The Good Place: Is Rebooting the Same as Evolving?

Spoilers for season 3 of The Good Place ahead.

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For the third straight season, The Good Place looked at its chalkboard full of lessons and diagrams, wiped it down, handed us the chalk, and asked us to rebuild everything. It isn’t completely from scratch: we still have everything we’ve learned over the past 39 episodes, and the gang does too — well, for the most part.

In the season three finale “Pandemonium,” the experimental Good Place gets rolling, with Eleanor as its face, and head demon Sean sending them his hand-picked guinea pigs. When he corners them by sending Chidi’s ex-girlfriend Simone (“Eat butt, you ding dongs”), Chidi makes the choice to wipe his memories so that he can teach her ethics without his trademark awkwardness sabotaging the whole experiment.

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He, and only he, will be rebooted to his baseline from season one (and, for that matter, seasons two and three). The price is that he won’t remember Eleanor, Michael, Janet, Jason, Tahani, or any of their adventures moving forward. But we all know that’s not true. Sooner or later — my money is on sooner — Chidi will either stumble upon the memories of his previous lives or fall into the same patterns he’s fallen into literally thousands of times before. Michael, with all of his planning and revisions, was never able to pull the Soul Squad apart, and I doubt that this time will be any different.

At this point there’s a kind of comforting and predictable pattern we can expect from season four: Orientation to the new status quo, a series of more-or-less one-off episodes about learning moral lessons, a return to the old status quo, and then a reboot. At some point, the reboots have to end, right? Cut to the last shot of The Good Place being the first shot of The Good Place.

The point is, that despite the conversation between Eleanor and Janet (what a season from D’Arcy Carden seriously) about the universe being confusing and random, The Good Place is not. Whether you buy Eleanor and Chidi as a couple, the luxuries of fate and eternity seem to be on their side, which kind of robs Chidi’s decision of some of its emotional heft. If they’re predestined to be together, what exactly is he sacrificing?

Still, for all of its starting and stopping, reboots, and Jeremy Bearimy timelines, The Good Place is still committed to character evolution. Chidi’s decision illustrates how far he’s come, and makes us think about the growth of all of these characters. Two seasons ago, Chidi would have been frozen in panic, but now he’s made the most difficult decision of his life (and afterlife) on his own. Eleanor is a new woman, leading the experimental Good Place, a position that shows off both her maturation and that she’s maintained her wiley ability to lie under pressure. Michael is no longer a soul-torturing demon but instead a demon with a tortured soul. Janet is becoming more human, Jason less selfish (will you remember pizza?), and even Tahani has resisted the urge to dish out 84% savage burns.

Just like Derek rebooting his way into a resplendent and mostly functional penis —

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The Good Place has learned a little bit from each reboot, always finding an answer to each of the questions we might have about its ever-evolving philosophies. Each rebirth has brought us a little closer to the point the show is trying to make, so why not? Let’s hit that big plunger in the backyard and hope for the best.

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