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A Ranking of Every Episode of ‘The Good Place’

A good forking show is ending, so let’s forking celebrate this shirt

Luca Romeo

In September 2016, NBC went to hell. Of course, we wouldn’t know until the following year that we were in hell—hidden truths are one of The Good Place’s deepest and most reliable wells of joy. But even before Michael Schur’s comedy pulled off one of the best TV twists of the 21st century, The Good Place announced itself as a series with vision, heart, and humor. Underneath the jokes about the NFL’s best quarterback, Blake Bortles, Eleanor’s (Kristen Bell) obsession with Stone Cold Steve Austin, and a neighborhood’s worth of puns—there’s a restaurant in the Good Place named Knish From a Rose—was a show that was genuinely curious about the afterlife, humanity, and a person’s ability to improve. At a time when the world seemed to be crumbling, The Good Place was there to remind us what we owe to each other.

On Thursday, the final episode of The Good Place will air, bringing the journey of Team Cockroach—Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani, Jason, Michael, and Janet—to an end. In honor of that ceremonious finale, The Ringer will celebrate the show throughout the week, beginning with today’s ranking of every episode of The Good Place. Now, I can’t be certain whether there are many Good Place points to be earned in passing judgment and ranking someone’s creative work, but certainly there is in creating content that allows people to procrastinate at work, so I think we’re good here. And before anyone goes full Shawn on us, let me just say that while a ranking means there is a last place, that hardly means we regard the episodes that land toward the bottom as bad. The Good Place is a rare series in which even its least compelling episodes are relatively impressive and undeniably delightful.

OK, that’s enough—time to toss this Molotov cocktail. —Andrew Gruttadaro


51. “The Worst Possible Use of Free Will”

Season 3, Episode 8

The third season of The Good Place accounts for its rockiest transitions: from the comfortable confinement of Michael’s neighborhood to just plain Earth, and from everyday existence to a fight for the moral fate of humanity. “The Worst Possible Use of Free Will” represents the show at its most ungainly, a choppy sequence of out-of-context memories delivered to Eleanor by Michael in an Arizona public library. The result is the Good Place equivalent of a clip show, a sitcom trope that has little place in this highly unconventional sitcom. The episode is also tasked with selling Eleanor and Chidi as star-crossed soulmates, by far the heaviest lift The Good Place asks of its viewers and the least successful of its big swings. Even The Good Place at its least-best, however, is still a half hour of Kristen Bell and Ted Danson arguing amicably about the existence of free will. You don’t get that anywhere else on broadcast. —Alison Herman

50. “You’ve Changed, Man”

Season 4, Episode 10

Unlike Michael Schur’s other half-hour comedies—The Office, Parks and Recreation, Brooklyn Nine-NineThe Good Place is far more serialized; sometimes an episode’s primary need is merely to propel the plot forward. Such is the case with “You’ve Changed, Man,” which pushes the story toward the endgame as the humans concoct a new afterlife architecture. Humor still abounds in true Good Place fashion, though, with Maya Rudolph’s Judge disco dancing and fawning over guest star Timothy Olyphant. —Zach Kram

49. “Category 55 Emergency Doomsday Crisis”

Season 1, Episode 5

This is the weakest episode of The Good Place’s otherwise incredibly strong first season. The sinkhole that threatens the town is just weird—it feels like an excuse to bring the plot to a temporary standstill so the show can flesh out Tahani’s character and deliver some good Eleanor-Chidi moments, but it doesn’t stand out on its own. It’s cartoonish—and, on re-watch, a sign of how the show can bend the universe’s rules a bit to make the story move the way the writers want it to. Of course that’s how all shows work, but it’s best to not be so obvious. —Riley McAtee

48. “Mondays, Am I Right?”

Season 4, Episode 11

Ah, the home stretch. With the battle to institute a new afterlife won, Michael goes about training the Bad Place demons on their new means of torture while Eleanor, Chidi, and Jason select a handful of Good Place gimmes to make sure their new measurement system works (candidates include Abraham Lincoln, Louis Pasteur, and … Prince). Unfortunately, this episode turns into being much less about the secret sauce that goes on top of the juicy steak and much more about Eleanor and Chidi’s relationship, something with varying returns that’s plagued Season 4 of The Good Place—we want more jokes and philosophy, less will-they-or-won’t-they?! At the end of this episode, though, the gang does finally make it into the Good Place, setting up the show’s wistful conclusion. —Gruttadaro

47. “The Snowplow”

Season 3, Episode 4

It wouldn’t be an episode of The Good Place without a thorny ethical dilemma to confront. In this case, we’re forced to wrestle with one person’s “snowplow”—Michael and Janet, now on Earth and without their powers, intervening in the lives of Team Cockroach/The Brainy Bunch to keep their study group together so they can rack up more Good Place points (clearing the path so they can “more easily drive along the road of improvement,” as Michael says). By episode’s end, the snowplow has veered off the road: The about-to-splinter group discovers Michael and Janet preparing to walk through an interdimensional door to the afterlife, setting the stage for the stakes-raising scene-shift to come.

