Here inside Tahani’s luxe mansion, where the food spread is as lavish as the hostess’ throwback dress (sushi! lobster! some sort of breaded roast loaf!) the cast of The Good Place is gearing up for the big goodbye, the grand finale, the… End. On this summer afternoon in Beverly Hills — which is one of the final days of filming NBC’s acclaimed afterlife comedy — things shift from ebullient (Kristen Bell is dancing whilst singing, “I’m trying to wake my my booty up”) to creeping sadness (“At the end of every scene, it’s like…,” says William Jackson Harper, making a frown-y face) to downright nostalgic (“I remember walking down the stairs, thinking, ‘When am I going to be fired?’” quips Jameela Jamil, motioning to a grand staircase she descended in the very first episode.)
The cameras roll, and Tahani (Jamil) and Eleanor (Bell) share an emotionally loaded moment. “I hate to tell you this, but your risotto was a little sticky,” says Eleanor. “Really?” Tahani responds. “No, dammit!” answers Eleanor, dropping the act. “It was amazing, I was trying to figure out a way to [redacted].”
The two emotion-exchange for a bit, a few spoiler-y things happen, and then Tahani declares: “Janet, add one more goal to the list, please. Now cross it off!”
The only goal left on the list now: Stick that landing by providing a satisfying end to this loopy, magical, thoughtful comedy that never shied from an ethics lesson or 10. The Good Place signs off for good on Thursday night with a one-hour finale (NBC, 8:30 p.m.), and when we last saw Team Cockroach, they had finally entered the promised land. The Good Place wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, though, so Michael & Co. made a key tweak to paradise that would allow its pleasure-numbed residents the chance to tap out when they were maxed out by walking through a doors into… well, a peaceful end to it all. So, how will this quartet of less-than-perfect souls — sharp Arizona dirtbag Eleanor (Bell), neurotic professor Chidi (William Jackson Harper), self-obsessed socialite Tahani (Jamil), dunderheaded deejay Jason (Manny Jacinto), plus the cheery database Janet (D’Arcy Carden) and hoping-to-be-one-of-the-gang demon squid/architect Michael (Ted Danson) — wrap up their four-season storybook adventure and secure eternal happiness? That, of course, is left for you to see on the screen, but according to the cast, it will be a journey well-rewarded.
“Worth it” the phrase that Bell employs to describes the finale, written and directed by creator Mike Schur. “I thought it was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever read,” she tells EW. “Sometimes the most beautiful things are the hardest to digest. This ending will satisfy. It is one of the most beautiful examples of human interaction I’ve ever seen written down on paper. And earned every moment. I think when people view it, there will not be a single thing that he is saying through that writing that is lost on anyone. It is so easily cathartic for the audience member.” And as she told EW at the beginning of the season, “You will finally see what we owe to each other.”
Danson shares that he cried while reading the finale and immediately thought, Oh yes. Of course. “You will not be disappointed by the ending,” he declares. “I wasn’t. I was just delighted. On every level.“ He credits Schur for going the emotional and philosophical distance on the final chapter. “The solution that Mike has drawn from spiritual and philosophical existing thoughts is so satisfying to me,” says Danson. “At the end of reading the script, it was like, ‘Yeah, yeah. That’s what it should be.’ So deeply satisfying in that way. Really lovely.”
The great creator says that the goal of The End was to deliver on those lofty questions of the universe (and beyond) that the show had provoked, while also having a little fun with time in the Jeremy Bearimy universe. “My hope is that people who liked the questions that the show has been asking will feel like we did a good job of following through on saying at least what the show thinks the answers are, not necessarily what the answers are,” explains Schur. “We didn’t just say, ‘Well, who knows?’ and then walk off into the sunset… At the very end, we didn’t hold back.”
As a result, those answers may be deeply impacting, if not wholly bittersweet. “One of the very first lines in the show is, ‘You, Eleanor Shellstrop, are dead,” reminds Schur. “When the opening gambit of the show is ‘You’re all dead,’ the finale is going to have some poignancy. It’s going to have to. The trajectory of the characters has been very different from the way that they would normally be on a TV show.“
Jamil reveals an overwhelming cycle of emotions that she experienced processing the finale, cycling through at least a few of the five stage of grief. The actress admits that she “raged against the ending” when she first read it before accepting its “brilliance” and “complete correctness.” “It takes a second sometimes for you to be able to digest how much an ending means,” she says. “I was a tiny bit pissed. It’s so weird. And everyone else was so calm, they were just like, ‘This is great. This is perfect.’ It took a minute. I had to read it a couple of times, and I think hearing it out loud in the table read was the first time I was like, ‘Oh, this is 100-percent perfect and there was no other way to do this!’”
The end-game message of this jaunty little afterlife comedy might stick with you well beyond the credits, according to Jamil. “I think it will change the way that we look at our lives,” she says. “It weirdly in part contributed to my decision to take a bit of time off work and just hang out with my boyfriend who I love and I never see because I work too much. I think it’s going to have that lasting impact. I’m losing money because of this! It’s very thought-provoking…. It also might change the way you think about your end goals in life, things that you think will make you happy.”
Carden seconds that resonance, noting that ever since the cast learned about the ending last spring, “it’s definitely put some life stuff in perspective a little bit, which is crazy, you know?” When she revealed to her husband in a parking garage only a few key points about the ending, “we both started crying,” she reports. “People that you love in your life, your parents or your family or your friends or your mate — if you have a person like that in your life, it’s going to make you think of them in a way that’s pretty intense… Also, there’s probably a fart joke!”
“It’s complete,” offers Harper. “Completion at the heart of it.” Filming that final episode involved “a lot of joy and fulfillment. It’s a lot of endings and goodbyes, but… completion. We’re finding in these final episodes — maybe no one’s really ever complete, but there’s a step. When you get a piece of that, that makes you feel a little bit more whole.”
Jacinto, who told EW that he felt the urge to call his parents immediately after reading the script, chooses similar verbiage as Harper’s when discussing the grand farewell. “Complete,” he says. “That’s the first thing that comes to mind, whether it be full circle or complete.”
By the time the episode reaches completion, what level of closure and satisfaction will it provide? “It satisfies a hundred out of 10,” declares Bell. “I anticipate when people are done watching the finale, they will turn the TV off and sit there for five minutes in silence. I know that sounds dramatic, but that’s what I think will happen.”
Schur demurs when it comes to impact or satisfaction or stuck landings, noting that those things are up to you, dear viewers, to decide. But he will tell you that he strove for closure. “One way or another, whether people like it or don’t like it, it is 100 percent closure,” he says. “There are a couple of things that are in there that will remain open-ended. But they’re minor. ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ is not a music cue in this finale, actually or metaphorically. It’s a very definitive finale.”
And that day on the set of the finale, Jamil will issue one definitive hint — call it a final warning — before walking off to film one of the show’s final scenes: “We’re all gonna cry — some of you will die.” See you on the other side.
For much more from Schur on The Good Place, head over here.