An Arizona dirtbag. A human turtleneck. A narcissistic monster. And literally the dumbest person you will ever meet. These are the heroes of TV’s great comedy, The Good Place. It’s a show about the meaning of life, the adventure awaiting in the afterlife, the power of a chic bow-tie, Blake Bortles, and the very real need we all have for a human starter kit right now.
Maybe you’ve never seen it, to which we say, “What the fork have you been doing with your life, shirt for brains?” Or maybe, in this time of isolation and uncertainty, you’re thinking of a re-watch. Either way, this ranking, as with every ranking you’ll come across on this weird, troll-infested, adult playground that we call the internet, is just a mixture of personal taste and professional criticism. Every episode of The Good Place is, in fact, good. These are just our picks for the best.
10. “Whenever You’re Ready” (Season 4, Episodes 13 & 14)
The Story: The series finale asks an impossible question: Would you want more if you had perfection? The answer for some of our Soul Squad is yes, and this episode imagines a way out of The Good Place that’s both hella inspiring and terribly sad. Like being too young to die but too old to eat of the kid’s menu, sad.
Why It’s On This List:
Maybe you expected the series’ finale to be on every Top 10 list because, by nature, it’s the episode that wraps up this wonderfully chaotic philosophical circus, but it’s important we recognize just how damn good of a job the show did by ending things by exploring the ending of things. Everyone’s blissfully happy in The Good Place, but after decades of contentment, the realization that, without an “end,” even good times feel meaningless (and growth can never happen) spurs some to step through that swirly door of unknown cosmic potential. It’s bittersweet, it’s incredibly profound, powerful storytelling, and it’s the perfect way to wrap a show that’s spent seasons investigating the meaning of life. The answer? Find your Eleanor, Take It Sleazy, and Bortles your way through any roadblocks on your path to convincing Timothee Chalamet to step out into the sun.
9. “Jeremy Bearimy” (Season 3, Episode 5)
The Story: The Soul Squad is now living on Earth, but after a laughable blunder on Michael’s part, they all come to learn that, no matter what they do with their second chance, they’re destined for the Bad Place. Each spirals accordingly.
Why It’s On This List: There’s nothing quite like watching your favorite characters have a comedic-filled meltdown over some bad news, and no one sells the whole “descent into madness” journey quite like William Jackson Harper, who manages to convey Chidi’s initial rage and then despairing acceptance over this afterlife sentence perfectly. And by perfectly, we mean he spends the episode quoting Nietschze to drug dealers, shocking grocery store patrons with his shirtless, swole bod, and cooking Peep-flavored, M&M riddled pots of chili while teaching his students the finer points of nihilism. The world is a trash fire, and nothing you do is of any consequence. Eat up, chili babies!
8. “Dance Dance Resolution” (Season 2, Episode 3)
The Story: Michael gives his experiment a reboot – or 800 – after Eleanor continues to realize they’re actually in the Bad Place at some point in each version.
Why It’s On This List: There are two halves to this episode. The first is filled with quick comedy clips stitched together in a montaged quilt of absurdity sprinkled with restaurant puns — Biscotti Pippen is a five-star Michelin joint, and you can’t convince us differently and rogue hogs. The back half is even more interesting, as Chidi and Eleanor discover the truth about The Good Place (again) but this time manage to run away to the Medium Place where they meet Mindy St. Clair, an average human doomed to an existence filled with boredom, and learn they’ve been there, and been together, before. Shirt gets real.
7. “Everything Is Great” (Season 2, Episodes 1 & 2)
The Story: After Eleanor solved the mystery of The Good Place in the show’s season one finale, this two-part season two opener wipes the slate — and our resident cockroaches’ memories — clean as Michael finds new ways to torture the group.
Why It’s On This List: Everyone praises the show’s season one finale, including us (see below) but the writers had an arguably harder job in crafting a follow-up to that world-shattering epiphany with this season premiere. Do we retread old ground? Do we pick up like nothing happened? Do we scrap everything and start again? Do we confront Michael’s failure? The answer is a mix of all of these, so well done, so easily accomplished it’s a wonder any comedy following in the footsteps of The Good Place even tries at this point.
6. “Pandemonium” (Season 3, Episode 13)
The Story: Humanity’s chance to prove it can get some things right rests with our favorite Arizona dirtbag, who’s heading up a new Good Place experiment with help from Janet, Tahani, and Jason while Michael has a meltdown and Chidi’s memories are erased so he can participate.
Why It’s On This List: Did we mention that The Good Place is a comedy? That feels important to remind everyone of after episodes like “The Answer” and “Pandemonium” rip our hearts out and serve them on top of a bed of noodles at Lasagne Come Out Tomorrow. The show’s season three finale combines some of the best elements of past season-enders. There’s a resetting of the board as Eleanor poses as the architect of this new human experiment. There’s conflict, particularly when the group discovers Shawn chose, not the worst people, but the worst people for Team Cockroach to try to rehabilitate. But mostly, there’s bittersweet heartbreak, as Chidi preps to have his memories erased so he doesn’t fork things up by viewing a montage of his most romantic moments with Eleanor. Michael Schur, you son of a bench!