But while this episode’s more table-setting than transcendent, it still highlights what makes The Good Place so special: Even more workmanlike installments still give us gold like the roiling internal struggle of poor Larry Hemsworth, a lowly pediatric surgeon who can’t compete with his famous brothers because he “barely has an eight-pack;” poignant moments like Eleanor’s defense mechanisms kicking in; and, of course, Blake Beartles. —Dan Devine

46. “A Girl From Arizona (Part 2)”

Season 4, Episode 2

This episode is all about showing the full range of Eleanor’s growth. Not only is our titular girl from Arizona tasked with playing architect, trying to root out the Bad Place’s evil doings, and figuring out the hidden desires of the four humans in the neighborhood, she’s also thrown a few curveballs for good measure. Brent quickly becomes her archnemesis, proving to be the prototypical white male who’s unable—and unwilling—to realize just how awful he really is. (At one point, while the world is crumbling around him and essentially screaming at him that he is to blame, he tells Eleanor and Michael that he actually belongs in The Best Place.) Then comes the real heartbreaking task: To help Simone accept reality (or what is reality in this scenario), Eleanor tells Chidi that Simone is his soulmate, effectively making them fall in love while she—Chidi’s real soulmate—is forced to watch in real time. Eleanor justifies this by saying that Chidi gave up his memories for them, so she has to do what she can, too—but hers is arguably an even greater sacrifice. —Megan Schuster

45. “Flying”

Season 1, Episode 2

Pilots are notoriously a tough act to follow, though The Good Place makes a valiant effort by starting its second episode with Ted Danson attempting to lick his own armpit. “Flying” has to convince the audience that ethical philosopher Chidi would take a chance on Eleanor, valuing the potential salvation of a noted Real Housewives fan over the safety of an entire neighborhood. Fortunately, Kristen Bell and William Jackson Harper’s platonic chemistry is such that Chidi’s cautious faith in Eleanor, and Eleanor’s earnest attempts at self-improvement, read as genuine. (We’ll leave the romantic chemistry for another part of this ranking.) By the end of “Flying,” The Good Place has yet to introduce one of its core protagonists—Jason is still passing himself off as a silent monk named Jianyu—or even revealed its true premise. Still, the Eleanor-Chidi bond gives it a solid enough foundation to move forward. —Herman

44. “A Fractured Inheritance”

Season 3, Episode 7

The middle of Season 3 of The Good Place saw core cast ping-pong their way across the globe—Australia to Jacksonville to Canada—on a mission to rehab the souls of their closest friends and family. “A Fractured Inheritance” saw Eleanor head to Nevada to see her mother, who definitely didn’t die while adjusting her toe ring at a Rascal Flatts concert; Tahani, meanwhile, confronts her sister/rival at an art museum in Europe. The episode’s main thrusts are touching, albeit a tad rote—though Eleanor and Tahani satisfyingly reconcile the damage caused by their familial relationships, it’s not like we weren’t already acquainted with such dysfunction.

The main highlight of the episode, to me, is Andy Daly’s guest appearance as the basic-ass boyfriend of Eleanor’s mom, yet another example of The Good Place expertly deploying comedic geniuses in cameo capacities. Look at this “bad boy:”

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“Who am I—Avril Lavigne?” he asks. What a king. —Gruttadaro

43. “The Brainy Bunch”

Season 3, Episode 3

This episode is a lot, but mostly because Trevor (the demon played by Adam Scott) has shown up to torture the humans on Earth—and the show’s viewers in the process. He arrives in Australia to try to break up Chidi and Simone’s study group, and he goes about it in the most obnoxious of ways: mass-texting the group “dank memes” (his words, I’m sorry); getting sweatshirts printed up with their faces under the header, “The Brainy Bunch;” taking them out to eat at the worst imitation of an American restaurant I’ve ever seen; and trying to get them all wasted on cheap beer and vodka. Scott’s performance is honestly art, and he should have won an award for being able to reach that level of awfulness, but Trevor’s presence makes for a tough rewatch. —Schuster

42. “Chillaxing”

Season 4, Episode 3

In this Season 4 episode—a bit of a filler, if I’m being honest—everyone in Eleanor’s Good Place experiment is given the chance to throw a “lava stone” into a pit in order to receive “whatever your soul most desires.” Jason—who is playing as Jianyu in an ongoing effort to torture the memory-less Chidi—throws his stone almost immediately, and there it is: Jason’s old motorcycle, the one with Pamela Anderson airbrushed on the side. It exploded a week after he got it, you see, “because someone wanted to see what would happen if they poured lighter fluid in the engine.” (That someone was Jason.) Sometimes, when shows age, they begin to feel stale, not nearly as thrilling as they once were. But the best shows use the familiarity with characters that we’ve gained over the years as a source of new humor. Of course Jason briefly owned a motorcycle with Pamela Anderson airbrushed on the side. At this point in The Good Place’s run, it’s nice to be in on the joke. —Gruttadaro

41. “Best Self”

Season 2, Episode 10

The gang spends much of this episode attempting to board a hot air balloon that Michael claims will take them to the Good Place. Eventually, though, Michael admits that the technologically complex hot air balloon won’t even get them to the Good Place; he doesn’t know how to get there at all, and so the group is doomed.

Though adorned with various Good Place hallmarks—a texting, gum-smacking Bad Janet; a Michael monologue on the adorable idiocies of human existence, from perpetually lost car keys to corporate-branded stress balls one can never bring oneself to throw away; Jason’s assertion that for him, hell would be a Skrillex concert where the bass drop never comes—this episode belongs to a much bigger genre. It’s a “friends’ last hurrah before the bad thing happens” episode of TV, like a shorter, brighter version of Game of Thrones’ “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms.” Given this context, it’s extremely disappointing that there is absolutely no kissing. Alas, we must content ourselves with a middle school dance–style swaying waltz from the perpetually chemistry-less Chidi and Eleanor. It’s not how I’d spend my last night before going to hell, but OK. —Charlotte Goddu

40. “A Chip Driver Mystery”

Season 4, Episode 6

There’s something admirable about The Good Place introducing a character like Brent Norwalk in its final season. An entitled middle-aged white dude who’s probably watched every Clint Eastwood movie 20 times, is glued to the Golf Channel, and, let’s be honest, voted for Donald Trump, it’s hard to think of someone who’d fit in less on the series than Brent. (The fact that his name is Brent, though, is perfect.)

