Angels, demons, good people, bad people, medium people… who of all these The Good Place people had the best arcs?
On top of the moral philosophy and gentle Michael Schur sensibility on NBC’s dearly departed afterlife comedy, The Good Place, the show also possessed some of the most remarkable character arcs in the history of television. It’s one thing to track the development of a human, but The Good Place achieved flawless characterization of mortals and celestials alike.
In classic Schur fashion, the denouement of The Good Place makes sure to pay homage to the arcs of all characters, giving everyone the resolution they deserved. Most shows see some character arcs being better than others, but everyone included in this list has an argument for number one, as well.
Most of the time, rebound boyfriends on comedy series are one and done. Not Derek (Jason Mantzoukas), though. Derek was an artificial boyfriend created by Janet and portrayed with all the manic, eccentric brilliance that comes from casting Jason Mantzoukas.
He goes from a malfunctioning, windchime-laden boyfriend to a floating galaxy head that contains time itself. That’s a character arc Walter White wishes he could parallel.
When Vicky (Tiya Sircar) first turns up on The Good Place, the characters believe her to be the Eleanor Shellstrop who was mixed up with Kristen Bell’s actual Eleanor. She’s decently fun in this capacity, but Sircar really gets to cook when it’s revealed that she’s actually a demon.
Vicky is not the average kind of demon from the Bad Place, though. She’s obsessed with her budding career as a thespian. Her arc revolves around her finding that acting is just “being,” which makes it a more fun side gag on the show.
Mindy St. Claire
On The Good Place, there are tons of stories about bad people becoming good and good people becoming better. Mindy St. Claire (Maribeth Monroe), on the other hand, is the most medium person who has to be convinced to become anything at all.
Mindy’s arc is a fascinating one on The Good Place because she often seems to be the key to solving the group’s problems. Eventually, her arc resolves with a decision to better herself and no longer resign herself to mediocrity. There are victories in those notions, too.
Technically, Jason Mendoza (Manny Jacinto) was a pretty bad person on The Good Place, but he never harbored ill intentions behind that behavior. He hardly seemed to embrace any intentions at all.
As such, for a good portion of the show, Jason doesn’t really have a character arc. He remains largely unchanged and serves as an ancillary vehicle for comic relief in the series. By the end, though, when Jason really does become the monk he initially claimed to be, it’s evident that there was an arc there after all. It was just far removed from Jacksonville.
There are more thoroughly and deeply crafted character arcs on The Good Place than Shawn’s (Marc Evan Jackson), but the big bad demon from the Bad Place deserves to be ranked this high all the same.
After all, Shawn is a literal demon and the most prominent antagonist/villain in the entire series. And he still gets character development and still arrives at a place of trying to be better in the universe. That’s an insane feat pulled off by the show’s creative team. It’s like if Thanos and Scar donated to the Make-a-Wish foundation.
While it’s remarkable that The Good Place managed to develop and give a sound arc to the aforementioned demon, it’s also an absurd achievement that they managed to give an arc to Janet (D’Acy Carden), a literal A.I.-type figure who, seemingly by definition, cannot change at all.
Instead, Janet develops thoughts, feelings, emotions, attitudes, and personal relationships with people. She’s not just a preprogrammed smart device; she’s a gift. When Janet actually cries and it’s believable? There’s just no characterization quite like it.
While Janet has a remarkable arc, she does not quite rank in the top tier of character journeys on The Good Place because she’s still quite similar when compared to how she began on the show. Looking to someone like Tahani (Jameela Jamil), though, and it becomes clear how her arc can be set apart.
Tahani did good things for poor, selfish reasons and she learned how to curb her ego and boasting nature. Most importantly, though, Tahani’s arc revolved around being the bigger person around her loved ones, which set her on a path to become an afterlife architect herself.
The Good Place was overflowing with breakout characters and stars. Chidi Anagonye (William Jackson Harper) is the best example of that.
His presence in the Bad Place is a creative one, as he was not outwardly a bad person, but he just behaved in a way that alienated others. In Chidi’s origin story, “The Answer,” it becomes more understood why he is the way he is, ultimately setting himself up for an arc that sees him saving all life on Earth. It’s Chidi who devises the way forward for the afterlife in a true testament to how profound his arc was.
Chidi’s arc was phenomenal, but it was Eleanor (Kristen Bell) who arguably had to do the most growing and changing on The Good Place. A true “Arizona trash bag,” Eleanor is so deeply selfish that she seems to be an irredeemable lost cause in the early stages of The Good Place.
However, her arc is set in motion (and with it, the arc of the show) when she decides to flex her agency and become a better person. In the end, Eleanor ends up taking on the task of running the neighborhood herself, which is a testament to how beautifully her stories were crafted in the show.
While Eleanor’s one hundred and eighty degree turn is what The Good Place is all about, Michael’s (Ted Danson) arc is truly the show’s best. Not only does he also pull off a one eighty, but he is tasked with bookending the series.
Michael is a true testament to all the gorgeousness that came in The Good Place. He begins as a demon, posing as an angel, and slowly evolves into becoming the sweetest man who relies on trust and love in an effort to save friends he’s really come to care for. When he sacrifices himself towards the end of season two, it’s one of the show’s most beautiful moments because it’s evidence of a full character arc for a literal demon. Only The Good Place could pull off an arc for an actual demon so perfectly.