Review: “The Good Place” returns for a final season

The newest season of “The Good Place,” a comedy by Michael Schur (“The Office,” “Parks and Recreation”) delights fans with even greater plot twists and character growth.

The premise of the show is that Eleanor, played by an ever-snarky Kristen Bell, wakes up to find that she has died and she is now in The Good Place, an iteration of the after-life that holds all the best people on Earth. The only catch is that she is there by mistake, and she was supposed to end up in The Bad Place. In a new rendition of the classic fight for good and evil, Eleanor and her friends have to learn what it really means to live a Good Life after they have died. 

Schur brings the audience into a fourth season of the show where the protagonists are responsible for the eternal well-being of a new group of newly-dead people by teaching them to be better than they were when they were alive.  The show is full of quirks such as the fact that a slip of the tongue in The Good Place ended up being “holy forking shirtballs” rather than anything else. And, set in bite-size episodes of around 20 minutes, it’s digestible and easy to watch. There is a lightness to the conflict here as well, deliciously scattered with nuggets of real ethics discourse and relevant jokes about things going on now.

The thing that an audience has to gain from a show like this is that it has cleverly emphasized how it feels to try to live a “good life” when everything feels a little bit futile. This is apparent in a scene between Michael, the creator of The Good Place neighborhood, and the man who keeps track of the good and bad points that a person accumulates in their life. Michael monologues on the fact that no matter how hard people try in this day and age, it never feels like it will be enough to make a positive upward swing in the overall state of the universe. Brilliantly hidden in a scene with high stakes, it is a sentiment that sticks with the observer long after the show is over.

Another incredibly important thing about television like The Good Place is that it assures the audience of humanity’s ability to change. In this most recent episode, Eleanor leads the gang in selflessly helping others, whereas before she had been the kind of person to cheat her way out of being the designated driver without fail. Another character made everyone in his life miserable by being so indecisive, but ends up making a very large sacrifice for the good of everyone. The plot is backed up by the idea that this group of people should never have been able to come together. In fact they were thrown together to be the most irritating to each other as was possible. But they did come together. They became, if not good, better. And that’s where the magic is. “The Good Place” is a testament that human connection is vitally important, having the capability to change us and make us all a little closer to being good.

“The Good Place” airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. CST or can be found on hulu.com.

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