladle and poured over hot diamonds.
    Tahani: Oh, but the diamonds sound lovely.
    Michael: They're not! And then what's left of my body will be endlessly beaten with a titanium rod. Like a-
    Tahani: Like a pinata...
    Michael: Yes. Except you have the string around my waist but it will definitely be around my genitals.
  • Felony Misdemeanor: The objective moral standard of the universe apparently considers a number of fairly minor obnoxious habits to be sins. Sometimes justified in that sins are weighted, so you have to jaywalk a very large number of times before it becomes as bad as a single murder, but other times it seems to be fully this trope - for instance, if you've ever taking off both your shoes and socks on a public airplane, it is considered very likely that you're an irredeemably bad person, and the simple fact of being from either Florida or France earns you an automatic sentence to the Bad Place.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Late in the very first episode, Eleanor suggests that maybe her dead parents are being used to torture each other in the Bad Place, saying it would totally work. Then comes The Reveal of the true nature of the "Good Place" the story takes place in, showing that everyone there is effectively meant to do just that to one another.
    • When we finally do get to see how Eleanor died (struck into the path of a truck by a stack of shopping carts while picking up a bottle of margarita mix as "Good" Eleanor tried to save her) "Good" Eleanor is nowhere to be seen, indicating that "Good" Eleanor's story might not be true.
    • In "What's My Motivation", Eleanor eventually learns that the morality scoring system takes the reason the deed is done into account, not just the intended and real impact of it — specifically, if you do a good deed because you expect to benefit from it, not because you care about the happiness and well-being of others, it doesn't count. Since Tahani's good deeds were rooted in a need to outdo her sister, she ended up in The Bad Place.
    • The flashback of Michael being told he'll be designing his first neighborhood is shot in muted colors and in a dark bank vault-like place, hinting this is not a heavenly spot.
      • Also, one of the files he is working on is titled "Flesh Ripping Lightning"
    • Likewise in Michael's flashback, when he starts re-designing his neighborhood the blueprint is titled "The Good Place" in quotation marks. While sometimes titles are given quotes like that, it makes more sense as sarcasm quotes. Also, you wouldn’t expect his neighborhood to be called The Good Place because he's not constructing, and, as a rookie, wouldn't have the authority to alter, the whole Good Place.
    • One of the first things we see Michael do is the classic act of any villain: Kick the Dog. Literally!
    • When the real Eleanor Shellstrop first comes to Chidi and Eleanor's house, she instantly knows where the button to lower the steps is, despite having never been there before. An early hint that she isn't quite what she seems.
    • In the first episode, every minor character in The Good Place is an absurdly kind Parody Sue, and every detail they bring up about their lives involves a great humanitarian act done for entirely selfless reasons. However, almost every time one of the main characters flashes back to their own lives, it's of something bad they did, something good they could have done but didn't, or something good they did with selfish intentions. Turns out, the main characters are the only humans in The Good Place; everyone else was a demon pretending to be a good person to make them feel worse about themselves.
    • When Jason first speaks to Eleanor, he suggests that they're in an alien zoo or on a prank show. From a Certain Point of View, he's right on both counts.
    • Despite his apparent interest in humanity being the reason for designing the project, Michael only ever seems to spend time with the main characters and Janet. Not surprising, since he knows the main characters are the only real humans there.
    • In the first episode, Janet knows about one of Eleanor's crushes, hinting that the people who run "The Good Place" know more about who Eleanor really is than they let on.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: The orientation video has a ton of stuff that counts for or against your getting into the Good Place, flashing by so fast that it's impossible to catch it all in one viewing.
    • In "Category 55 Doomsday Crisis", Michael adds a truly improbable number of new ice-cream flavors (full list). They range from the standard (like grape, cherry, and neapolitan) to the technically-edible but bizarre (such as lobster and ham) to the more esoteric (a mother's love, candlelight, a second kiss after an awkward first kiss).