“A Chip Driver Mystery” skips ahead to six months into the experiment, and for all the strides John and Simone have made, Brent’s progress has amounted to … not always cheating at golf? Things get even worse when Brent shares a novel he wrote, Six Feet Under Par: A Chip Driver Mystery, which is [deep breath] a submarine-based, golf-centric political-thriller-whodunit in which the quarterback of the Chicago Bears, who is also the “world’s strongest president,” solves a murder by the 10th page. This James Patterson airport novel on steroids is rightfully panned, which only results in Brent being vitriolic to such an extent that Chidi—Chidi!—punches him in the face. Brent can be a tough character to spend time with, but his irredeemability adds an essential dimension to the series late in the game. If Eleanor and Co. are really going to devise a system that proves anyone can become a better person over time, someone like Brent is the ultimate litmus test. I’m not sure what it says about my ethical standing, however, that I really want to read Six Feet Under Par. —Miles Surrey

39. “Employee of the Bearimy”

Season 4, Episode 5

Here’s an episode about growth. Michael was once one of the Bad Place’s greatest demons; Jason once solved all his problems by throwing Molotov cocktails at them; Eleanor was once a trash bag who could barely manage her own life. By the middle of Season 4, though, Michael has become a benevolent being (or “like a nice, happy, weird, old dude,” according to Jason); Jason has become a person with restraint and actual wisdom; Eleanor has become fully capable, caring, and self-sufficient. And growth is what The Good Place is all about. (“Employee of the Bearimy” is also notable for being the episode that breaks the news of Nick Foles—and his broken clavicle—to Jason, which is important.). —Gruttadaro

38. “A Girl From Arizona (Part 1)”

Season 4, Episode 1

The most exciting moment of this episode may be when Eleanor takes a surprise punch to the face. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad episode, but like most of the show’s season openers, its purpose is to do a lot of table-setting. We open Season 4 with Eleanor in charge, Chidi with his memory erased, Michael recovering from a (fake) panic attack, and the group trying to figure out the four new humans they’ve been tasked with saving. Eventually it turns out that the dud of the group, a “Norwegian” “woman” named “Linda,” is actually a demon in disguise. Once that is discovered and Shawn is disciplined by the Judge, Chidi is inserted into the experiment and the real games begin. —Schuster

37. “What’s My Motivation”

Season 1, Episode 11

Still under the impression that she’s the sole sinner in the Good Place, Eleanor (or Fake Eleanor, as Michael is still calling her) embarks on some misguided attempts to up her point count and justify her presence in paradise. When door-holding and a cocktail party win her neither affection nor tangible goodness points, she realizes why: Doing good deeds to benefit oneself isn’t actually good, and the only way to be a good person is to act simultaneously moral and un-self-interested. Eleanor’s praxis is to apologize to the neighborhood’s residents and banish herself to the Bad Place, barring herself from the benefits of accruing goodness points even as she racks up more than a million of them. This philosophy—effective altruism, more or less—becomes the animating principle of Season 2 of The Good Place.

Of course, the episode isn’t all moral philosophy: We also get a lot of quality time with Jason. He’s recently married Janet—“She makes the bass drop in my heart,” he explains—but in addition to newlywed bliss we get a glimpse into his death, a burrito-joint robbery gone so awry that he ends up suffocating inside an unventilated safe after doing a bunch of whippets. As ever, the high-brow/low-brow mix of Peter Singer and nitrous oxide proves the recipe for a solid Good Place episode. —Goddu

36. “Help Is Other People”

Season 4, Episode 7

An average plot-moving episode that revolves around the gang making one last push to prove that the neighborhood’s new group can improve, “Help Is Other People” is uplifted by its best scene, in which Jason Mendoza gives an inspiring message through a rare, concise description of “the prevent defense.” Jason flexes his knowledge by saying, “Prevent defense just prevents you from winning.” It’s a delightful moment, seeing these characters grow and evolve while also staying within the confines of their archetypes. The rest of the episode slightly mirrors the Season 1 finale, as the new group realizes they’re in an experiment and Chidi delivers Eleanor’s “We’re in the Bad Place” line. But mostly, I’m just here for “prevent defense.” (Though, a special shout-out to Michael, who is attempting to perform human magic throughout the run of the episode. Let’s be honest: The Magnificent Dr. Presto should get his own Vegas residency.) —Sean Yoo

35. “The Book of Dougs”

Season 3, Episode 11

After three seasons of trying, the gang finally makes it to the Good Place. Well, sort of. Following a dive through a pneumatic tube, they’ve arrived at the Good Place’s correspondence center—an afterlife post office of sorts. Amid the chaos, Chidi attempts to bring Eleanor on a proper first date and they eventually have sex. Meanwhile, Michael realizes the Bad Place isn’t messing with the points system at all, but that the complexities of modern life have made it impossible to be good, no matter how hard one might try. One thing universally acknowledged as good: Chidi dressed as a mailman. —Shaker Samman

34. “... Someone Like Me As a Member”

Season 1, Episode 9

This episode is a masterful misdirection. The “real” Eleanor Shellstrop was introduced in the previous episode, and now the characters must deal with the fallout. The Bad Place wants “fake” Eleanor to come with them, but Michael wants to figure out a way to keep both Eleanors in the Good Place—because after all, one of them really does belong here and the other one has made real strides to become a good person. Such a conundrum!