5. “The Answer” (Season 4, Episode 9)
The Story: The gang needs Chidi to come up with a better afterlife system before the Judge wipes out all of humanity, so Michael gives him a reset, forcing him to sift through his memories for the answer.
Why It’s On This List: Each member of the show’s cast has enjoyed their fair share of iconic comedic moments, but this episode was William Jackson Harper’s showcase. Sure, there were gags to laugh at and the ever-present knowledge that, should he fail, the whole world would be doomed, but the joy of this episode is in watching Harper explore his emotional range through Chidi’s complicated backstory. We see pivotal moments in the character’s life: a young Chidi saving his parents’ marriage through a philosophy lesson, a painful breakup, his death, his time with Eleanor in The Good Place. All of these experiences lead to a tearjerker of a Ted Danson monologue and Chidi’s realization that the “answer” he’s been searching for has been right in front of him this whole time.
4. “Rhonda, Diana, Jake, And Trent” (Season 2, Episode 11)
The Story: Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani, and Jason must don disguises in order to escape The Bad Place and reach the Judge, but first, they’ve got to confront robotic mockups of their worst selves and get comfortable with their inner white male.
Why It’s On This List: Again, The Good Place offers a masterclass in how to combine truly silly gags with expert storytelling in this episode. There are a plethora of comedic riches, from the introduction of Jake Jortles to Chidi proclaiming himself “the torture master” to Tahani convincingly playing a hot-dog-themed torturer named Rhonda Mumps and crediting her believability to that time she dated Johnny Depp. But the real joy here is in seeing how far this group has come, especially when they’re faced with their Bad Place counterparts. Okay, maybe not Jason.
3. “The Burrito” (Season 2, Episode 12)
The Story: The group makes a final plea to Judge Gen (an always terrific Maya Rudolph), who sets a series of tasks for each of them. If they all pass, they can move on to The Good Place. If even one fails, well…
Why It’s On This List: There are two reasons this episode earns such a high place on this list: Rudolph, who plays an all-knowing being convinced of Bloodline’s mediocrity because she “can’t see Kyle Chandler as anyone else but Coach Taylor,” and the sight of Bell and company bowing to a stuffed burrito. The group must jump through hoops to prove they’ve become better people, so there are also scenes of Chidi taking 82 minutes to choose between two hats, Jason being forced to play Madden as the Tennessee Titans, and Tahani made to ignore the fact that Quvenzhane Wallis and Stephen Hawking have settled their beef to talk sh*t about her, but Rudolph owns this episode and she has a hell of a time passing her judgment.
2. “Janet(s)” (Season 3, Episode 10)
The Story: Michael and Janet sneak into the universe’s accounting office where they discover that the whole Good Place/Bad Place point system is just a sham. No human has amassed enough credits to make it to the actual Good Place in 500 years, which Stephen Merchant gleefully reveals after confirming that, yes, destination-themed weddings are blasphemous.
Why It’s On This List: It’s a testament to the writing staff of this show that a plot point so vital to the future of its story feels almost like a neat afterthought. The idea that the system is flawed, and Michael can do something about it, sets up enough action and conflict to get fans excited, but the more immediate (and ridiculously funny) payoff of the episode comes thanks to D’Arcy Carden, who deserves an Emmy for her performance as multiple Janets, all inhabited by different members of Team Cockroach in a strange void. Instead of forcing these friends to come clean about their feelings for each other in some straightforward, forgettable way, Schur and company utilized Carden’s unparalleled comedic talents to give us a truly beautiful metaphor — only when Chidi and Eleanor are honest with each other can everyone return to their human forms. Forget puppies. This is what definitely shattered our voids.
1. “Michael’s Gambit” (Season 1, Episode 13)
The Story: Holy motherforking shirtballs. We’re in the Bad Place. After spending an entire season convincing resident dirtbag Eleanor (and the rest of us) that we were watching a group of people living their best afterlife in a quaint, heavenly village, The Good Place threw a Molotov cocktail at our perceived reality.
Why It’s On This List: When future generations debate the greatest TV twists, they won’t be talking about Lost or Mr. Robot or Westworld. They’ll be talking about The Good Place. Specifically, how the show managed to weave a seasons’ worth of mystery building right under our noses by focusing on careful character development (and distracting us with cactus jokes). Revealing the truth — that Eleanor, Chidi, Jason, and Tahani were actually part of an experiment proposed by Michael to find new ways of torturing souls — signaled that The Good Place was moving the goalposts for sitcom storytelling. It was a bold, thrilling choice executed perfectly and sealed with a lip-curling laugh from Ted Danson that was so deliciously evil, basic cartoon villains everywhere were left shook. The finale also serves as the perfect excuse for a season one re-watch (as if you needed one) because watching this group of cockroaches torment each other in a filthy dumpster filled with their worst anxieties is so much more fun once you actually realize… that’s the point.