    • In "Dance Dance Resolution", all the different resets seem to have different themed signs. In the same episode, there is the poster of all the plans they've tried, including "Stab with large knife," "Find Doug Forcett," and "Try to stuff Michael back into his magic lamp".
  • French Jerk: Apparently, being French is an automatic ticket to the Bad Place.
  • Freudian Excuse: Deconstructed. Eleanor attempts to blame her parents's neglect of her and their divorce for her own terrible behavior, but "Good" Eleanor had an even worse Trauma Conga Line background and was a better person. Later, a flashback gives the audience a more serious look at the way Eleanor's parents' neglect and dysfunction affected her, but it's used to explain her behavior, not excuse it; she still must take responsibility for her actions.
  • The "Fun" in "Funeral": In a flashback, we see Eleanor's garbage mother showing up drunk to her ex-husband's funeral and hitting on her own daughter's boyfriend.
  • Genre Deconstruction: With the reveal in the Season 1 finale, the show is basically turned into one for hackneyed misunderstanding-based sitcoms. Michael (who has the same name as the show's own creator) is forcing together a chosen few people specifically so they'll constantly get on each other's nerves, all for the amusement of himself and other demons, and occasionally stepping in directly to provide situations that will make them even more uncomfortable. After all, one of the first rules of comedy is that the characters don't find any of it funny.
  • Ghost Amnesia:
    • They erase memories of deaths that were traumatic and/or embarrassing. When Eleanor asks how she died, it turns out she was hit by a line of grocery carts that pushed her into the path of a truck carrying a billboard for male enhancement drugs.
    • Not quite death, but after Janet's kill switch is pressed, she "dies", then resurrects shortly afterwards, but with no memories. Until her memory backup is downloaded in a few days, all she is able to do is say "Hello, I'm Janet".
  • A Glitch in the Matrix:
    • Eleanor's presence causes things to go haywire whenever she does something really selfish. Then it turns out that it was all actually happening by design.
    • The Good Place also experiences uncontrollable glitches, some of them manifesting as severely as earthquakes, because Janet cannot handle her feelings for Jason.
  • Gone Horribly Right:
    • Michael's first attempt at making his own version of a Good Place worked a tad too well. He makes Eleanor feel so guilty that she decides to just confess to everyone.
    • Michael's second attempt ended up applying the lessons from the first failure a little too well. The humans end up being truly miserable right away which quickly makes them suspicious of why the Good Place feels so bad.
    • Eleanor's Batman Gambit from the season one finale works brilliantly and she figures out the true nature of the Good Place within a day of the second iteration. It also means that when she ends up in the situation again, she will lack a crucial advantage. Subverted in the next episode when we find out that she did not need it after all and is able to find out the truth on her own no matter how many times Michael erases her memory.
  • Good Is Not Nice:
    • Played with as Eleanor is convinced the others in the Good Place can't be as great as they seem. It turns out that they are, all dedicating themselves to great deeds in life. However, Eleanor does claim that many of them were doing such deeds for recognition and Tahani herself does come off rather self-absorbed and condescending, intentionally or otherwise.
    • It's mentioned that Florence Nightingale didn't quite make enough good deeds to qualify for this, showing how strange the judging rationale is. Though as this was said by a Bad Place demon, to a Bad Place resident, it may not be true.
    • Given The Reveal that the neighborhood the main characters inhabit actually is a part of the Bad Place and all the residents except Eleanor, Chidi, Jason, and Tahani are fake, not only is Eleanor right, but Michael's word about who did and didn't qualify for the Good Place should be taken with a grain of salt.
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!: It's a forking physical law of the subsection of The Good Place where Eleanor lives - any attempt to swear results in a bowdlerized version being said instead - for example a person might be invited to go fork themselves.
  • Groin Attack: The Bad Place apparently has a device called the Penis Flattener.