Finally, Bad Place representative Trevor says that they’ll have to turn the case over to Shawn, the eternal judge of both the Good and Bad places. But before that can happen, Tahani walks in on Jason in his mediation room/bud hole, and realizes that he shouldn’t be in the Good Place either. It seems like this episode, Season 1’s midseason finale, is setting up plenty of plot threads to carry tension through the next half of the season. Only after the Season 1 finale do we figure out that virtually everything here is a ruse: Michael, “real” Eleanor, Trevor, and Shawn are all in on it together, and their psychological torture of the human characters is even more satisfying on a second go-round. —McAtee

33. “Everything Is Bonzer! (Part 1)”

Season 3, Episode 1

Season 3 starts off on a great note thanks in part to this above-average premiere, which revolves around Michael coming to Earth to prevent the deaths of our core four in the hope that they turn their lives around following this life-saving moment. Michael and Janet eventually realize that the key to making this work is bringing them all to Australia to learn from Chidi. Janet also gives calling Michael “dad” a shot; it’s weird, forget it even happened. —Yoo

32. “The Ballad of Donkey Doug”

Season 3, Episode 6

With how often Jacksonville, Florida, has become a Good Place punch line, we would’ve needed to dock a ton of Good Place points if the show never let us see the swampy hellscape for ourselves. Blessedly, “The Ballad of Donkey Doug” delivers a bonkers paean to Jacksonville.

Featuring Randy “Macho Man” Savage Non-International Airport, monster truck taxis, and dudes passed out in swimming pools, The Good Place’s Jacksonville is an appropriate backdrop for a nearly impossible task. Jason wants to make sure his homies Pillboi and Donkey Doug (who also happens to be his father), aren’t doomed for an eternity of torture in the Bad Place—which only sounds slightly worse than living in Florida. Alas, only Pillboi is salvageable, as Donkey Doug gets arrested for trying to steal from a Red Bull factory to support Double Trouble, his new business venture—an energy drink that is also a body spray. “The Ballad of Donkey Doug” is endearingly absurd, and exactly what I expected from the series’ interpretation of Florida. All that was missing was a cameo from the God of Jacksonville himself, Blake Bortles. —Surrey

31. “Team Cockroach”

Season 2, Episode 4

After the first few deliriously fun episodes of Season 2, The Good Place moved into the dynamic that would last for the rest of its run. In a bottle episode that takes place almost entirely in Eleanor’s creepy clown house, the gang agrees to team up with Michael to try to defy the rest of the Bad Place minions and, eventually, sneak into the Good Place. “Team Cockroach” transitions the plot to a new phase, as well as delights with its usual restaurant puns (A Little Bit Chowder Now, Pump Up the Clam) and character backstories (the method of Tahani’s death) and perfect one-liners (“Oh no, I died ... in Cleveland?!”). —Kram

30. “Don’t Let the Good Life Pass You By”

Season 3, Episode 9

Meet the real-life Doug Forcett, who guessed how the afterlife worked during a 1972 mushroom trip and has spent his entire pitiful existence since then groveling for Good Place points: eating only radishes and lentils, adopting wolves, submitting to cruel treatment from a teenage sociopath, burying snails he accidentally squashes, and, oh yes, recycling his own urine as his drinking water. As played by Michael McKean, he’s a delight, and also a legitimately disturbing manifestation of a human paralyzed by the desire to get into heaven. “Doug is a complete disaster,” is how Michael sums all this up. “And I drank his piss!”

Also, this is the episode where Janet gets into a lengthy and extremely rad demon barfight while Eleanor confesses to Chidi that they used to be in love, and also, “There’s a real possibility that I’m in love with you again. Here. On this plane of existence. Today. Now. In Canada. During this brawl. With demons.” There is, in short, a whole hell of a lot going on here, philosophically and otherwise, and little of it makes sense, and all of it rules. —Rob Harvilla

29. “The Funeral to End All Funerals”

Season 4, Episode 8

In one of the more delightfully charming episodes of the series, three of our core four (Chidi is asleep until the results come in) hold pretend funerals for each other. Each memorial service is perfectly apt for our characters: Tahani chooses the cabin of a private jet, Jason is in the deep end of a pool while covered head to toe in Jaguars merch, and Eleanor picks a bar in a house she wasn’t invited to. The eulogies are hilarious and emotionally touching, and highlight what makes this show so special. While a host of plot-propelling events occur in the second half of the episode, it’s these quieter moments that stand out. Statham forever. Amen. —Yoo

28. “Everything Is Bonzer! (Part 2)”

Season 3, Episode 2

The second part of the Season 3 premiere has plenty of highlights: Michael’s alter egos of Gordon Indigo, Zach Pizazz, and Charles Brainman; a near-perfect Vice spoof in the form of a bro-y guy making a documentary called “Earth’s F’ed;” a ton of Jason Mendoza–related comedy (“Claustrophobic? Who would be scared of Santa Clau—Ohhh, the Jewish”). But one of the best parts of The Good Place is its “screenshot humor,” a detail-oriented form of comedy championed for years by Schur, in which taking a screenshot of certain scenes reveals minute jokes that have been tucked into the show, unseeable but for close examination. Screenshot humor is a testament to a show’s devotion to packing as many jokes as possible into every frame—and as evinced in “Everything Is Bonzer (Part 2),” The Good Place is extremely devoted. There’s this:

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And also this, a quick glance at Tahani’s contacts:

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Incredible stuff. —Gruttadaro

27. “Derek”

Season 2, Episode 8

The Good Place brain trust has done an excellent job of casting its supporting roles, and in “Derek,” the titular character—who’s created by Janet in her void as a “rebound” because she’s still hung up on Jason hooking up with Tahani—is elevated by the chaotic energy of Jason Mantzoukas. Playing Derek, the comedian is essentially Rafi from The League undergoing an existential crisis. He’s been created to be a human-like companion for someone who, as Janet has often reminded us, isn’t human. As a result, Derek is a complete mess: glitchy, incoherent, and apparently with wind chimes where his penis should be (it’s not what you want). The Derek dilemma becomes another important test for our non-human leads, Janet and Michael, who must reckon with the very human feeling of heartbreak and the ethics of pulling the plug on someone. “Derek” is a tragicomic reminder that self-improvement isn’t exclusive to our four humans—the show’s lessons can be imparted to any type of being. Except, maybe, malfunctioning boyfriends with wind chime penises. —Surrey

