Eagle-eyed The Good Place fans noticed a few Easter Eggs in the season two finale that theoretically put that show in the same fictional universe with Park and Recreation, with which it shares several writers, most notably creator Mike Schur.
When I tweeted about this yesterday, I got a very interesting question in response:
My initial reaction was to say that Leslie Knope would, of course, make it into The Good Place, and that Chris Traeger might. But then various fans started arguing for or against different characters, so I decided to break it down, regular by regular, considering all their behavior throughout the series, including the decade-spanning series finale, followed at the end of the article by comments from Schur himself, who created all these people, as well as the rules for The Good Place:
Good Place argument: She’s one of the most pure-hearted, selfless, compassionate characters in the history of television. Would do anything for the people she cares about, and would even go the extra mile for people she hates (like the people of Eagleton, or even Jeremy Jamm). Accomplished miracles both great (saving the economies of multiple towns, creating a new national park) and small (getting Ron to be her friend). Ideally, the kind of person the points system was designed to reward.
Bad Place argument: The finale implies that she’s the President of the United States a few decades into the future (or else First Lady to Ben), and only one POTUS has ever gotten into The Good Place, thanks to all the moral compromises required to do the job. Was frequently mean to Garry. Could also be kind of terrifying to be friends when it came to gift-buying time, and her motives were occasionally suspect even when she was doing good things.
Verdict: She’s in. If Leslie did become POTUS, she somehow was able to do it without forsaking her beliefs. Also, the very first thing she would do upon admission to The Good Place would be petitioning to have the rules become much less strict, so that all her friends could be there, too. Because as it stands now…
Good Place argument: Fundamentally decent, self-sufficient, would also go the extra mile for the people he cared about. Never did any of the many douchey things we see as signifiers of Bad Place behavior. Worked with his hands, built things from scratch, lived off the land.
Bad Place argument: A bit too much of a loner. Most of his biggest professional accomplishments were the result of Leslie’s efforts. Couldn’t resist falling for awful women named Tammy.
Verdict: Probably out. Again, the bar is absurdly, unfairly high, and while Ron’s motivations were mostly impeccable, I don’t feel like his actions get him close to admittance.
Good Place argument: The perfect partner for Leslie, and thus deserving of at least partial credit for her greatness. A great guy who devoted his life to public service, and was willing to publicly admit to liking Garry.
Bad Place argument: If Leslie wasn’t POTUS, he was, and he seems less likely to have remained utterly pure in the job. A bit indecisive and neurotic. Loves calzones, doesn’t love Lil Sebastian.
Verdict: He’s the closest thing Parks had to a Chidi. I don’t think he makes it, much to Leslie’s dismay.
Good Place argument: Spends her entire adult life in public service, including a long career helping other people achieve their own professional dreams. A good friend, good wife, good mother.
Bad Place argument: She would probably much rather go here. Also, really tormented Ann, Garry, and others.
Verdict: She’d not only go directly to The Bad Place, she’d be running it within a week, with Orrin as her number two.
Good Place argument: Sweet guy without any real malice in his heart. Spent a lot of time helping Ben funnel money to deserving charities, made lots of kids happy in his role as Johnny Karate. Good friend, husband, and eventually father.
Bad Place argument: Was pretty terrible for the first three decades of his life, until Leslie’s goodness encouraged him to become a better person. Mean to Garry, and especially to Kyle.
Verdict: Andy grew enormously over the run of the show, but he racked up a lot of negative points from before we met him through the end of the first season, and I don’t think he did enough after to overcome that rough start. He’s out.
Good Place argument: Nurse and public health official, good friend to Leslie, kind and compassionate, even got April to like her by the end.
Bad Place argument: Dated Andy. Dated Brendanawicz. Dated the Douche. Dated lots of awful guys. Did she accomplish enough to qualify?
Verdict: That last question ruins her chances, I think. We’re told Good Place admission is for “the cream of the crop,” and letting Ann in opens the floodgates to a large chunk of the world’s medical professionals. She should be, but she won’t.
Good Place argument: Learned to use his hustler powers for good instead of evil over time, becoming a valuable ally to Leslie and others. Married well with Lucy, built a book empire that inspired many. Great wardrobe. Created DJ Roomba.
Bad Place argument: Went into business with Jean-Ralphio. Dated Mona Lisa. Dated Tammy 2. Calls forks “food rakes.” Invented Snake Juice. Mean to Garry.
Verdict: His affiliation with the Saperstein siblings alone is probably too much to overcome, on top of the fact that he’s innately selfish, even if Leslie and others were able to bring out better qualities in him. He’s out.
Good Place argument: Devoted her later years to raising and donating money for school-related charities. A good friend to those who gained her trust. Kind to Garry.
Bad Place argument: Like Ron, deeply private. Like Tom, spent much of her life preferring to treat herself over treating others.
Verdict: Could be a Mindy St. Clair-type situation on a smaller scale: her sins weren’t that grand, but nor were her charitable works quite enough on their own to get her in. Unfortunately, likely gets Bad Placed with most of the others.
Good Place argument: Fundamentally kind husband, father, and friend. Beloved mayor who served Pawnee for decades. Endured his colleagues’ many barbs with humility and grace. Gifted artist.
Bad Place argument: Mayor of Pawnee is largely a ceremonial job. Said “murinal” that one time. Had a fart attack.
Verdict: I feel like Garry would have the fewest negative points of any regular on the show. Did he accomplish enough to get in? I say why not? He was always dreaming of a long and glorious retirement with Gail; maybe that happens in the afterlife instead.
Good Place argument: Perhaps even more superhumanly energetic than Leslie. Relentlessly positive, which tended to bring out positivity in others (even, occasionally, April). His body was like a microchip, and he aspired be the first human to live to 150, which would give him plenty of time to rack up points.
Bad Place argument: What did he do, exactly? Ben did most of the work in their state budget partnership. Seemed to be a solid city manager, but his accomplishments were quickly eclipsed by Ben’s. Left the government to be a university administrator, which is noble but also not inherently Good Place-y. Played an unfortunately large role in expansion of the use of “literally” to mean the opposite of “literally.” Didn’t stop pooping when he told himself to.
Verdict: As mentioned above, my initial impulse was to suggest that Chris had the best chance after Leslie. I’m not so sure now. Great intentions, but were his accomplishments enough? Also, I can see the “literally” issue being the kind of thing that would consistently eat away at whatever positive points he accumulated.
Good Place argument: Ran the Parks department well after Ron retired. Innately a good guy, despite his abrasive presentation.
Bad Place argument: Very difficult to be around a lot of the time.
Verdict: Nah. But his yelling can be someone else’s Bad Place punishment.
Good Place argument: Who was he again?
Bad Place argument: Who was he again?
Verdict: So unmemorable, Ann didn’t even have a Bad Ex-Boyfriend box for him that one time she made boxes for all of them. He’d wind up in The Bad Place, but mostly spend an eternity being ignored.
Finally, I asked Schur what he thought. He responded:
Leslie is first-ballot. Garry is probable, based on the fact that his only real mistakes were well-intentioned clumsiness. Everyone else is under consideration, but to varying degrees have dicey prospects.
And Jamm. Jamm gets in no problem.
So there you have it: a system for eternal reward or damnation so stringent, it might accept maybe only two characters out of one of the kindest and most generous collections of fictional characters ever put on television. That’s rough.
What does everybody else think? Who’s in, and who’s out?