  • "Groundhog Day" Loop: The second episode of the second season is involved with this as Michael does various attempts at do-overs with his experiment, each time ending with Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani and Jason finding each other, and someone (usually Eleanor, but, at one point, Jason, bewildering even Michael) deducing that they are actually in The Bad Place the whole time.
  • Heaven: The Good Place is effectively this. The first-season finale reveals that it isn't.
  • Heel Realization:
    • Eleanor was so self-absorbed that she never realized just how much of a jerk she was and thought of herself as a mildly good person. When she is confronted with her past actions, she finally realizes just how nasty and selfish she was.
    • In episode 13, Tahani realizes that all the good acts she's performed were rendered meaningless, because she only did them for praise and recognition, rather than because they were good deeds. Shortly afterwards, Chidi realizes how much his obsession and indecisiveness over doing the right thing led to him hurting everyone in his life and got him sent to the Bad Place. Tahani has an extended one when she realises that the Bad Place's method of torturing her is through ordeals around event mismanagement, and it's working, which means she's a shallow, frivolous and arrogant person.
  • Hell: The Bad Place, which is apparently full of people screaming in torment. Except the "Good Place" we see is also a part of the Bad Place - a part far more clever in its torments.
  • Here We Go Again: Invoked in the season finale, with Michael erasing the memories of the main four, rebooting Janet again, and resetting things to day one — with the one tweak that the four of them will be kept separate this time, influencing each other's lives less directly — in the hopes that this time it will work better.
  • Heroic Sacrifice:
    • In a throwaway line, Tahani reveals this is how she died. Subverted, "Team Cockroach" reveals that she didn't die this way, dying instead of an ironic, humiliating fashion.
    • Eleanor has no reservations about returning to face Shaun's judgement if it means Chidi and Tahani are spared. Pity they're all in the Bad Place anyway.
  • Hope Spot: The final ten minutes of the last episode of season 1 have quite a few pop up that could save one or more people from being shipped to the Bad Place to balance things out. They range from "Good" Eleanor stating she would take one of the two spots condemning someone to the bad place, to one lawyer resident who might have found an obscure precedent that could save everyone, to "Good" Eleanor coming back pleading her love to Chidi and for them to remain together. Actually invoked, as each one is a staged moment meant to up the anxiety as the four humans and Janet debate who should be sent to the Bad Place in place of the others.
  • Humans Are Bastards: According to Michael, only very few people rack up enough points to make it it to the Good Place, with the great majority of humanity being subject to internal damnation in the Bad Place. It turns out that Michael was invoking this trope with his vision for a new kind of Bad Place, where humans just make each other miserable for all eternity.
  • Interchangeable Asian Cultures: Jason notes that he's actually Filipino, not Taiwanese like the Buddhist monk he's been mistaken for, and says it's racist people assumed that he was.
  • Ironic Hell:
    • The Bad Place seems to be a combination of Fire and Brimstone Hell and this. As beside the torture and attacks by dangerous animals, more "mundane" punishments are mentioned, such as having to organize a baby shower or attend a test you didn't study for.
    • In the ending of season 1, when Michael's neighborhood turns out to be an experimental Bad Place, it is revealed that this is what the show is really about - by tricking several fundamentally selfish pretend good people into thinking they're the sole bad person among good people, they themselves do most of the work, making them utterly miserable from the strain of pretending to be good.
    • In season 2, we really see it with Tahani. Michael has her living the "humble life" she claimed to want, living in a crappy small house with a short "soulmate", dressed in cargo pants and finding out why Crocs have holes. Michael says this reflects the true spirit of Tahani and she has to smile and bear it because she doesn't want to admit that she's selfish, shallow, and ungrateful.
    • Chidi's ironic hell is just as miserable: Since making decisions is torturous for him, he is forced to choose between two women to be his soulmate. Then, when he finally forces himself to make a decision, Michael steps in and decides for him anyway, even though the other choice is obviously supposed to be Chidi's actual soulmate. Chidi must now watch in lovesick agony from afar, struggling against his own paralysis.
