DISCLAIMER: This recap of The Good Place Season 1 contains more spoilers than the number of times Eleanor has said “What the fork?” If you’re Eleanor Shellstrop, you say this quite a bit. You’ve been warned. Proceed with caution, lest you risk going to The Bad Place…
Welcome, Afterlife-rs! Our favorite show, The Good Place, is debuting its second season this Wednesday. Yes, Wednesday. As in two days from now. Having difficulty recalling major events from the first season? Don’t panic – everything is fine. Think of me as your Janet. I’m here to guide you, to bring you up to speed on the events of Season 1. Upon finishing this article you’ll be so well-versed in all things regarding The Good Place you’ll be asked to join the writer’s room for the show. Yes, I’m that good.
Well, now that I’ve talked myself into a corner, shall we let the recapping commence? Shirt is most certainly about to hit the fan.
The Good Place begins with Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell) making her arrival in the location of the same name. Michael (Ted Danson), “The Architect,” warmly receives Eleanor and informs her of her unfortunate demise. He also reveals that The Good Place is an afterlife utopia akin to Heaven. Michael’s job is to help Eleanor assimilate to her surroundings and find her place in her afterlife. We also meet Janet (D’Arcy Carden), Michael’s assistant who’s a literal walking encyclopedia of information. When Michael begins singing Eleanor’s praises regarding her personal achievements and many humanitarian deeds, our girl knows something is amiss. She wasn’t exactly Mother Teresa in life.
However, Eleanor keeps this to herself and allows Michael to show her around. Our architect sets her up in some nice digs, a house decorated with paintings of clowns. Apparently, in The Good Place your living quarters are decked out in whatever interested you in life. I would be quickly running in the other direction if I had to see clowns on a regular basis. I’ll sleep outside, thanks.
Then, Michael informs Eleanor that everyone is assigned a soulmate when they get to The Good Place. Eleanor meets Chidi (William Jackson Harper), a university ethics professor who also happens to be her designated mate for afterlife. Later, Eleanor confesses to Chidi that she doesn’t believe she belongs in The Good Place – all of Michael’s assertions of her past deeds are false. Thus, our girl enlists in the help of her ethics professor soulmate to teach her how to be good, so she doesn’t get sent to The Bad Place (Hell). Sounds like a solid plan to me.
Next, Eleanor meets her neighbors Tahani (Jameela Jamil) and Jianyu (Manny Jacinto), who are also soulmates. Tahani is the absolute definition of perfection – beautiful, intelligent, kind and charitable. Jianyu is a monk who has taken a vow of silence into the afterlife. Eleanor and Chidi attend a party thrown by Tahani and Jianyu.
After the party, the neighborhood is attacked by monsters that manifested due to Eleanor’s presence in The Good Place. Once the monsters are vanquished, Michael enlists in Tahani to assist in rallying a neighborhood clean up crew. Later, a note is slipped under Eleanor’s door stating that she doesn’t belong in The Good Place. Uh oh, someone knows!
Then, Eleanor begins to suspect that Tahani is behind the note. Fortunately, her suspicions are incorrect, as the two organically grow closer in friendship. Eleanor realizes Tahani is actually a decent person and probably not the creator of said note. Tahani expresses her disdain for Jianyu’s vow of silence, and fear for what this means for their afterlife union.
Meanwhile, Michael tries to get Chidi to focus on something besides writing his ethics manuscript. When that fails, the architect agrees to mentor the professor in his writing. Janet, being a robot of sorts, begins running the gamut in strange personalities. Could she be malfunctioning? Carden knocked the ball out of the park in Season 1 with her portrayal of Janet. She had me in stitches the entire time.
Later, Jianyu speaks! Yes, the man speaks! He confesses to Eleanor that he wrote the note. He too doesn’t belong in The Good Place. His name isn’t even Jianyu (it’s Jason)! Jason took a “vow of silence” as a way to avoid detection, and thus remain in The Good Place. He decides to confess everything to Michael, but Chidi and Eleanor prevent him from doing so. Instead, the faux monk joins Chidi’s newly christened ethics class with Eleanor, but proves to be less adept at being good than Eleanor.
Then, while Tahani assists in opening a restaurant, a sinkhole forms – one that was caused by Eleanor. Even though Michael assures her it will close, Tahani notices that the opposite occurs and said sinkhole is only increasing in size. Michael decides to quarantine the entire neighborhood from the sinkhole. He convinces Eleanor and Chidi to shelter a couple that lives near the sinkhole, and said couple observes the issues lingering between their host soulmates. We discover that Chidi has never had a real relationship with a woman. Aw, Chidi. You have my heart.
Next, we’re given a glimpse into Tahani’s life (you know, the living one) being in the shadow of her sister Kamilah. Tahani snoops around in Michael’s private documents and discovers she has the second-lowest rated moral score in the neighborhood. Being a perfectionist, this upsets her.
Meanwhile, Eleanor does something kind for Chidi, thus closing the sinkhole. Michael makes note of this and enlists her in finding the cause of said sinkhole. Eleanor goes into action mode and attempts to deter our architect from his investigation. Tahani begins to bond with Chidi, but eventually accepts Jason as her soulmate. However, Chidi was the one pulling the strings in that arrangement. Do I sense a soulmate shakeup?
