The Good Place is ending, and all that hangs in the balance in its fourth and final season are the eternal souls of literally every human being now and forever. How did Michael’s failed torture chamber end up being the most consequential cosmic experiment in the universe? Here’s everything you need to remember before the season four premiere.
In a nutshell, the first season of The Good Place saw four humans—Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani, and Jason—committed to “heaven” after their individual demises. But of course, the entire first season turned out to be a huge swerve, as Eleanor figured out in the finale that she, Chidi, Tahani, and Jason were actually in the Bad Place; all along, their would-be heavenly guide Michael had been a demon who had devised a new form of eternal damnation based on humans unintentionally torturing one another.
Unexpectedly, the four humans all ended up helping one another, and all became better people in the process… until Michael wiped their memories and restarted his experimental form of Hell. Nevertheless, the four damned souls inevitably found and helped each other, and again realized the truth of their situation. And again, Michael reset everything, erasing their minds. (This happened 802 times.) As a result, the Good Place helper-non-robot Janet was also rebooted repeatedly, making her smarter and stronger each time.
These trials resulted in the discovery of the mediocre in-between afterlife locale the Medium Place and its sole resident Mindy St. Claire. Meanwhile, Eleanor and Chidi kept falling in love during their many reboots, as did Tahani and Jason on some occasions, the latter coupling causing great consternation for Janet, who also fell in love with Jason and is still in love with him now. (At one point, she created her own rebound boyfriend named Derek, an idiot.)
Michael joins the team
Meanwhile, Michael had his own problems. As his boss Shawn had given him two shots to make his new torture technique work, not 802, frustrated demon underling Vicky blackmailed Michael, forcing him to ask the four humans for help. In a very un-demon-like change of heart, this led Michael to genuinely care about the humans and consider them his friends, and decided to try and free them from the Bad Place.
Unable to travel to directly the Good Place, the group destroyed their city and went to the central Bad Place in disguise in hopes of reaching the impartial Judge and pleading their cases. The Judge put the four through individual tests of personal growth (which everyone but Eleanor failed) and allowed Michael and Janet to argue on their behalf, all before agreeing to erase their memories and restart their timelines to the points before they each died on Earth. The goal: to see if they might improve as people without being aware of the “moral dessert” of an afterlife.
Back on Earth
Back on Earth and far away from one another, the four humans didn’t improve the way Michael expected, falling back into their old destructive ways after six months. To help them, Michael broke the Judge’s no interference rule and traveled to Earth, where he gently nudged Eleanor to find Chidi. The season ended with her asking the ethics professor for help; each was entirely unaware of their romantic past.
Michael covertly got Tahani and Jason to also find Chidi just like he did with Eleanor, and all four ended up participating in a study run by Chidi’s colleague, Professor Simone Garnett, for people who had near-death experiences. Simone and Chidi ended up dating, but the far bigger problem for Michael’s plans was the Bad Place demon Trevor infiltrated the unaware group to sabotage their growth as people.
The gang finds out
When the Judge discovered all the interference, she canceled the experiment, but Michael and Janet escaped their punishment by hiding back on Earth. Just as the foursome was about to go their separate ways on Earth, they stumbled on Michael and Janet opening up a portal to the afterlife.
Forced to explain everything, Michael seemingly doomed the four to eternal damnation. After Chidi had an existential breakdown (resulting in the worst chili ever made), the four friends decided they would dedicate their remaining lives to helping their loved one avoid the same fate… all the while escaping the wrath of Bad Place demons. In the process, Eleanor and Chidi learned about their romantic past.
A now aware Eleanor told Chidi about their romantic past, Michael and the humans fled to Janet’s void (which caused some problems).
Challenging the system
Determined to prove the point system responsible for human’s eternal fate had been compromised by the Bad Place, Michael went to the afterlife’s accounting office, where he learned that no human had been admitted to the Good Place in 521 years. The group then traveled to the Good Place’s “correspondence center.” Posing as an accountant, Michael told a Good Place panel about his worries, but their bureaucratic concern with following the rules made them useless. (They would have taken 400 million years merely choosing investigators.)
That’s when Michael had his epiphany: the Bad Place didn’t tamper with the points system; life on Earth had become so complicated that “unintended consequences” of basic decisions had made even well-intentioned acts negative point earners. In a last ditch effort to save his friends and all of mankind’s good people, Michael asked for a meeting with the Judge at IHOP, the Interdimensional Hole of Pancakes, the crossroads of all dimensions where time doesn’t exist.
It was there a skeptical Judge agreed to visit Earth to see if there was any merit to Michael’s (seemingly obvious) claim that life on Earth was too difficult for humans. After experiencing firsthand that it really was, the Judge summoned the Bad Place’s Shawn to discuss a solution.
The new experiment
After both sides refused to give in on their argument, Chidi proposed a solution: since it was unclear if their growth was a fluke, they should try this accidental experiment again with new humans to see if they would get the same results.
The Judge agreed, and the new town was built in the Medium Place, where Mindy now cohabitated with a new-and-improved Derek. There were also certain rules each side had to follow:
-Michael was in charge and able to change the neighborhood
-Shawn’s team got to choose the four human test subjects (each with the same level of “badness” as the originals)
-Janet was responsible for creating the rest of the citizens in town, with some help from a still-not-full-formed Derek
Not content to idly sit by while human souls were saved, Shawn came up with an evil plan to undermine it. Right before the first test subject arrived, he called Michael with a promise. Shawn said when the experiment failed and they were sent to the Bad Place he would erase the humans’ memories and have Vicky torture them for eternity wearing a Michael skin suit. That way they would always believe their friend had betrayed him. Michael was so overcome with fear and sadness at this threat he could no longer operate as the town’s Architect, leaving Eleanor to take over at the last second.
Tahani realized the first human, a gossip columnist who had been horrible to her on Earth, was proof that the Bad Place picked the people who would be the worst for her, Eleanor, Chidi, and Jason to deal with. That fear was confirmed when the next arrival was Simone, Chidi’s ex-girlfriend. Positive her presence would make him screw everything up, Chidi said the only way he’d be able to help anyone improve as a person would be to have his memories erased, even though this meant he would forget about his love for Eleanor.
Where we left off
With no other viable option, Eleanor and Chidi shared one last evening watching a film of their time together. “I believe in you,” Chidi told a heartbroken Eleanor, “I am not even scared to get rebooted, because I know you’ll be taking care of me.” After a final pep talk from Janet about embracing the uncertainty of life and love, Eleanor welcomed a naive Chidi to their mock version of The Good Place.
All that remains now is to find out if this torture technique turned accidental experiment will work once again and save the souls of all of mankind. There will also probably be plenty of forking shrimp and froyo.
Featured Image: NBC