  • It's All About Me:
    • Eleanor is unbelievably selfish, which is her main flaw.
    • It turns out that Tahani went to the Bad Place because, though she did good things, it was out of selfish motives like spite and a need for attention, rather than genuine compassion or altruism.
    • Chidi too. He ended up in the Bad Place thanks to a narrow focus on his own personal morality and a disregard for how his hair splitting and indecision affected those around him.
    • Jason is also laser focused on himself, and his wife Janet.
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler: The ads for season 2 quite clearly showed Michael scheming about how to make the main cast miserable.
  • Lie Detector: Michael uses a cube which flashes green when someone tells the truth and red when they lie when investigating Eleanor.
  • Long Title: The book Chidi spent his life writing. Its title starts: Who We Are and Who We Are Not: Practical Ethics and Their Application in the Modern World; a Treatise on the..., and then Michael interrupts Chidi before he can finish it.
  • Massive Multiplayer Scam: The entire series, because they're not actually in The Good Place. Everyone who isn't Eleanor, Tahani, Chidi, or Jason (or Janet) are demons who take far too much pleasure in fooling with the poor humans.
  • Mid-Season Twist: Episode 7: After an incident of trying to help Michael by "killing" Janet temporarily and seeing Chidi's guilt over the act, the episode ends with Eleanor confessing in front of everyone that she doesn't belong in The Good Place.
  • Mistaken Identity: Somehow Eleanor's past got mixed up with someone much nicer - Michael got her name right, but not much else.
  • Morton's Fork: Eleanor promised to help Michael find what is disrupting the neighborhood but this would reveal that she is the cause of it all. However, if she reneges on her promise, it will cause further disruptions which will likely be tracked back to her. She desperately searches for a way to Take a Third Option.
  • Mundane Afterlife: Michael made his section of the Good Place look like pleasant Everytown, America. Other sections are implied to have varying degrees of quirkiness, depending on the tastes of their caretakers.
  • Mushroom Samba: Mentioned. Doug Forcett, a stoner from Canada, once took a handful of hallucinogenic mushrooms and got so high that he managed to make a guess about the afterlife that was 92% accurate.note  The feat was so impressive that the keepers of the Good Place have enshrined him for all eternity. Michael is downright proud just to have a portrait of the guy in his office.
  • Mysterious Note:
    • Jason's note to Eleanor saying that she doesn't belong in The Good Place.
    • In Chapter 13, Eleanor wrote herself a note telling her to find Chidi after Michael erases her memories.
  • Narrative Profanity Filter: It's literally impossible for anybody to swear in The Good Place, which Eleanor finds out for herself:
    Eleanor: Somebody royally forked up... Why can't I say fork?
    Chidi: If you're trying to curse, you can't here.
    Eleanor: That's bullshirt.
  • The Needs of the Many: Chidi gives Eleanor a lecture about utilitarianism, and the issues which it faces, such as if torturing one person to death so a hundred more are saved is moral. Jason puts in his own more selfish scenario - framing an innocent person who would otherwise break up a band and cause more (supposed) unhappiness.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The show's sizzle reel made it seem like a quirky comedy where Eleanor gets to enjoy the Good Place with little consequence while trying to keep her secret. The actual show, while quirky and humorous, has Eleanor's mere presence in the Good Place causing far-reaching chaos and sets up a greater mystery to play out over its run. For forking sake, even the name itself is unreliable after The Reveal. It's accurate only in the sense that that's the name of Michael's pet project.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Acid Cat, an EDM musician/DJ who performs in a helmet-mask shaped like a cat's head, is a pretty blatant reference to deadmau5.
  • Non-Ironic Clown: Played with. The other Eleanor (the one who was supposed to come to The Good Place) really liked clowns, presumably seeing them in a lighthearted and innocent way, and the house is decorated to reflect her tastes. However, both Eleanor and Chidi (as well as a couple other residents) find this element of the decor creepy and disturbing. Given that this is actually the Bad Place, they really were meant to be disturbing.
