The Good Place is critically acclaimed not only for its humor and fascination with ethics, but as a Genre Deconstruction of the Sitcom, Deconstructed Character Archetypes based off of recurring sitcom character archetypes and the idea of Character Alignment itself.
This page contains unmarked spoilers. You Have Been Warned!
- Aesop Amnesia: After the four humans discover that they were in the Bad Place the entire time, Michael has their memories erased and removes all of the Character Development they accumulated throughout the first season. No matter what Michael does, they all continue to grow and change and become better before they figure out that they are in the Bad Place. Chidi lampshades this in "Everything Is Great!", making a point that them suffering hardships and learning to be better afterwards but unable to benefit from the experience is a type of Hell in-it of itself. The repetitive nature of their work had caused Michael's entire crew to leave the experiment, forcing him to forgo the mind-wiping strategy and join the humans out of self-preservation. When their memories are erased in the Season 2 finale, he and Janet's memories remain and they are able to manipulate their friends behind the scenes to their benefit. This is also weaponized in the Season 3 finale, when Chidi volunteers to have his mind erased to better their chances of the Medium Place Experiment's success .
- Always Chaotic Evil: Employees of the Bad Place predisposition towards being bad causes them to not only be intentionally obstructive to humans and each other, but they have been taking advantage of back-channels and flaws in the system to their benefit at the expense of mankind, Shawn having known about the massive flaw in the system and did nothing to fix it because it gives the Bad Place more humans to torment. However, their existence is a necessary evil for the moral balance of the universe, their adherence to the Celestial Bureaucracy meaning they are supposed to be Lawful Evil but the flaw in the system (plus Shawn just being a Bad Boss in general) led to their purpose being perverted into needless cruelty. Before Michael found out about the flaw in the points system, Shawn was the only person to notice this and chose not to tell anyone. When Glenn discovered that Shawn was more interested in cheating the system rather than fulfilling the Bad Place's true purpose, he tries to warn the Soul Squad of Shawn's mole. This combined with Michael's HeelFace Turn in only a matter of months makes their inherent evil more of a question of Nature vs. Nurture.
- The Ditherer: One of Chidi's defining character traits is his indecisiveness. His complete inability to make any decision not only gave him non-stop anxiety his entire life, but it also sent him to the Bad Place because no matter how good his intentions were, he was sent to the setting's equivalent of Hell because it made the people around him miserable.
- Easy Road to Hell: The show exposits that the moral point system is incredibly exact, with every single action a person takes no matter how small (like eating a sandwich or buying a trashy magazine) matters in the fate of one's eternal soul. You make enough points, you go to the Good Place and enjoy paradise. You don't make enough points, you go to the Bad Place to be tortured for eternity. At first it is believed that Eleanor, Chidi, Jason and Tahani went to the Bad Place because they were too flawed and were deserving of Hell. In Season Three however, it is revealed that no one has gotten into the Good Place in over 500 years. The system itself operates on Black and White Morality standards applied to a Grey and Gray Morality moral Earth, turning the idea of living ethically in the modern age into nothing but a glorified Morton's Fork. While the trope is normally applied to a "Humans Are Bastards" Aesop, here its the system that is to blame and not mankind.
- Foil: Michael chose the original four for his Good Place experiment specifically so that they would torture each other with their conflicting personalities, he and the rest of the Bad Place employees meant to subtly push them together to make them miserable as glorified props. Tahani would make Eleanor miserable for being more successful, Eleanor would make Chidi miserable by making him contradict his own ethics trying to keep Eleanor from being discovered and be forced to teach her philosophy, Chidi would make Eleanor miserable by making her contradict her own base instincts to do bad things, Chidi would make Tahani miserable because they seem to be compatible to each other yet he would prefer to be with Eleanor (or "Real Eleanor"), Jason simply being Jianyu made him miserable (something exacerbated by Tahani wanting him to talk to her) and Jason making Eleanor and Chidi miserable for fear of his idiocy blowing their cover. What Michael did not count on was for their personalities complimenting one another, as not only do they become friends in-spite of their conflicting personalities, but they complete each other as well, Eleanor becoming a better person and outing herself and derailing his plan. When they repeat the experiment in the Medium Place, the Bad Place sends humans who where specifically chosen to conflict with the original four's personalities.
- Goshdang It To Heck: Most Sitcoms are made to be family-friendly and accessible to general audiences, so cursing is usually made nice, clean and PG-13. Here, it is made into an In-Universe mechanic as using real curse words is made physically impossible in the Neighborhood to make it as wholesome as possible. With the reveal that the Neighborhood is actually in the Bad Place, this makes it is a subtle means of torture by way of not allowing Team Cockroach to use them for catharsis. When the gang makes it to the real Good Place in Season 3, this is used as a sign that they really are in the real Good Place.
- Humanity Ensues: At the start of the series, Janet is less a person and more of an abstract character of The Pollyanna, being incapable of expressing any emotion other than optimism and store-clerk politeness. After being rebooted over 800 times, she becomes more and more sophisticated and begins to behave more and more like a real person. This has many drawbacks, as this gives her many emotions that she literally was not designed to feel (genuine love, anger, depression, heartbreak, etc.) which causes massive problems with her capacity to serve her purpose and run the neighborhood.
- Lawful Evil: The Employees of the Bad Place are demons who's existence in the Celestial Bureaucracy is to represent evil in the moral balance of the universe, their job specifically to punish humans who failed to gain enough points for the Good Place. However, their natural state is being evil, so of course they will be generally unpleasant to themselves and each other as well as the humans they are torturing. The setting's equivalent of Satan Shawn adheres to his Character Alignment by doing nothing to identify the flaw in the system just so that the Bad Place has more humans to torture, making a mockery of the Bad Place's purpose. However, when word gets out of the truth, Glenn defects and tries to help Michael and the humans because he actually believes in the Balance Of Good and Evil, seeing Shawn trying to cheat as an affront to this. According to Michael, maintaining this balance is a commonly held belief in the Bad Place, so if knowledge of the system's flaws becomes common, there would be unrest among them.
- Lawful Good: Employees of the Good Place represent the "good" side of the Celestial Bureaucracy, meaning while they are all nice, thoughtful and fun-loving, it also makes them Super Gullible. Team Cockroach manages to run circles around Gwendolyn, and Michael was able to steal Janet from the Good Janet warehouse because they did not think anyone would try stealing one. Not only that, but they are also the most dedicated in following the rules of the Celestial Bureaucracy than anyone else regardless of whether it is ethically right, thus Team Cockroach has to lie to them as a matter of necessity and the Good Place Committee's desire to remain as impartial as possible in dealing with the flaw in the system will result in thousands of innocent people to be sent to the Bad Place in the meantime.
- Lawful Neutral: Neutral beings like Gen (The Judge) and Neil (The Head Accountant) allowed a massive flaw in the afterlife's system to go unnoticed for over 500 years out ignorance in their dedication to remain "impartial" in a universal moral system they hold absolute faith in. Not only that, but being neutral means that they are not meant to deliberately help or hinder anybody, Gen willfully holding back her omniscience under the assumption that it makes her fair and Neil allowing Matt's deteriorating mental state go unnoticed.
- Status Quo Is God: In most sitcoms, the basic establishment of a premise and its characters tend to stay the same episode-to-episode to make it more accessible to newer viewers and make it easier to prolong the show's run. Michael created his neighborhood experiment under the assumption that humans are Static Characters, so he is thrown for a loop when Character Development happens and Eleanor defies all of her instincts and outs herself, leading to them discovering the truth of their Ironic Hell. Michael erases their memories back to square one, but no matter how many times he does this, they always learn and change and figure him out.