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The Entire Good Place Timeline Explained

Michael Schur is known for creating innovative, heartwarming, and clever sitcoms like Parks and Recreation and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. In 2017, he produced his most ambitious effort yet with the afterlife-inspired comedy The Good Place. With a cast that includes television icons like Kristen Bell and Ted Danson alongside relative newcomers Manny Jacinto, D'Arcy Carden, William Jackson Harper, and Jameela Jamil, The Good Place tackled complicated themes like human morality, ethics, and whether or not people can truly and essentially change despite their flaws over the course of four seasons and 53 episodes before gracefully finishing its run in January of 2020.

It can be pretty hard to sum up The Good Place's timeline because, according to the show itself, time is a pretty flimsy construct — as the all-knowing not-a-girl, not-a-robot Janet (Carden) and converted demon Michael (Danson) explain to their human cohorts, time in the afterlife takes the form of a cursive signature that looks oddly like the made-up name "Jeremy Bearimy" — but as far as the show's plot is concerned, it follows a fairly linear structure. From the opening conceit to the show's peaceful resolution, here's the entire timeline of The Good Place explained. This should go without saying, but, massive spoilers to follow for all episodes of The Good Place!

The very beginning

As the show opens, Eleanor Shellstrop (Bell) opens her eyes and is met with a sign that tells her that "everything is fine." Shortly thereafter, she meets Michael, who tells her some good news and bad news. The bad news is, Eleanor is dead — thanks to an embarrassing grocery store parking lot incident involving a row of shopping carts and a bottle of something called "Lonely Girl Margarita Mix For One" — but the good news is that she's ended up in the "Good Place," the obvious better option as opposed to the "Bad Place."

However, once Eleanor is shown memories of her time on Earth as a virtuous human rights lawyer, she realizes something is amiss; the Good Place has chosen the wrong Eleanor Shellstrop, and this Eleanor, a jerk from Arizona, doesn't actually belong. As she scrambles to figure out what to do, she turns to her assigned Good Place soulmate Chidi Anagonye (Harper) for help, telling him her shameful secret as she inadvertently wreaks havoc upon their perfect, heavenly neighborhood. Eleanor immediately knows she's the only issue with this ideal utopia, but regardless, she's determined to stay, so she asks Chidi for help.

Eleanor betters herself

Luckily for Eleanor, back on Earth, Chidi was a moral philosophy and ethics professor, so he's in a uniquely perfect position to help Eleanor better herself in the afterlife. The two of them embark on a mission and hold ethics lessons every week, with Chidi using the words and wisdom of famous philosophers like Aristotle, Plato, and Kant to try and convince Eleanor to change her less than stellar ways.

Before long, Eleanor makes a startling discovery — she's not the only person who doesn't really belong in the Good Place. One of her neighbors, a silent Buddhist monk named Jianyu, is actually Jason Mendoza, a Florida EDM DJ masquerading as a monk to hide his true identity. Once Jason reveals his real identity to everyone, including his own soulmate — the upper-crust British socialite Tahani Al-Jamil (Jamil) — he also joins Chidi's morality classes, and the two Good Place gatecrashers do their best to try and rapidly improve just so that they can prove they truly belong. Despite their efforts, mishaps keep occurring in the gang's Good Place neighborhood, which seems to be due to the fact that neither Eleanor nor Jason really belongs there.

One mystery is solved

Eventually, Eleanor confesses the truth: she doesn't belong in the Good Place and is the cause of the entire neighborhood's problems. To remedy this problem, the Bad Place sends one of its most irritating demons, Trevor (a perfectly cast Adam Scott), to come and collect Eleanor, who comes face to face with the other Eleanor Shellstrop (Tirya Sircar), a human rights lawyer who grew up as an orphan and spent her life fighting systemic inequality.

As Eleanor stands trial for her crimes and tries to prove that she's improved during her time in the Good Place, the four humans squabble over the fact that the Bad Place claims that they simply need one person to accept their fate and head down to the Bad Place. In the end, Eleanor is the only one who figures out the show's big first-season plot twist: They've actually been in the Bad Place the whole time, torturing each other as a part of an experiment engineered by Michael. The other Eleanor is also a decoy, and is actually just another Bad Place demon sent to trick the humans. Just as she figures out Michael's entire gambit, he snaps his fingers, erasing her memory entirely and starting the entire experiment over again with the same four humans.