  • Not So Above It All: By the second episode, Eleanor's neighbor Tahani is clearly (to the viewers, anyway) starting to get frustrated that her soulmate Jianyu is continuing his vow of silence even in the afterlife.
  • Not So Different: Eleanor notes that Michael screwing with Chidi when he's struggling in Chidi's ethics class is exactly the same way she'd react when feeling inadequate. Then she wonders what it says about her that she's Not So Different to an actual Demon.
  • Oblivious Guilt Slinging: Michael's effusive praise for Eleanor's noble life on Earth and her generous help in fixing the Good Place's glitches cause Eleanor much grief. And as it turns out, Michael's not actually oblivious at all.
  • Once More, with Clarity!: In Chapter 14 and 15, we basically follow the day of each of the main characters separately, with the times they interact having an out-of-context predicament also going on.
  • 108: Subverted. Given that it's a series about the afterlife, the hundredth and eighth iteration of the Groudhog Day Loop is seennote . However, seems to have been the least successful, with Michael showing his hand before even introducing himself to Eleanor, making it a subversion.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted and a central plot point. The pilot establishes that Eleanor Shellstrop, the protagonist, was mistaken for a different, much nicer Eleanor Shellstrop. The latter appears in "Most Improved Player", having been sent to The Bad Place. And then played straight, as it turns out there never was another Eleanor Shellstrop at all.
  • One True Love: Everyone has one, and in the Good Place you get to be with that person forever. In theory.
  • Opposites Attract: Every major relationship and Ship Tease in the series so far falls into this:
    • Eleanor, who's flighty, somewhat impulsive, and (at least in her backstory and at the start of the series) amoral, and Chidi, who's terribly indecisive and gets stomachaches over doing anything wrong.
    • Eleanor also crushes on Tahani, who is substantially more gregarious and altruistic, but also very proud and pompous (whereas Eleanor, if nothing else, is aware of her moral failings and relatively humble).
    • Tahani — who is, again, gregarious, proud, and status-obsessed — and her attraction to/fascination with Jianyu, a simple, silent, and presumably poor-while-alive monk. Subverted when she finds out about who "Jianyu" really is; Tahani, a rich and well-educated woman with significant artistic skill and loads of celebrity connections, shows little to no interest in Jason Mendoza, the less-than-intelligent failed DJ who seems to have burned every bridge he ever crossed. But it's Double Subverted in "Existential Crisis." She knows who Jason really is, but because he consoles her after her failed party, saying that she's an 8 out of 13 (which is actually the highest number) on a scale that measures dance ability, coolness, dopeness, freshness, and "smart-brained", which he used for his 60 person dance crew, she has sex with him.
    • Jason and Janet: (an always-enthusiastic dimbulb gets married to what is essentially a nigh-omniscient magic computer.)
  • Our Demons Are Different: They're a race of skilled actors who torment souls sent to them psychologically for fun, but are otherwise normal office workers.
  • Outside-Context Problem: Eleanor's presence in The Good Place. When she reveals the mistake, Michael panics because there is no system to deal with it - a mistake like this has never happened in the history of the universe. Played with later as while Eleanor is actually in the Bad Place, her selfless act completely threw Michael's machinations for a loop.
  • Paranoia Gambit: The entire first season is one for Eleanor and Jason. Both are so afraid of being found out and sent to the Bad Place, they torture themselves by acting counter to their natures. The finale reveals they were already in the Bad Place and that was how they were being tortured.
  • Parody Sue: Everyone else in the Good Place is absurdly kind and selfless, to the point that nearly every detail we hear about them is some selfless, successful humanitarian act.
  • Parental Neglect: Eleanor's parents. They forgot her birthday, her mom blew half her college fund on bailing out her new boyfriend, her father blew the rest trying to frame said boyfriend, and were incredibly self-absorbed jerks who left Eleanor to fend for herself.