26. “Chidi Sees the Time-Knife”

Season 3, Episode 12

The fugitives arrange a rendezvous with the Judge in the IHOP (the Interdimensional Hole of Pancakes; “If you eat anything in this IHOP you will literally explode,” Michael says. “Yeah, I know, it’s IHOP,” Jason responds) to lay out their arguments about why the current points system is broken. She’s not buying it: “Your big revelation is that life is complicated? That’s not a revelation. That’s a divorced woman’s throw pillow.” Stumped, Michael starts to floss. Then Jason tells a story that convinces the Judge to visit Earth, where she realizes they’re right about life’s complications. She summons Shawn, who is annoyed to have been taken away from “torturing William Shakespeare by describing the plot of the Entourage movie,” and the sides hash out a plan: Repeat Michael’s original experiment to prove whether or not humans can get better in the afterlife. Just as the experiment is set to begin, however, Eleanor is thrown another curveball when Danson’s increasingly-more-human demon has a nervous breakdown. —Jack McCluskey

25. “What We Owe to Each Other”

Season 1, Episode 6

“I’ve come to really like frozen yogurt,” Michael tells Eleanor as they take a froyo-karaoke-bowling-etc. break from trying to figure out what’s causing all the havoc in the neighborhood, the cause being, of course, Eleanor. “There’s something so human about taking something great and ruining it a little so you can have more of it.” That Top-Five All-Series line punctuates early-days hallmarks both tiresome (an Eleanor-on-Earth flashback to the time she abandoned a friend’s dog to go see Rihanna in Vegas) and surprisingly delightful. The “Jason pretends to be Jianyu, who is Tahani’s soulmate” subplot should’ve gone on for years.

Tahani: “Jianyu, darling, let’s discuss the arts. I adore the Impressionists. Who’s your favorite artist?”

Jason: “I mean, Pitbull changed the game.”

Then again, maybe any more of it would’ve ruined it. —Harvilla

24. “The Burrito”

Season 2, Episode 12

Let’s start here: The most powerful being in the universe is not a burrito. But for a split second, our heroes think it might be. In reality, the consumer of the foodstuff, Judge Gen, is. Played perfectly by Maya Rudolph—oft mistaken for the picture of God—the Judge agrees to hear the four humans’ cases. At their own request, they’ll be judged as a unit, not individuals, and each of them is given tests to determine their growth as people. Eleanor passes her test, but she’s the only one, as Jason is consumed by Madden, Chidi is unable to overcome his indecisiveness, and Tahani sidetracks to confront her kin. Just as the group is about to meet their fate, though, Michael and Janet appear. —Samman

23. “Most Improved Player”

Season 1, Episode 8

With Eleanor’s admission to the Good Place seemingly unmasked as a mistake, Michael examines her behavior on Earth and finds it wanting (two words: Dress Bitch). Although Eleanor admits that she “kind of sucked,” she argues that she was only bad in “like, a fun, chill way.” That defense doesn’t work, and Eleanor is sentenced to eternal torture, setting up a surprisingly fond farewell with her friends. (Even Tahani acknowledges that she feels a “casual kinship” with Eleanor, “much as one might be fond of a street cat.”) But after Chidi intercedes on Eleanor’s behalf, Michael frees her from the train to the Bad Place, extending her stay. “Most Improved Player” marks the arrival of Vicky, as well as the first appearance of Adam Scott’s Step Brothers–esque torturer, Trevor, who greets his target with the withering line, “Hi, you look like a piece of crap. Are you Eleanor?” This episode also stands out for mistakenly treating a fondness for The Bachelor as a bad thing, perhaps the first sign that the afterlife’s points system is seriously screwed up. —Ben Lindbergh

22. “Leap to Faith”

Season 2, Episode 9

Michael’s fake roast of the four humans is a little clunky, but this midseason premiere sets the show up for a strong Season 2 stretch run. Eleanor realizes that Michael’s quoting of Kierkegaard is a hint to take a “leap into faith,” and, crucially—she believes in him. It’s a touching moment when she defends him to the group. She also picks up on the set of clues Michael left in his roast as well. The humans are able to escape Shawn’s clutches by hiding under a train and tricking him into thinking they headed to the Medium Place. And when they reunite with Michael after, the race is on to figure out how the entire crew can escape the Bad Place and make it to the actual Good Place. In some ways, this episode is already setting up Season 3. —McAtee

21. “Everything Is Fine”

Season 1, Episode 1

Eleanor wakes up to learn that she has died—in hilarious fashion, getting hit by a column of shopping carts and pushed into traffic, where she’s struck by a mobile billboard truck bearing an erectile-dysfunction ad—and been wrongly admitted to the Good Place. Indulging her worst impulses at Tahani’s welcome party by talking trash about everyone, drinking heavily, and stuffing her bra with shrimp, Eleanor unleashes chaos on the supposed utopia the next day as giant shrimp fly through the sky and giraffes run amok. Determined not to be found out, she enlists her new friend and supposed soulmate Chidi, a professor of ethics and moral philosophy, to help her become worthy of the mistake that landed her here—or at least avoid detection and subsequent ejection to the Bad Place. —McCluskey

20. “Everything Is Great! (Part 1)”

Season 2, Episode 1

So it’s the dawn of Season 2, and that shocking They’re Really In The Bad Place plot twist is still reverberating, and Michael is, for a brief moment, a straightforwardly evil demon who says things like “Fire up the old penis-flattener” with unironic gusto. Eleanor and Chidi are rebooted as their selfish and paralyzingly indecisive selves, respectively, and now we know that everything and everyone around them is designed to torture them.

