'The Good Place' recap: Stunning Season 2 finale surprised us all over again

Kelly Lawler
D'Arcy Carden as Janet, Manny Jacinto as Jianyu, Kristen Bell as Eleanor, William Jackson Harper as Chidi on 'The Good Place.'

Spoiler alert! The following contains details from The Good Place Season 2 finale, "Somewhere Else." 

Since we discovered in the Season 1 finale of The Good Place that Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell), Tahani Al-Jamil (Jameela Jamil), Chidi Anagonye (William Jackson Harper) and Jason Mendoza (Manny Jacinto) were in The Bad Place all along, the afterlife sitcom has been serving twist after twist, reinventing itself over and over again in a remarkable second season.

So coming into Thursday's finale episode, "Somewhere Else," fans were expecting another big twist. And if you guessed that they were actually going back to Earth, then you were right. It's not as Earth-shattering (or, rather, Heaven-shattering) as the Season 1 finale, but it fits into the season perfectly and underlined the show's central theme: Everyone can get better if they want to, but it's really hard. 

More:Ted Danson on 'The Good Place' twists

Michael (Ted Danson) was able to convince the Judge (Maya Rudolph) to send the four souls to Earth to try to become better people without "moral dessert," or the knowledge that if they get better they'll be rewarded with the Good Place in the end. 

Listen to USA TODAY's geek culture podcast, The Mothership, for a deep dive into this season of 'The Good Place,' more on that forking finale and predictions for Season 3.

Once the experiment starts we spend the rest of the episode with Eleanor, who miraculously survives the shopping cart incident that killed her and is moved to try to be a better person. It goes great – for six months. Then she starts slipping back into her old habits.

Michael, who has been watching with Janet (D'Arcy Carden) during this time, cheats, heads down to Earth and shows up in Eleanor's life as a bartender, fulfilling the dreams of Cheers fans everywhere who wanted to see Danson behind a bar again. Michael gives Eleanor a mini-lesson in ethics, which has the dual purpose of proving how much progress even the literal demon has made this season and giving Eleanor the push she needs. 

Something Michael says sticks with Eleanor, and she ends up googling "what we mean to each other" and discovering hours of Chidi's lectures. She's so inspired she packs a bag and flies to Australia where Chidi is a professor and bursts into his office. The episode ends with Eleanor asking, simply, "Can we talk?" 

"Somewhere Else" wasn't as laugh-out-loud funny as the trip to the Bad Place in "Rhonda, Diana, Jake, and Trent" or as structurally inventive as the 800+ reboots in "Dance Dance Resolution," but it was the most emotionally satisfying episode of the season. Eleanor is back where the show started, and she is also the character that benefited the most from her time in the fake Good Place. Her journey was always going to be the hardest, so it makes sense the episode would be from her perspective. 

We may think we know the direction the series is heading in for its third season, but Season 2 managed to blow everything up (again) after just one episode. The best thing about this show is that you never know where it's headed, but you always know that it will never take the cheap way out or be untrue to its characters. I can't wait to see what Season 3 has in store. 

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