  • Plot Twist: Eleanor reveals her secret - that she's not suppose to be there - in order to protect the rest of the crew after a season of trying to be better. Which is all well and good except that's not the actual plot twist. The actual plot twist is that they're actually in The Bad Place.
  • Precision F-Strike:
    • Michael lands one on Trevor in Chapter 8.
    • Chidi lays one on Michael in "The Trolley Problem."
  • Redemption Equals Death: Mindy St. Claire was a cocaine addict and a pretty nasty person in life. However, she had an epiphany on how she could help people and actually tried to follow up on it by withdrawing all her money in order to form a charity. Right after that, she died in an accident. She then crossed into Death Equals Redemption since her sister found out what Mindy's plan was and was so inspired that she actually founded the charity in Mindy's name and helped millions of people. If she stayed alive, Mindy would have likely failed in her plan and backslid back into being a bad person. By dying when she did, she accidentally accomplished a lot of good.
  • Religion Is Wrong: Michael explains that the major religions only get the afterlife about 5% right. The closest anyone got to getting the whole truth was when a Canadian stoner got high on mushrooms and accidentally got it 92% right. His portrait is in Michael's office; he's quite proud of it.
  • Rerouted from Heaven: Zig-zagged.
    • Initially inverted with Eleanor and Jason, who were meant to go to The Bad Place but were mistakenly taken to The Good Place instead. Because of this, however, the trope is played straight with the other Eleanor Shellstrop, who was sent to The Bad Place.
    • Subverted as the first season finale reveals that this has been the Bad Place all along and except for the four main characters and Janet, everyone else (including "real" Eleanor) have been part of the Bad Place group.
  • The Reveal:
    • The first season finale shows that this has been the Bad Place all along, designed solely for Eleanor, Chidi, Jason and Tahani as torture. Except for Janet, everyone else in the neighborhood is part of the scheme and Michael is a demon who's been planning this all along.
    • Tahani's cause of death is revealed in 'Team Cockroach' - having been upstaged by her sister yet again, she gatecrashes her sister's induction into the Rock Hall of Fame and tries to tear down the statue of her sister - which does come down, but straight onto Tahani.
  • Running Gag:
    • Eleanor frequently proclaims in the first season that she deserves to be in a Medium Place, until she actually finds it.
    • The clown door to Eleanor's bedroom playing cheery music at inappropriate times.
    • Janet appearing in the opposite direction of whoever's summoning her, usually startling Eleanor.
    • Jason telling stories about his dance crew in Florida, which somehow relate perfectly to the situation at hand.
  • Secret Test of Character: Chidi speculates Eleanor being sent to the Good Place is one of these, and that she'll be allowed to stay if she admits she shouldn't be here. Eleanor's too afraid of being sent to the Bad Place to try. He was partially right. She was picked just for him... but to torment him for eternity instead.
  • Shout-Out
    • Michael watched Friends to learn about human friendship. He also references the theme song to The Golden Girls.
    • "Real" Eleanor uses "yadda yadda" several times in conversation and then notes she learned English from watching Seinfeld.
    • When Trevor asks Michael what he is willing to offer in exchange for Eleanor staying in the Good Place, Michael tells him "You get nothing!"
    • Flashbacks to when he was alive showed that Chidi had dinner with his friend Uzo at a restaurant named "Eating Nemo".
    • When trying to convince Jason to let them leave the mediocre place so they can save Tahani and Chidi, Eleanor says "We have to go back."
  • Sibling Rivalry: Tahani had this with her sister Kamilah, feeling she was always second best in comparison. Her desire to prove herself came up again when she learned she was second to last ranked in the Good Place neighborhood.
  • Smug Straight Edge: Being vegan gives you good points. Not bragging about it gives you even more.