The Good Place, as it would prove from this moment forward, loves a good meta reboot, and while this stretch isn’t the show’s funniest by a long shot, this episode does immediately establish that brain wipes and convoluted plot machinations be damned, our four heroes will always find each other—and the show’s steady heartbeat—again. Just trust me that Chidi’s delivery of the line “You look … fine” is this disorienting episode’s highlight, and trust the show that it’s all gonna work out OK. —Harvilla

19. “Jeremy Bearimy”

Season 3, Episode 5

This episode takes its title from Michael’s explanation for how time works in the afterlife—a nonlinear, looping, swooping sequence of events in which things sometimes happen before things that happened before them, a nonsensical and impossible-to-explain absurdity called out in the writers’ room and then steered directly into, to great comedic effect. That effect: Breaking Chidi’s brain, and sending him on an elliptical path to making the eternally cursed Peeps Chili.

It also offers something beyond the indelible image of William Jackson Harper, draped in a pink T-shirt aimed at impulse-buying moms, entreating his philosophy students to “dip [their] paws in my chili [and] scoop [their] little mittens right in the stew.” (Which is not to say that it needs to provide something beyond that image.) By episode’s end, our six main characters have all made peace with the inescapable reality of being damned for all eternity, and decided to forge on with doing good deeds anyway.

“I mean, why not try?” Eleanor asks. “It’s better than not trying, right?” As mission statements go, it’s not quite “Who, What, When, Where … Wine!” but it ain’t half bad. —Devine

18. “Patty”

Season 4, Episode 12

The Good Place, in a nutshell, slaps. The problem is it slaps it a little too hard, and for a little too long. The Good Place has always been a show with big ideas, and “Patty” is proof that it could still have big ideas late in the game. The concept that heaven—along with its never-ending supply of “energy you had when you were 12” and “full understanding of the meaning of Twin Peaks”—would eventually turn a person into a happy-drunk zombie is profound, though it says even more about our existence on Earth than the afterlife. Joy is only possible because of misery, happiness is only possible because of sadness, and all true emotion can only ever exist within a finite existence. We should therefore cherish our time on this blue marble, for everything it provides. For a man who once wished that the movie Limitless was just two hours of Bradley Cooper doing limitless stuff, this was a very eye-opening episode. —Gruttadaro

17. “Jason Mendoza”

Season 1, Episode 4

Do you guys wanna see my bud hole? Aside from “Bortles!” no sentence quite captures the essence of this episode’s titular character. Jacksonville’s own is actually an aspiring DJ, not a Buddhist monk sworn to silence. And like Eleanor, he’s freaking out. Every group needs a dummy, and there is no one dafter than Jason. Either thanks to his guilt at living a lie, or his inability to process that the truth could be his downfall, he nearly blows his cover a handful of times, most notably when requesting some jalapeño poppers. “Jason Mendoza” doesn’t reveal much about the world our main characters are inhabiting, but it does introduce the true nature of a fan favorite. Duval County forever. —Samman

16. “Existential Crisis”

Season 2, Episode 5

The existential crisis is Michael’s, who has been encouraged, by Chidi, to contemplate his own death, which quickly leads to a less dignified midlife crisis that involves a sports car, a white suit, a lobotomized Janet, lots of Drakkar Noir, a new tattoo (“It’s Chinese for Japan”), and a great many “birth is a curse, and existence is a prison” screenshots. Eleanor, recalling the time she cried into a toilet plunger at Bed Bath & Beyond after encountering a family-sized toothbrush holder, eventually talks him down. (It’s the show’s best Eleanor flashback.) Meanwhile, Jason cheers up Tahani (she threw a party and nobody came) by approvingly ranking her according to the five-category system used by his 60-person Jacksonville dance crew: “dancing ability, coolness, dopeness, freshness, and smart-brained.” Then they have sex, and now the existential crisis is the internet’s. —Harvilla

15. “Rhonda, Diana, Jake, and Trent”

Season 2, Episode 11

Though this episode doesn’t do much in the way of plot advancement, it’s centered on one of the things The Good Place does best: making fun of humans. On their way to see the Judge, the gang stops over in the Bad Place where they’re forced to behave like demons—and spend an evening in the Museum of Human Misery. That museum highlights such human trailblazers as the first person to floss in an open-plan office, the first white person to wear dreadlocks, and the first man to send an unsolicited picture of his genitals. True winners all around. The four humans face various challenges throughout the evening—Chidi wonders whether it’s morally OK for him to lie and pretend he’s a demon; Jason tries to hold back his impulse to toss Molotov cocktails everywhere—but the episode really seems to exist just to get some jokes off. Which, in a show as dense and philosophically challenging as The Good Place, is more than OK. —Schuster

14. “Chidi’s Choice”

Season 1, Episode 10

Early on in The Good Place’s run, it felt as if each character was given an episode of backstory. Jason, Tahani, and Eleanor all had their histories explained through flashback, and this chapter was Chidi’s turn. The good-natured, kind, brilliant philosophy scholar seemed an odd fit for the Bad Place, and it’s only in this episode that we learn why he’s been eternally damned. Chidi’s indecisiveness in life drove his friends and family to the brink, and caused his own death when he was crushed by an air conditioner after being unable to move for 30 minutes, paralyzed by the inability to pick a bar to patronize. That same indecisiveness haunts him in the afterlife, too, when he must choose between Eleanor and Tahani. —Samman

13. “Janet and Michael”

Season 2, Episode 7

With the neighborhood in danger of total collapse caused by Janet’s glitching, Michael consults his omnipotent assistant’s user manual to search for a solution to the earthquakes. Extensive troubleshooting reveals the reason for her aberrant behavior: It’s not because she tried to eat frozen yogurt, or even because Michael has repeatedly lied to her—it’s because she has the hots for Jason, and she’s lying to herself about it. Janet determines that Michael must marbleize her and start fresh with a non-repeatedly-rebooted Janet who hasn’t learned to love, but Michael can’t do it. He has an epiphany of his own: Janet is his oldest, truest, and most loyal friend, which stops him from pressing the paper clip into the hole behind her ear. It’s a prime example of a Good Place staple: formerly flawed characters forming attachments to others and discovering hidden depths in themselves. —Lindbergh

12. “Somewhere Else”

Season 2, Episode 13

Whew. Here’s a heavy one. The Season 2 finale contemplates everything from the afterlife to moral desserts to utilitarianism to modern Earth potentially being an environment within which ethical behavior is literally impossible. How’s that for a network sitcom?!