Michael keeps rebooting the humans

Without telling his bosses in the Bad Place, including Shawn (Marc Evan Jackson), Michael continuously reboots the four humans in the second season episode "Dance Dance Resolution," restarting the gang every time they figure out his scheme. Eleanor usually serves as the whistleblower during all of Michael's experiments, although Chidi and Tahani end up figuring it out too, and, embarrassingly, even Jason cracks the puzzle at least once (much to Michael's chagrin).

Exhausted and spent, Michael reboots the humans over 800 times in an effort to make his torture experiment work, but after some unlikely words of wisdom from Jason, he realizes he should start working with the humans and fight the demons of the Bad Place, all of whom are determined to take him down. In his first truly kind gesture, Michael agrees to help the humans get into the Good Place while the five of them, as well as Janet, continue tweaking the experiment without telling Shawn.

Team Cockroach

Together with Michael, the humans form what they call "Team Cockroach," trying to better themselves and outsmart the Bad Place demons so they can eventually make their way into the real Good Place somehow. Throughout their process, the humans, especially Chidi, try to teach Michael ethics as well, but teaching a demon how to understand human morality proves to be much more difficult than anyone anticipated (in a particularly gruesome example, the gang tries and fails to explain the famous philosophical "Trolley Problem" to Michael). Even amidst an admittedly hilarious midlife crisis that involves an earring and a makeover for Janet, Michael starts to evolve, finally gaining some semblance of humanity.

Ultimately, Michael fails to figure out how to fix the system, so the team manages to infiltrate the depths of the Good Place and find a way to talk to the all-seeing Judge. Though Michael initially sacrifices himself to save the humans, Janet saves the day by tricking Shawn, and the group finds themselves face to face with... a burrito, for some reason.

A new series of tests

As it turns out, the burrito isn't some omnipotent being, but rather, an omnipotent being's lunch. Before long, Gen (Maya Rudolph), the all-knowing Judge whose name is short for "Oxygen" (that was one of the only things that existed when she came into creation) arrives to chat with the gang and hear their pleas about why they should be saved from eternal damnation in the Good Place.

In order to test whether they actually deserve to go to the Good Place, the Judge devises a series of individualized tests for each human. Tahani has to cross through a hallway without eavesdropping on anyone who's talking about her, Jason has to play a Madden game against his beloved Jacksonville Jaguars, Chidi has to choose between two hats (an impossible effort for the world's most indecisive man), and Eleanor is confronted with a surprisingly selfish Chidi, whom she immediately realizes is a fraud. Ultimately, only Eleanor passes her test, but when pressed, she lies so she can remain with her friends, and when the Judge proposes a solution where she'll separate Team Cockroach throughout four "Medium Places," everybody balks. In the end, the Judge and Michael come up with a new solution, and before the humans can even guess what that could entail, Michael snaps his fingers once again, and Team Cockroach find themselves transported back to Earth.

Something is rotten in the Good Place

After the Soul Squad discover Michael's latest scheme, they're told that they are eternally disqualified from getting into the Good Place, and Eleanor suggests that they all work together to improve other people's lives in the time they have left. In the time that follows, Tahani anonymously donates most of her fortune to charity, Eleanor helps her mother, Jason helps his father, and Michael and Janet investigate Doug Forcett (played by comedy legend Michael McKean), the man who accidentally guessed the system of the Good and Bad Places during a particularly eventful night years ago. However, despite the fact that Forcett leads a literally impeccable life, even he doesn't qualify for the Good Place, which means something must be wrong with the system itself.

Ultimately, Michael, Janet, and the gang make an appalling discovery: nobody has made it into the Good Place for over 500 years. As the humans die once again and return to the afterlife, the group's goal is clear — they must solve the problems inherent in the points system once and for all, because without actively rigging the system, the Bad Place is simply benefiting from the fact that life on Earth is fraught and complicated. Alongside Shawn and the Judge, the Soul Squad realizes they need to redo the experiment with four new test subjects.