  • Spanner in the Works:
    • Eleanor is this to neighborhood 12358W. Her selfishness causes the Empathic Environment to go haywire - leading Chidi to compare the other residents to a Swiss watch, and Eleanor to a hammer smashing the works. Double subverted. In the season finale, we discover that the chaos was planned by Michael, but there was an actual spanner — Chidi's lessons being more effective than the Bad Place thought they would be, causing Eleanor to confess her identity as the "mistake." That broke Michael's Batman Gambit down and caused him to have to improvise everything afterward.
    • Exaggerated in season two, every member of the main four serves as one within the first episode - but most prominent is Jason, who "breaks character" to complain about the soulmate he was assigned, making it impossible for Michael to continue the ruse without another reset.
  • Spotting the Thread:
    • In "Someone Like Me as a Member..." Tahani sees how Jianyu knows how to pump a kegger and then leaves snack bags all over the house. It makes her suspicious and she breaks into his "mediation room" to finally discover his secret.
    • In "Michael's Gambit", Eleanor realizes that everything that has happened to her, Chidi, Tahini and Jason is a form of psychological torture and that they are actually in the Bad Place.
    • "Dance Dance Resolution" reveals that Eleanor is extremely good at and she is able figure out the truth in over 800 different scenarios Michael puts her through. This is probably due to her extremely cynical nature and belief that people are always hiding something.
  • Stepford Suburbia: Very subtle, but even before Eleanor starts wrecking things there are hints things aren't as perfect as they seem. Jianyu really seems to find Tahani insufferable, but is too polite to say anything. Given what we later learn, it might have been Jianyu/Jason just trying to avoid giving himself away.
  • Sugar Bowl: Played with. The setting was clearly intended to be one, what with its exaggeratedly pleasant smalltown America vibe, but it starts to fall apart almost immediately.
  • Take That!:
    • Some of the factors against getting to the Good Place are clearly personal bugaboos of Schur's, like assuming people care what you have to say about David Bowie or rooting for the Yankees.
    • When Michael finds out the truth about Jianyu in "What's My Motivation", he has to take a test to determine if he's fundamentally good or bad. One of the things that marks him as bad is paying money to listen to Red Hot Chili Peppers.
    • Shawn instantly decides Jason belongs in the Bad Place upon seeing that he's from Florida.
    • Being French is apparently a bad modifier with stealing a baguette (worth -20 points according to the moral scoring system) being worse than stealing bread (worth -17 points) because it makes you more French.
  • Tastes Like Diabetes: In-Universe, everyone else has done so many inhumanly good things before they died that Eleanor gets wasted just to cope.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Michael and the four humans are forced to team up after 802 failed iterations. Michael needs the humans to pretend the experiment is working so Shawn won't find out about the 801 unauthorised attempts and force him into retirement. In return, the humans avoid going to a traditional Bad Place, plus Michael promises to try to get them all into the real Good Place.
  • This Isn't Heaven: The Season 1 finale reveals that the main characters have actually been in the Bad Place the entire time and the whole scenario was designed to get them all to drive each other nuts.
  • Token Evil Teammate: Ostensibly Jason and/or Eleanor, given that they're not supposed to be in the Good Place. Except not really since they're all in the Bad Place and, cosmically speaking, they're all technically bad. By season 2, though, it's Michael when he teams up with the humans to avoid retirement.
  • Tom the Dark Lord: The celestial beings seen so far all have rather mundane names like Michael, Trevor, Shawn, and Todd.
  • Translation Convention: The Good Place automatically translates the various languages spoken by its inhabitants so that the listener will hear the language they are most comfortable with. For example, Eleanor hears everything in English while Chidi hears everything in French. One side effect is that Chidi has to ask if Eleanor is trying to swear, as it just sounds like nonsense to him. It also works for accents, causing Eleanor to figure that Tahani is deliberately putting on her plummy British accent.
  • Undercover as Lovers: Eleanor and Chidi have to pose not only as a couple but as soulmates to hide the fact that Eleanor is not supposed to be in the Good Place.