What’s amazing is to see all of this in action—to not only see a show tackle such topics, but to see it reconfigure itself in the process. The end of Season 2 doesn’t match the game-changing twist of the Season 1 finale, but by putting Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani, and Jason back on Earth (in order to see whether they improve in their natural environment), it wipes the slate clean all the same. It’s incredibly smart writing, and as Michael satisfyingly says “Here we go” while the earthbound Eleanor takes the initiative to fly to Australia to see Chidi, the audience is hanging on to the side of a cliff, desperate to see what happens next. Also in this episode, Chidi finally kisses Eleanor. And then she says “hot diggity dog.” —Gruttadaro

11. “Dance Dance Resolution”

Season 2, Episode 3

The jig is up, though the experiment is far from over. Every time Michael reboots the four humans, Eleanor finds a way to discover the truth about where they are and why. While it’s Michael who set out to do the torturing, the resilience and adaptability of his human subjects proves to be torturous to him as he becomes increasingly worried that Shawn will find out the truth. At one point, Ted Danson’s normally immaculately groomed character grows a beard and sports a paunch, explaining between sips of bourbon that he’s “stress eating and gaining weight in my thighs.” When everyone’s favorite Blake Bortles fan ends one experiment, Michael can’t help but feel sorry for himself: “Jason figured it out? Jason. This is a low point. Yeah, this one hurts.” And after Vicky attempts to blackmail him and take control, Michael decides to switch sides. If humans can better themselves, might an immortal demon be able to as well? —McCluskey

10. “The Eternal Shriek”

Season 1, Episode 7

“My soul will be disintegrated, and each molecule will be placed on the surface of a different burning sun. And then my essence will be scooped out of my body with a flaming ladle and poured over hot diamonds.”

That’s what’s (supposedly) at stake for Michael as he admits failure in his neighborhood to the core four: infinite torture. Hearing this, Tahani does what she’s wont to do, and attempts to show him how much he’s valued. Eleanor, meanwhile, tries to convince Chidi they need to kill Janet in hopes of saving both Michael and herself. In the end, Eleanor finally confesses that she doesn’t belong, setting in motion what the rest of the season, and in turn the show, would become. —Samman

9. “Everything Is Great! (Part 2)”

Season 2, Episode 2

I’m a sucker for time jumps, varied perspectives, and situations where the audience knows more than the characters. The second half of the Season 2 premiere double-header has all of that and so much more. There is no wasted space in this episode. Eleanor reconnects with Chidi, sharing the note she’d written to herself. Tahani gives the drunken speech Eleanor was supposed to give. Jason ditches his “Jianyu” cover in dramatic fashion. And by the end of it, Eleanor has figured out that the crew is actually in the Bad Place, again.

This is when The Good Place is truly ripping through plot at an astronomical rate. After wiping the memories of Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani, and Jason, the show could have slowly brought them together again during the run of an entire season. Instead, they did it in less than an hour, and by the end, the show shattered audience expectations and established an air of uncertainty that makes Season 2 the show’s strongest. —McAtee

8. “Tinker, Tailor, Demon, Spy”

Season 4, Episode 4

Midway through the “fix new humans” adventures of Season 4 arrives a good old-fashioned mystery, straight out of The Twilight Zone: Someone in this room is lying, and the heroes have to figure out who. It’s a charming romp, with twist after turn after twist after turn, and surprisingly emotional stakes as Eleanor and Michael confront their trust for one another. In the ultimate twist, Jason plays Sherlock Holmes, drawing on his relationship with Janet to uncover the experiment’s secret saboteur. We also learn the stages of demon growth: “larva, slug monster, spooky little girl, teenage boy, giant ball of tongues, social media CEO, and then finally demon.” —Kram

7. “Tahani Al-Jamil”

Season 1, Episode 3

Of course there would be even more profound reveals in the first season of The Good Place, but the reveal that Jianyu is actually Jason at the end of “Tahani Al-Jamil” is a truly beautiful moment of storytelling. With that tiny drop of information, the entire world of The Good Place bursts open.

But beyond that, this installment is also simply one of the straight-up funniest episodes the show has to offer. That’s in large part due to an ace performance by D’Arcy Carden as Janet cycles through personalities, from joke teller (she just says “hump day” a lot) to trivia resource (“Fun fact: Christopher Columbus is in the Bad Place because of all the raping, slave trade, and genocide!”) to overt sexual being (this one, and Chidi’s reaction to it, is my favorite) to nihilistic teen to wellness freak (“Turns out that the best Janet was the Janet living inside Janet all along”). It’s a tour de force. —Gruttadaro

6. “Pandemonium”

Season 3, Episode 13

Season 3’s finale remixes the show’s formula. There’s still an experiment going on, still a neighborhood masquerading as heaven, still a mastermind pulling all the strings. But by putting Eleanor in charge for a panic-attack-stricken Michael, changing the point of the experiment from “finding a better way to torture humans” to “finding a way to make tortured humans better,” and changing the stakes from “the fate of the souls of four humans” to “the fate of the souls of all humans,” Schur and Co. manage to make what’s old new and exciting again—a bit of architecture as advanced as anything Michael’s been able to put together. (The writers deserve the praise Jason offers Eleanor early in the episode: “You’re like the Blake Bortles of whatever’s going on right now.”)

