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I'll take the (mostly) popular opinion that the vast majority of this series is gold, and that its flaws are somewhat minimal. That being said, I think the show's finale is actually kind of bad. I've looked for other opinions, and I can't seem to find anyone else talk about it in this context, so I feel it best to express my own take here.
So, I'll say that I have major problems with the last two episodes of the show, and so the criticism I'll have will focus mostly on that. Sure, I'll also say emphatically that I would have preferred the main/Fan-Preferred Couple of Eleanor and Tahani, and main/Capitalism Is Bad, a main/Berserk Button trope of mine, being a central theme of season three grinds my beans a bit, but let's instead draw our attention to the finale.
The first issue I have is with the pacing. The show's fast pace had served it well in the past, allowing the show the opportunity to worldbuild and show off interesting aspects of the characters as their circumstances change rapidly, but in a weird way, the pacing got the better of itself at the end. The cast seeing The Good Place, recognizing a problem, and resolving it in one episode feels almost painfully forced, even with the main characters' substantial main/Character Development, they should have had some time to get familiar with the actual Good Place's workings and the fact that this burnout and malaise is occuring should have been a more savory mystery. If anything, the show should have had two more episodes of the Good Place experiment early in the season, and instead dedicated the arc of the final two episodes to an entire fifth season.
The rushed nature of those episodes also hurt the solution itself. As someone who very much does not find the idea of main/Cessation of Existence comforting, to the extent that I had a depressive breakdown over the idea as a teenager, I felt it being fetishized as a solution for the sense of malaise that eternal paradise would give somewhat uncomfortable, especially as the *only* alternative to said malaise. Moreover, the fact that it was insisted to be the only solution felt incredibly forced as well. Erasing memories was brought up, and in a show that spent season after season giving nuanced views and deconstruction of every moral idea it encounters, it honestly felt insulting for the show to Hand Wave that solution by just saying "heaven can't use hell's tactics," without ever exploring why.
Moreover, this solution doesn't really make sense from a worldbuilding perspective. It's clear that any angel, demon (not named Michael), judge, janet, derek, or accountant doesn't have the same problem as humans do in terms of being eternal beings. The events of the finale also make it clear that it is possible to change a human's anatomy into one such being, and vice versa, as both happen to Tahani and Michael. There's no reason to force people to either burn themselves out of perfection itself or cease to exist when there's a way for them to be excited and engaged with life forever.
And even from there, there's no reason to destroy a soul when reincarnation is another possibility. Sure, people live single human lives in the present state of the setting, but what is to say that you could learn everything relevant in only one "real" life. It seems much more logical to give another opportunity to live life and see it from another perspective, to create a more "complete being."
Ultimately, I can't see any reason for this, but in a way, that doesn't even feel like the most egregious issue with the finale. No, that is the fate of Eleanor. Eleanor's arc is that she learns to open up and not only to be helped, but to help others in kind. That she convinces Mindy St. Clair to take the test, and helps her mother on the path to The Good Place a season before feels resonnant, and yet it seems strange that after she finds such a purpose, which feels eternal, she would simply choose to erase herself after only saving a few people. Her arc instead should have been becoming a demon actor, and giving herself an ironic parallel to Vicky, who even played the "other" Eleanor Shellstrop way back in season 1. That would have given her a connection and a purpose, especially with so many of those she cared about leaving.
Overall, I'm confused over the positive reception the last few episodes seem to be getting. To me they seem rushed, full of plot holes, and full of bad characterization, to the point where I see it as a very much unworthy ending to one of the greatest sitcoms of all time.
The Good Place knows it's a sitcom. It knows that you know it's a sitcom. And it's that self-awareness and knowledge of the sitcom genre's archetypes and plots that make it so good — it constantly blows up its own premise, keeping the audience on their toes with smartly-paced twists and turns about what might happen next. Come season two, I wasn't sure if the story would hold, but they managed to keep the momentum going, and I'm now extremely anxious and excited for what season 3 will bring.
It's not just the writing/plot that shines, though. The set design is wonderfully charming, and the ensemble is great — one would never guess Jameela Jamil, William Jackson Harper, and Manny Jacinto to be relative new hands compared to TV vets Ted Danson and Kristen Bell, but they all have such good chemistry and portray their multifaceted characters well.
One of my favorite things about the show is the philosophical ruminations about "what it means to be a good person". Arguably the show's Central Theme, it's a breath of fresh air in an edgy era of entertainment saturated with unlikable or at least antiheroic protagonists. But the show manages to ask these questions, make you question your own morality, and naturally improve its characters without being overly moralizing and preachy, through — you guessed it — sitcom tropes being utilized to their maximum potential.
All in all, it's one of the smartest half-hour comedies I've had the pleasure of watching, and it's definitely worth a shot.
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