what if the “good place” didn’t have a bad place? (Spoilers to “The Good Place” Seasons 1-4)

I’ve been watching “The Good Place.”  Again.  And again.  And again.  I can’t stop watching.

Until a certain, let’s say, infallible truth emerged.  Namely,

You don’t actually need a “bad place,” in order to have a “good place.”

I support most of the show (minus the inevitable toxic relationship stuff that is in everything).  Only it’s silly that the structure and ultimate ending of a show that states itself to be religion neutral fundamentally supports Christian, or rather Catholic, dogma.  A good place and a bad place.  Demons and angels.  Reward and punishment.  Shouldn’t it be free of any religion?

I considered the following questions, among others:

Is the concept of a soulmate really necessary to the plot?  Frankly, I found the parts about jealousy between the characters the least interesting (and most annoying) bits of the show.

Do we need Michael to be a demon?  What if he were simply an ethereal being?

Do we need Eleanor to be scared of hell just to be a good person?  What if there were another way?  What if she could find a way to self motivate without eternal damnation?

In “The Good Place” show, henceforth to be referred to as “TGPS,” the main characters actually belong in the “Bad Place.”  Only the best of the best make it to the “real Good Place.”

But there doesn’t have to be a Bad Place.  There could be a Not As Good Place.

Imagine this scenario:

You open your eyes.  You see a sign, “Welcome.  Everything is fine.”  You are sitting on a couch.  You are told you are in the “good place.”  Obviously, you’re happy, you are certain you are right.  It doesn’t matter what religion you are, there’s always a good place to go to.  In certain religions, there are “better” and “best” places, but you assume you’re in the very best of them.  Why wouldn’t you be?

Then the guide takes you through this supposedly idyllic place.  As you continue to live here, you eventually realize there’s something wrong with it.  It’s not the Good Place you thought it was.  It’s something else.  

So far, so good?

In TGPS, the four humans offer a solution to not have everyone end up in the Bad Place.  Which is where they’re all ending up, now that the world is too complicated to ever be good enough for the System.

In the original plan, humans accumulate points until death, then go to the Good Place or Bad Place depending on if they’ve reached a certain number of points.  In the new place, humans are given endless opportunities to redo their “next life.”  They try, succeed or fail, and either end up going directly to the “Real Good Place” or losing one’s memory (mostly), restarting the cycle, and getting the chance to continually improve.  And once they make it to the Good Place, they can walk through a doorway to…well, they don’t know.  But they leave their concept of heaven.

In this new plan, one could end up in the Least Good Place, then work themselves up to the Best Place.  Then, in the Best Place, you can stay as long as you like (just like in TGPS) or eventually move on to where your soul passes from the known to the unknown, the equivalent of the soul “dying” (again, just like in TGPS).  It’s the between part that changes.

There’s no hell.  No Bad Place.  No demons or angels.  No fear of punishment.  No soulmates.

All there is is you.  How far you want to go on your path to enlightenment.  You can stop at the Least Good Place and never move on.  There’s nothing wrong with that place. You’ll just never know what comes next.  But there’s no punishment for not making yourself “better.”  There’s just this life after death.

Perhaps they’d have to spend some time finding conflict and situational comedy that isn’t based on the simplistic notion of choosing one thing over another thing.  Like figuring out how to make the characters relate that isn’t based on the concept of soulmates (ugh, what do soulmates add to the picture?  After all, the really awesome part is when the four humans learn to work together and love each other. Platonically, but doesn’t that count as real love?)  But is that a bad thing to make writers work a little harder?

Because, eventually, true enlightenment means finding rest.

It’s only in the final place that you get to move on to…nothing.  To pure light.  Or to whatever it is that is an…end.  Because living forever, well, I think you would end up like mush.  Just like what happens to the people in the Real Good Place.

I don’t think you need to terrify humans with demonic torture and spider lava volcanos.

But rather motivate one with the concept that you could have a better life than a neighborhood of frozen yogurt stands or the Stick on a Stick universe.

Something truly wonderful, beyond your dreams.

….at least, I think it’s worth giving it a try.


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