It can be hard to get through some days under even optimal circumstances, let alone when you’re tasked with pretending to be a godlike being and deleting your boyfriend’s memories for the sake of the continuation of the entire human race. Faced with the need to identify a reason to keep going forward, Eleanor seizes on something Janet tells her, thinks back to the time erstwhile boyfriend Chidi tricked her into reading Paradise Lost, and chooses her course: “I guess all I can do is embrace the pandemonium. Find happiness in the unique insanity of being here, now.” —Devine

5. “The Trolley Problem”

Season 2, Episode 6

It was only a matter of time before television’s preeminent (uh, only?) philosophy show tackled the trolley problem. If you didn’t have to deal with the trolley problem in a classroom—congrats to you—the ethical dilemma is choosing whether to allow a runaway trolley to hit five people, or divert the track so it hits only one person. (Choosing to divert the track is a textbook example of utilitarianism.) But rather than provide a solution to an intentionally tricky conundrum, “The Trolley Problem” makes the stakes literal. Michael has poor, perpetually indecisive Chidi act out the trolley problem in real time through a horrifyingly realistic simulation, complete with blood and guts spewing all over the dude’s face. Michael resets the trolley problem enough times that one iteration has Chidi choose between five William Shakespeares and one Santa Claus. (He saved Santa, BTW.) It’s hilariously macabre, but the real heart of the episode is Chidi realizing that Michael is messing with him to mask his own insecurities at failing to understand how to be a better perso—er, immortal demon-being. A theoretical scenario like the trolley problem is perhaps most useful when it’s in service of someone actually improving themselves, and in a roundabout way, “The Trolley Problem” reaches that destination—without having to run over any more people. —Surrey

4. “Mindy St. Claire”

Season 1, Episode 12

The penultimate episode of Season 1—the one immediately before the big twist—is rich in Good Place lore. It’s the one where we watch Eleanor’s undistinguished death by shopping cart. It’s the one where we’re introduced to Doug and Donna Shellstrop, the apathetic parents who helped mold Eleanor into the type of person who would one day die that way. It’s the one where we meet Mindy St. Claire, sole inhabitant of the Medium Place, the land of unsalted pretzels. (Side note: Judging by subsequent revelations, Mindy must have been the only human in hundreds of years to avoid the Bad Place.) It’s the one where Eleanor forsakes the relative comfort of eternal mediocrity to rescue her friends, a decision that, we later learn, the main characters would make many more times. It’s also the one where we hear how Tahani pictures life in the Bad Place: “Being forced to wear a knockoff handbag and drink tap water.” —Lindbergh

3. “Janet(s)”

Season 3, Episode 10

D’Arcy Carden’s Janet takes center stage as our (not-a)girl protects the humans from the Judge and the Bad Place’s minions by bringing them into her void … where they all take on her form. While the human Janets—identifiable only by their outfits and Carden’s eerily accurate impressions—cool their heels outside of space and time and debate the philosophy of Eleanor and Chidi’s 300-plus-year-old relationship, Michael and Janet attempt to crack the code that’s damning all of humanity to the Bad Place by visiting the accounting department, where all the actions of every being on Earth are tracked and tabulated to determine eternal damnation or salvation. But let’s be honest, the draw here is Carden, who deserved an Emmy for this episode. —McCluskey

2. “The Answer”

Season 4, Episode 9

If there’s a potentially fatal flaw to The Good Place—the show, not the actual Good Place, which has several—it’s how the Eleanor-Chidi relationship doesn’t always feel authentic so much as it’s become necessary for the plot. Through the characters’ myriad memory wipes and reboots, the series has mostly told, rather than shown, us how these two keep finding and falling for one another.

But “The Answer” is a masterful corrective—not just for Eleanor and Chidi, but for what The Good Place has itself been building toward. When Chidi gets all his memories restored in a desperate attempt to stop the Judge from wiping out human existence, we see through flashbacks how ethical decision-making—and the indecisiveness that comes from trying to find the perfect solution to every problem—has been baked into his DNA ever since he made a presentation for his parents about why they shouldn’t get divorced. What Chidi failed to realize was the act itself spurred his parents to stay together, not the moral philosophy word salad the dorky child scribbled on a board. Love, for all its ambiguity, is the key to humanity; like a fingerprint, it’s unique to every person. After hundreds of reboots always led them back to each other, Chidi finally makes up his mind: Love is Eleanor, and Eleanor is the answer. Fork, does anyone have a box of tissues? —Surrey

1. “Michael’s Gambit”

Season 1, Episode 13

“THIS is the Bad Place!”

A brilliant twist from Mike Schur; a wide-eyed, expressive delivery from Kristen Bell; an evil chuckle in response from Ted Danson, America’s goofy uncle turned unexpected, shocking heel. Such are the core components of The Good Place’s true beginning, an episode that does in the season finale what most series get out of the way in their pilot: explaining what this show is actually about, and showing what it can accomplish.

That an idiosyncratic version of heaven is actually a deceptively Technicolor version of hell does more than ward off the more saccharine instincts of a show about decency. It also expands the possibility of the network sitcom, typically more of a modular delivery system for jokes than a serialized exploration of larger themes. It also aired in January 2017, mere months after millions of Americans experienced their own revelation that they, too, might be living in a darker world than they thought. “Michael’s Gambit” brings The Good Place out of the ethereal and into the zeitgeist. Three full seasons later, it remains the series’ peak. —Herman

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