  • Undignified Death:
    • If a person's death is undignified, the celestial beings erase it to make the transition easier.
    • Eleanor's memory of her own death was erased because it was "traumatic and embarrassing". She bent over to pick up a bottle of "Lonely Gal" margarita mix in a parking lot, and a long column of shopping carts plowed into her. She was carried into the street and struck by a billboard truck advertising an erectile dysfunction pill. Funnily enough, the first EMT to arrive was an ex-boyfriend of hers... However, it's possible her memory was really erased to hide the fact that the "real Eleanor" wasn't really there, because she's really a demon from the Bad Place named Vicky, and Eleanor remembering her death could have given that away. And indeed, when she dreams of her death on her way to the Medium Place, we don't see the "good" Eleanor and in fact, barring the initial details, there's little to confirm Michael's version.
  • Wham Episode:
    • Chapter 7. Overlapping with Mid-season Twist, at the end of the episode, Eleanor confesses to everyone that she doesn't belong in The Good Place.
    • Chapter 8. Eleanor is almost sent to The Bad Place, but Michael decides to keep her in The Good Place at the last second to try and determine how the system failed. In response, Bad Place architect Trevor reveals that if that's the case, then he gets to keep the good Eleanor Shellstrop.
    • Chapter 11. There's not just the Good Place and the Bad Place. There's also The Medium Place. And Eleanor just stole a train to get there.
    • Chapter 13. We've been in the Bad Place the entire time! Michael is actually a demonic architect who specifically designed his neighborhood to be a never-ending torture chamber for Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani, and Jason. In fact, the four of them were carefully chosen because they would get on each other's nerves and aside from them, every other resident is actually a member of the evil Celestial Bureaucracy going along with Michael's plan to torture the four protagonists. And the "good" Eleanor is also a part of Michael's evil plan and is actually named Vicky.
    • Chapter 19. Janet begins glitching when she starts acting as Jason and Tahani's therapist. The glitches begin to get worse and worse until the whole neighborhood is danger of collapsing.
  • Wham Line:
    • At the end of Chapter 2, somebody slides a note under Eleanor's door saying "You Don't Belong Here", meaning somebody else knows her secret.
    • "I've been waiting for you." A wham line because it's said by Jianyu who follows it up by saying "I'm not supposed to be here, either!"
    • One in the form of an Internal Reveal: "The problem in the neighborhood is me. I was brought to The Good Place by mistake. I'm not supposed to be here."
    • "Most Improved Player" ends with a number of them. Including: "Hi, I'm Eleanor Shellstrop."
    • "Someone Like Me For A Member" ends with Jason entering his "bud hole" only to find Tahani waiting with "So, let's chat, shall we?"
    • "Michael's Gambit" has Eleanor having a revelation and silencing everyone by saying: "This is the Bad Place!"
  • Wham Shot:
    • In Chapter 4, Michael mentioned that the Good Place repairs itself in due time so he's not worried about the Sinkhole Eleanor created. However, at the very end of the episode, Tahani hears a sound coming from where the sinkhole was created. She goes to investigate, only to discover the hole is growing rather than shrinking.
    • In Chapter 13, after being confronted by Eleanor, Michael's normally kind face suddenly splits open into a Slasher Smile as he reveals his true evil self.
  • White Void Room: The Good Place's storage room for Janets, as revealed in "Michael and Janet". Michael calls it a "neutral pocket dimension beneath a shapeless time void."
  • You Do Not Want To Know: What the Bad Place is like, to the point that people are forbidden to access information about it. Some Bad Placers reveal that there's also various forms of twisting, burning, and butthole spiders. The most a resident of the Good Place can get is live audio of what's going on - which invariably involves wails and screams of terror.
    Bad Place Audio Recording: (harsh metallic screeching) OH GOD, THE BEAR HAS TWO MOUTHS, RUN!

Holy mother forking shirt balls!
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Series/TheGoodPlace