A review of tonight’s The Good Place coming up just as soon as I call right nipple on Optimus Prime…
While it seems foolish to predict anything about what The Good Place will do at this point, “Best Self” had the feeling of an end of an era for the show, as Michael, Janet, and the four idiots take a train from the fake Good Place to the real, overt Bad Place, with the episode closing on a CGI shot of the neighborhood collapsing into the void once there are no longer any humans who need to be tricked living there.
It’s entirely possible Michael could reopen the place at some point, if only for practical extra-textual reasons (TV shows don’t generally like to abandon expensive sets and easy-to-use locations if they can help it), but even before we see the neighborhood slip away, much of “Best Self” is about saying goodbye to the joint, and to this phase of the story. Michael trying to scam Shaun and Vicky and the other demons was only going to be sustainable for so long, and before we go on to the next thing — the humans trying to slip through the Bad Place to get to the portal where the judge might hear their appeal to be let into the Good Place — it’s first an extended celebration of the unlikely bonds between these six, and of the centuries they’ve spent together in this neighborhood.
To that end, we get something of an extended homage to the famous I Love Lucy episode where she can’t cross the Italy/France border because she doesn’t have her passport handy, as Michael convinces the gang that they can each board a gold-plated hot air balloon that will carry them to the Good Place, provided they are each the best version of themselves at that moment. At first Chidi can’t get on board, and then once Eleanor is able to convince him he’s good enough to deserve passage — with help from Michael, who remembers all the reboots in a way they don’t — she’s suddenly the one getting the red light.
It turns out Michael is again tricking them — not out of malice this time(*), but desperation, because he doesn’t know of a way to get his friends to where he’s promised they can go.