Later, Michael announces his retirement, citing that the constant problems (from the monster attacks to the sinkhole) with the neighborhood are his fault. He informs our group that an architect’s “retirement” consists of eternal torture. Eleanor takes matters into her own hands by killing Janet in order to prevent Michael from retiring. Janet is the only one who can initiate his retirement. However, Chidi is the one who accidentally activates her killswitch. Tahani throws a retirement party for the forlorn Michael.
Then, Janet is rebooted once again, but with zero memories and limited functions. Clean slate Janet indeed. Michael decides to stay and pry into Janet’s murder. Meanwhile, Eleanor confesses to Chidi that she loves him (aw) and tells the whole gang that she was brought to The Good Place by mistake. No, don’t do that! You’ll end up in The Bad Place!
Next, Michael interviews Chidi, Tahani and Jason to get the skinny on one Eleanor Shellstrop. Janet, after regaining her bearings (and producing a number of cacti), procures Eleanor’s file for Michael. He discovers that there’s another Eleanor Shellstrop, the actual good one. She must have ended up in The Bad Place. He contacts Trevor (Adam Scott), a representative of The Bad Place. Trevor arrives to the neighborhood by train to pick up our Eleanor and take her home. Michael and the others convince him to allow our Eleanor and the good Eleanor to stay for a while so they can sort everything out.
Later, the good Eleanor and Chidi bond over dinner. She was meant to be his actual soulmate. Michael declares war on The Bad Place and vows to fight for our Eleanor. Trevor, in retaliation, promises to get Shawn aka “The Eternal Judge” involved. Thankfully, Michael prevails by throwing The Bad Place demons out. Hurray!
Then, Jason discovers Tahani in his “meditation room.” Well, it’s more like a game room. Tahani gets a glimpse into who Jason really is and does not like it one bit.
Next, Tahani learns that Jason’s acts of kindness toward her were inspired by Chidi. Tahani and Eleanor both confess to Chidi that they love him, and he must choose between them. Meanwhile, Janet and Jason get married. Why? Because Janet was nice to him. Sometimes I wish it were that simple. Anyway, at the wedding, Eleanor and Tahani both tell Chidi that they love him as a friend. Well, there goes that. Tahani believes she figured out a way for our Eleanor to stay in The Good Place.
Later, Tahani suggests to Michael that Eleanor be allowed to earn points to secure her standing The Good Place. The more good deeds she performs, the higher her score rises. Sounds plausible to me. Good Eleanor confesses her love for Chidi. Man, everyone is enamored with that guy (me included). Then, Michael discovers Jason’s true identity and his secret marriage to Janet. He makes an executive decision to reboot Janet once again.
Then, Eleanor comes to the realization that her actions derive from a sense of self-preservation and not a true desire to do good. She decides to leave The Good Place, thus raising her score to the highest level. When the train arrives Eleanor, Janet and Jason take it to The Medium Place.
While in The Medium Place, our trio meets its only inhabitant Mindy St. Claire (Maribeth Monroe). Mindy led a pretty selfish life, but toward the end she formed a huge global charity that benefited millions of people. So, it all balances out? Meanwhile, back in The Good Place, our Eleanor and Jason’s trial for their souls begins. Tahani, Chidi, Michael and good Eleanor argue in their favor. Unfortunately Shawn, The Eternal Judge, delivers an ultimatum: if Eleanor and Jason don’t return from The Medium Place, Chidi and Tahani will be sent to The Bad Place in their stead. Uh oh. This won’t end well.
Then, our trio eventually returns. However, they missed Shawn’s deadline and must face the consequences. He decrees that they must choose which two of the four are going to The Bad Place. This, of course, results in arguing between the quartet of our Eleanor, Jason, Chidi and Tahani. Good Eleanor makes the ultimate sacrifice by volunteering to be one of the four. Ugh, good Eleanor is so good.
Suddenly, our Eleanor has the epiphany to end all epiphanies – their arguments have been orchestrated and aren’t organic. They’re actually in The Bad Place! Then, Michael confirms Eleanor’s suspicions, making the star villainous turn of the century. Michael reveals that The Good Place is just a sector of The Bad Place, a new neighborhood where our quartet are the only residents. They were meant to anger each other and create division. It’s all part of Michael’s divine, ahem, evil plan.
With everything out in the open, Michael urges Shawn to let him wipe the quartet’s memories clean and start over from scratch. Our Eleanor launches into action, writing a note to herself and discreetly handing it to Janet, who is a model of Janet from The Good Place. You know, the real one. After the reset, Janet makes good on her promise and delivers our Eleanor her note. It reads, “Eleanor – find Chidi.”
The Good Place was a pleasant surprise. It ended up being one of my favorite shows from last year. So fun, lighthearted and full of whimsy. I do love me some whimsy. Everything from the clever writing to the immense mythology behind The Good Place ticks off all the right boxes for me. Not to mention – Kristen Bell and Ted Danson. That should be enough for anyone to watch. Plus, that massive cliffhanger and major twist in the Season 1 finale left me stunned.
Do you think Eleanor and co. will eventually regain their memories? Will Eleanor find Chidi? Are we going to see other sectors of The Bad Place, and perhaps travel to the actual Good Place? Will we see some kind of standoff between Michael, since he’s now the villain, and our quartet? Be sure to watch this space here at Geek Girl Authority as I recap Season 2 of The Good Place!
The Good Place airs Wednesday September 20th at 9pm on your NBC affiliate.