A new experiment and a goodbye

Unfortunately for the Soul Squad, despite the fact that they'll get to design the neighborhood and run the majority of the new experiment, the Bad Place gets to pick the four new humans, and unsurprisingly, they take that opportunity to wreak havoc. Between the demon they disguise as an uninterested old lady (who later punches Eleanor in the face and reveals himself) and Chidi's ex-girlfriend Simone (Kirby Howell-Baptiste), a neuroscientist who was friends with the Soul Squad back on Earth but doesn't recognize them in the afterlife, it's clear that the Bad Place has figured out exactly how they can "fork" with the experiment without being overtly evil.

The Bad Place machinations end up causing one of the show's most heartbreaking twists — once Simone is introduced, Chidi accepts that the only way he can remain unbiased during the experiment is to wipe all his memories of the Soul Squad and his relationship with Eleanor. After the disguised demon is booted from the experiment, Chidi ends up serving as the fourth test subject, which obviously proves emotionally fraught for Eleanor and the friends he left behind.

The new test subjects

Aside from Chidi and Simone, the other two test subjects are specifically designed to torment the Soul Squad, starting with John Wheaton (Brandon Scott Jones), who arrives just to torture poor Tahani. John, who was a nasty gossip columnist back on Earth, was especially cruel to Tahani during his life, and apparently, not much changes once he arrives in what he thinks is Heaven. Worse still is Brent Norwalk (Ben Koldyke), a classic chauvinist pig who complains about politically correct terms like "Captain Marvel," keeps calling Janet his "secretary," and whose mere presence is torture for... well, just about everybody.

As the Soul Squad, Michael, and Janet try to help these four humans improve their points totals during the experiment, it goes reasonably well, except for the fact that everybody keeps butting heads with the odious Brent. (To make matters worse, a Bad Janet manages to infiltrate the experiment right in the middle and pose as Good Janet, causing complete chaos.) The entire experiment reaches its nastiest point after Brent's book, Six Feet Under Par: A Chip Driver Mystery, which he regards as his masterpiece, objectifies and mocks everyone in the neighborhood, causing a fight between Brent and everybody else. However, throughout the turmoil, Michael keeps a log of all the ways the humans actually do improve, presenting his work to the Bad Janet who snuck into the experiment.

A new way to judge

At the end of the experiment, Michael and Shawn present their cases to the Judge, and while Michael and his team technically win the trial thanks to the fact that the humans showed improvement, they end up facing a very unexpected ruling by the Judge, who says, "obviously, Earth is canceled." As she searches in her bottomless purse for the clicker that will erase all of humanity and start the planet over from scratch, Janet intervenes, hiding the clicker in her void (and, eventually, throughout the voids of several Janets who show up to help), giving the gang a little bit of time to figure out how to revamp the entire judgment system.

Eventually, with some help from a newly confident and reawakened Chidi and the Judge's favor actor Timothy Olyphant (who guest stars as himself), they come up with a new way to judge humans: give them chances to change. Each human who dies will enter a personalized test created in tandem by Good and Bad Place architects, and after they undergo their psychological testing to see if they evolve (with their memories wiped in between each attempt), those in charge of the points system will truly be able to see whether or not they can evolve, and only the worst ever people will really go to the Bad Place. As a thanks, the Soul Squad finally achieves their goal, and they all head to the real Good Place together.

Final farewells

In one last twist, however, something is seriously wrong with the real Good Place — a perfect utopia sounds great on paper, but in practice, everyone contained within it has grown addle-brained due to a complete lack of challenges or limits. Luckily, Michael and the gang have one last stroke of genius, and introduce a door that reintroduces death, where denizens of the Good Place can walk through and become a part of the universe once they feel complete.

In the series finale, the Soul Squad says their goodbyes, with three of them crossing through the door. Jason, Chidi, and Eleanor, after personal growth and emotional evolution, all make the choice — at separate times — to pass through. Jason makes his decision first, followed by Chidi; though Eleanor tries to stop her soulmate from leaving her behind, for once in his life, he's sure. Eleanor lets him go before eventually deciding it's also her time to cross through — although not before she comes up with one last gift for Michael (more on that in a minute). 

Meanwhile, Tahani decides to do some real good by becoming the first human Good Place architect, while Janet remains in the Good Place (and essentially stays with her friends because she technically lives in every moment she's ever experienced). As for Michael? Thanks to Eleanor's genius, he gets to live life as a human, experiencing all the small joys and sorrows he always dreamed of. Fittingly, it's Michael who closes the entire series by accomplishing a long-held human goal: telling someone to "take it sleazy."