Ranking and Grading “The Good Place” Seasons

By | January 31, 2020

A quick, spoiler-free review about “The Good Place” series finale: it was nearly perfect. After a somewhat sluggish start to this season (probably too many episodes were devoted to the experiment), the last handful of episodes have been excellent, soulful, thought provoking, character-rich, heartbreaking, romantic, funny, moving, and true. Although the finale tricked us somewhat with episode length (it was listed as 90 minutes even though the last 15 were a “Talking Dead”-type recap/talk show), so I was genuinely shocked when it was over–these were the most emotional (roughly) 75 minutes of TV I’ve had in ages. Many of last year’s big finales were either a little dissatisfying (“Silicon Valley,” “Veep,”) or outright disappointments (“Game of Thrones”), and I don’t think anyone would put “Good Place” in either category. Grade for Series Finale: A+

4th Best Season: Season 1…You’ll notice I didn’t put “worst” season because “The Good Place” doesn’t really have a “worst” season. They’re all first-rate, and I think Michael Schur made the right decision to end the series when he did, because by the end, the series has been to the good place, bad place, the medium place, Earth, the judge’s quarters, inside Janet, and just about everywhere in-between. There’s not much left you could’ve done by the end of season 4, but I spent the other seasons after 1 in a constant state of “okay, how can they keep this going?” And was always pleasantly surprised that they could burn through plot lines at an astonishing clip and very rarely repeat themselves. That’s not totally true for season 1–which has some repetitive episodes, and doesn’t get really great until the wild season finale twist. It’s rare to find something unexpected and yet perfectly foreshadowed. Grade for season 1: A-

3rd Best Season: Season 2…I suspect most people would actually rank this season a little bit lower than season 1. It reboots some of the same plot-lines over and over (by design) which can make things feel paradoxically repetitive but also like they might be burning through plots a little too quick. [I know it makes no sense…you almost have to see it to get the sense that they’re going through the motions in certain spots.] And yet I love this season for its “go for broke” energy, its trip to the Bad Place, and the fact that it really moves in a way the first season didn’t. Although its very close in quality to season 1, and I go back-and-forth on which is better, season 2 wins at the time I’m writing this. Grade for season 2: A-

2nd Best Season: Season 4…The only thing “wrong” with season 4 is that it devotes too much time to the experiment that kicks off the season, and reintroduces some characters we felt grateful to leave behind (Chidi’s ex-girlfriend Simone…once again getting in the way of his true soulmate Eleanor). But once we get into the final episodes, and spend time in the actual Good Place, we get some of the best episodes of the entire series. Not to mention a great series finale is half the battle for contemporary TV (series lengths are now so short that they actually should end well), and this season ends perfectly. Grade: A

The Best Season: Season 3…This is one of the best seasons of TV comedy I’ve ever seen. We follow our core group on an afterlife fugitive chase as they seek refuge in the actual good place, the accounting department, the intergalactic (and TV obsessed) judge’s chambers, on Earth (solid standalone episodes where the core group try to help someone from their past), and inside Janet in a truly mind-blowing episode. Just try not to be moved when Janet tells Michael he’ll have to be the one to fix what’s wrong with the afterlife. “We keep going to all these places looking for someone who has the answers, but they never do…it’s you Michael.”

A good Freudian might read into Michael’s god-like transformation and his character sharing the same given name as “Good Place” creator Michael Schur. But I’ll just say that real Michael seems as capable of fixing what’s wrong with TV comedy as fictional Michael does the afterlife; and horrific looking commercials for NBC’s “new” comedies–which look suspiciously like things they’ve had in development since the 90’s–only reinforce how much I’ll miss this fantastic series. Grade: A+

One thought on “Ranking and Grading “The Good Place” Seasons

  1. Anonymous

    The Good Place is in a good place with a good ending.

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