The Good Place’s Premise
The Good Place is a sitcom created by Michael Schur airing on NBC. The series begins with Eleanor Shellstrop waking up in The Good Place after her death. The Good Place is a utopian afterlife that good people go to when the die. After death, good souls are organized into small neighborhoods of 322 people that blend into a perfect harmonic balance. Each neighborhood is unique in being calibrated for the happiness of the residents who live there.
The only problem is that they have the wrong Eleanor Shellstrop. Instead of being a human rights attorney freeing wrongly convinced inmates from death row, this Eleanor sold fake medicine to the elderly and generally engaged in bad behavior. Eleanor must now hide who she is while learning to be a good person so that she can stay in The Good Place. That turns out to be difficult because each bad action by Eleanor creates malfunctions in the Good Place that produce disastrous results, such as a giant sinkhole that swallow ups parts of the neighborhood.
Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell) was a salesperson from Arizona. Eleanor is a bad person who is mistaken for another Eleanor Shellstrop that performed many humanitarian acts and deserves to be in The Good Place. Our “bad” Eleanor’s parents divorced when she was 8 and she mostly raised herself. After working two jobs, she emancipated herself from her parents. After which, she began a selfish life without any real connections with other people. Once in The Good Place, she enlists the help of Chidi Anagonye to teach her ethics so that she can become a good person and stay in The Good Place. At the end of season two, we learn that it worked and she could enter The Good Place. However, she lies so she can stay with her friends.
Michael (Ted Danson) is known as the architect because he designed The Good Place. In Season one, we learn that, because of his interest and love of humans, he has decided to live in the neighborhood to ensure a smooth transition. This is something no other architect has done. However, at the end of season one, we learn that the neighborhood is actually The Bad Place. Their neighborhood was designed by Michael as an experiment. The purpose was to get humans to emotionally torture each other. In season two, out of his own self-interest, Michael also tries to become a good person.
Chidi Anagonye (William Jackson Harper) was a philosopher specializing in ethics. He was born in Nigeria but raised in Senegal. His last position was working as philosophy professor in Australia. In season one, we are told that Chidi is Eleanor’s soulmate. Upon learning Eleanor’s secret, he agrees to teach her ethics. Chidi overthinks everything; this results in it being very difficult for him to make a decision. In early episodes, this appears to be a trait of his philosophy training. He simply sees things from too many angles and is obsessed with ensuring that he always does what is correct. However, by the end of season one, we learn that this is trait he has had since his youth. His inability to make decisions caused harm to all around him, yet he was not self-aware enough to realize this.
Tahani Al-Jamil (Jameela Jamil) was a philanthropist who lived in the shadow of her sister and never received the loved and attention she craved from her parents. Tahani was born in Pakistan but was raised in England. She is portrayed as globetrotting, but her flashbacks tend to be in England. Thus it seems that while she may have traveled extensively, her primary residence was England. She died by being crushed by a statue of her younger sister Kamilah that she was trying to topple. In the afterlife, she is told that Jianyu is her soulmate. She is frustrated by his vow of silence. Upon learning that Jianyu is Jason, she starts to think that Chidi is her soulmate. Tahani is always trying to be helpful and displays a positive attitude; however, she does so in a condescending manner with constant name drops of celebrities. While she engaged in philanthropic actions her motivations were always selfish.
Jianyu Li/Jason Mendoza (Manny Jacinto) was a Buddhist monk from Taiwan who took a vow of silence at age 7. Like Eleanor, Jianyu should not be in The Good Place. In reality, Jianyu was not a Buddhist monk, but rather Jason Mendoza from Jacksonville, Florida. He was an amateur DJ, Jacksonville Jaguars fan, and former backup dancer. Jason fits the Florida Man archetype. This is exemplified by suffocating himself in a safe because he thought the snorkel would allow him to breathe. Sean, the judge in season one, also notes that Jason is from Florida, so he automatically deserves to be in The Bad Place. Jianyu is introduced as Tahani’s soulmate. However, he latter falls in love with and marries Janet.
Janet (D’Arcy Carden) is an android serving as the personal assistant for the residents in the neighborhood. She contains all of the knowledge of the universe and can generally get people anything they ask for. Janet is the only entity that in the show that is actually from The Good Place. Michael stole her to use in his faux Good Place. Janet cannot lie. Janet can be rebooted and each reboot improves her. In season one, Janet marries Jason. In season two, she creates Derek as a rebound from Jason. While The Good Place has a Janet, The Bad Place has a Bad Janet. Bad Janet is portrayed as being mean, rude, and unhelpful.