The Good Place Boss and Ted Danson Talk Finale Twist, Drop Season 2 Hints

Excuse the language, but NBC’s metaphysical comedy The Good Place dropped a forkin’ great plot twist on us in January’s Season 1 finale. In it, Eleanor discovered that she and her friends are actually trapped in a fake Good Place, an elaborate illusion dreamt up by Michael to torture them. (And Ted Danson’s wicked smile when Michael’s scheme was revealed will haunt us forever.)

In fact, it was such a great twist that creator Michael Schur had to work hard to keep it a secret. Stars Kristen Bell (Eleanor) and Danson “were the only other two people who knew,” Schur revealed to TVLine at an NBC press luncheon on Monday. “We kept all the other actors in the dark. Which I felt a little guilty about. But I think it was the right call.”

Bell even videotaped her castmates’ reactions when they learned the news about Evil Michael, Schur remembers: “You know when they started marketing horror movies by just shooting the audience at a test screening? That’s what it was like. Very shocked.”

The Good Place RenewedSince Danson knew about Michael’s evil intentions all along, did that change how he played Michael? “There was a lot of conversation about that,” Danson says, “realizing that you couldn’t end a shot on me in a private moment, because you would’ve seen my character [with an evil glint in his eye]. So it was always about the facade of what I was trying to convince them of.”

Even some of the show’s directors didn’t know, Danson adds, because he and Schur worked out a code to talk about Michael’s motivations on set. “We used acting terms: objective and super-objective,” Schur says. “The objective was what he appeared to be doing in the scene, and the super-objective was how that action would be torturing the people he was dealing with. If he wasn’t doing something that was torturing people in every second of every episode, then something had gone wrong. He’s failing at his job.”

RELATED The Good Place Renewed for Season 2

NBC has renewed The Good Place for a second season, which means we’ll see more of Michael’s evil ways, Schur says: “The fun part of the last half of the finale for me was, you got to see Michael being a different way than he was, which is his true essence. So that’s the enjoyable thing about working on stories for Season 2: He’s a totally different guy than we thought he was.”

The Good Place Finale Note Eleanor Find ChidiAt the end of the finale, Eleanor’s memory was wiped by Michael, and she started over fresh in the Good Place… except she wrote herself a note saying “Eleanor — Find Chidi” and hid it in Janet’s mouth for herself to find. “Everyone has been officially rebooted” to start out Season 2, Schur hints. “But she wrote herself a note, which is the one thing that slipped through the cracks.”

If the note-leaving thing reminds you of Memento, you’re not the only one. “The original idea was that she writes it on her arm,” Schur recalls. “But then we were like, ‘He would either see it, or when she was rebooted, it would disappear.’ And then we remembered — totally by accident, mind you — we had written a joke that Janet couldn’t eat anything, so when she was rebooted, she smashed a piece of birthday cake around her face. So then we were like, ‘Oh, that’s how she does it!’ It was a happy coincidence.”

And being on a network show that bravely dives into deep discussions of ethics and morality has its perks, Danson says: “I have so many parents come up with ten-year-old kids who say, ‘My son and I, my daughter and I watch this, and we love it.’ And you realize that the whole morality story… it’s kind of fun to be a part of.”

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19 Comments
  1. wgsecretary says:

    That was one of the best plot twists ever. I started watching because I’m a fan of Kristen Bell’s work, like Veronica Mars. I was worried it was going to be too cheesy at the beginning with some of those problems happening, like the giant, flying shrimp. But, it got better and that was one heck of a twist! I’m excited to season 2.

  2. TheDuck says:

    I’m sure there will be others who’ll scoff, but I have to give kudos to a) NBC, who not only greenlit such an unusual show but kept the big twist under wraps, b) the actors who totally sold the story, and c) the writers and producers who not only kept the secret but managed to surprise so many people with a twist that, in hindsight, should have been incredibly obvious. Looking forward to seeing what happens next…

  3. Craig says:

    This is easily the best paced show of 2016/2017 (calling it early). Please confirm that Kristen’s reaction videos are going to be on the DVD or put on YouTube. Also, after watching this, I got my friend hooked on it and there’s nothing better than watching someone’s mind being blown in the last episode.

    Ted Danson better get an Emmy for this incredibly awesome slow burn.

  4. R.O.B. says:

    It was a great plot twist, but I wouldn’t actually classify it as “torture”. Especially when they were talking about what the torture was supposedly like in the Bad Place. I mean the place is clean, they live in nice houses, have conversations together and have plenty of yogurt shops to choose from. I know torture – I was locked up in a crawl space for 27 years and ate spiders and my only friend was a rock I discovered under the foundation plastic. If anything their idea of “torture” is a pretty decent life…

  5. Joey says:

    Quite possibly one of my favorite shows right now. I originally started watching it because it seemed a bit cutesy which is a huge change from the types of shows I normally watch, and I immediately fell in love with the characters. That twist at the end…while I did not expect that at all, I was getting suspicious that something was going on. I loved it, and I can’t wait for more.

  6. Joey Padron says:

    It was a great twist they pull on the season finale and did a good job keeping it a secret. Can’t wait to see what happens in season 2!

  7. Love the show. Now if they could give Jason a few more brain cells to work with, it would be perfect.

  8. Kkaylin says:

    Why didn’t she write something more specific on the Note like “you’re already in the bad place”.

    • Stacy says:

      1) she had to write really fast; she didn’t know how much time she had and 2) when she’s rebooted she’ll go back to selfish Eleanor. She knows & trusts Chidi to help her and people in general.

    • Morena Love says:

      I said the same, but of course for a suspenseful season 2 the could only say but so much.

  9. Stacy says:

    I’m SO thrilled for season 2. The finale’s plot twist was one of the best in many years, imo.

  10. TeddyDforthewin says:

    Does someone have a gif of that creepy-grin the Ted Danson does? That moment was amazing.

  11. David Graf says:

    I wonder if we’ll ever have visitors from the real “Good Place” pay a visit. Plus, we still do not know if there really is a “Good Place”.

  12. Nero tTVfiddler says:

    Along with NBC’s This Is Us, The Good Place is the best new, most innovative, series of the 2016-17 season. I was hoping that the networks might be inspired by this pair, and aim higher in their 2017-18 pilot choices. However, I just saw the new pilot list, and am quite disappointed. Did no one at the networks learn from This Is Us, or The Good Place?

    Too bad – these two series are going to place NBC back on the Emmy nominations list this summer.

  13. Zo0tie says:

    I tolerated the show as an amusing but mindless half hour sitcom, but then the last few episodes floored me. The Twilight Zone idea that this was actually a ‘Bad’ place had always been in the back of my mind what with the incredible plastic phoniness of the Good Place and its denizens. Michael’s Dickensian workplace immediately reminded me of the demonic business concern in C. S. Lewis’s Screwtape Letters and if course Ted Danson’s character does a marvelous homage to Sebastian Cabot’s Pip in the aforementioned TZ episode with that nasty smile. Brilliant!