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The Good Place Shows Us How Euthanasia Can Be An Act Of Love

Julia Banim

| Last updated 

Warning: Contains Spoilers

The Good Place Shows Us How Euthanasia Can Be An Act Of LoveNBC

After four seasons, we finally entered the actual, real Good Place, with no tricks or twists; complete with passport photo booths which actually take good pictures, new car smells and Lisa Kudrow.


A lesser comedy series may have simply left it there, with our protagonists triumphantly celebrating having completely revamped and updated the afterlife over a tray of well-deserved frosty margaritas.

Or, they could have even gotten away with leaving our heroes sailing through space in a hot air balloon; still on a high from their victory, and with their ultimate destination left to the audience’s imagination.

The Good PlaceNBC

True to form, The Good Place went way beyond this. Never a series about easy answers or blissful endings which roll on indefinitely beyond the camera, showrunner Michael Schur took the bold move of bringing complex philosophical conundrums straight through the gates of paradise.


The actual Good Place turned out to be terrific fun, dreamt up with the same offbeat humour and imaginative glee which has shaped the show since Eleanor’s eyes first snapped open.

After centuries grappling with demons in quirky, pastel coloured hell, our valiant heroes finally earned a breather from having the weight of the universe resting on their collective shoulders.

Each member of Team Cockroach was afforded limitless time and opportunities to indulge every whim and achieve every heartfelt desire. Best of all, they were given endless days to spend together, without the threat of penis flatteners and butthole spiders.

The Good PlaceNBC

Tahani was able to become evermore cultivated, all while putting aside old, cyclical disputes with the family who caused her such anguish and frustration on Earth.

Jason was finally able to race Go-Karts against monkeys – as well as erm, ‘Draculas’ – and spent many happy days perfecting his video game skills; all while remaining sweetly in love with his ‘not-a-girl’ girlfriend, Janet.

Then of course there was Eleanor and Chidi, whose romance we watched blossom again and again throughout a multitude of timelines and lifetimes.

The closest thing to a Ross and Rachel within this unique show, the knowledge that the couple could now – finally – be together, without worrying about forces beyond their control pulling them apart felt like a release.

The Good PlaceNBC

We spent far less time in the Good Place than we did in the Bad Place. After all, perfection makes for far less compelling drama than secret identities and demons in human suits.

What we do gather though, is that Chidi and Eleanor go on to spend many, many contended and fulfilling Jeremy Bearamies together.

They run popular philosophy seminars, and watch glorious sunsets together side-by-side. Their loved ones on Earth are able to work their way through the system and meet together in paradise, all thanks to their own courageous hard work.


But, of course, once you’ve lived through so many beautiful, idealised days, life – or indeed death – begins to lose its flavour and meaning. To paraphrase Eleanor, a vacation is only fun because it ends.

The Good PlaceNBC

When the Soul Squad first enter the real Good Place – arms linked in unity – they encounter a party where the guests have long since become tired.

The residents, all so very accomplished, kind and driven on Earth, have turned sluggish in mind and spirit; aimlessly asking for things they don’t need – or even really want – from Janets who are clearly irritated by the humans’ ambivalence.

Ever the puzzle solvers, the squad set about once again tinkering with the metaphysical corners of the afterlife; providing voluntary relief for those ready for their existence to end.

Without fanfare, without debate, the gang built a door in a peaceful location where a human’s time in the universe could end, should they so wish. Once they pass through, their essence is destroyed and returned to the universe.

The Good PlaceNBC

The door isn’t compulsory, the Good Place residents are more than free to stay sipping stardust milkshakes and talking to flying puppies for all eternity.

However, the knowledge the door is there – and that the end will be peaceful – is enough to bring some much-needed comfort; providing renewed shape and purpose to their vast stretch of existence.

This narrative turn is handled beautifully, with assisted dying shown to be a real, personal, and above all kind choice to give a person.

There is no frantic scene with the gang brainstorming pros and cons on Chidi’s blackboard. There is no ethical dilemma, as the answer is immediately apparent. After centuries of philosophical training, the squad are perfectly equipped to implement this final alternative to infinity.

The Good PlaceNBC

Of course, it’s initially difficult to draw comparisons between euthanasia on a heavenly plane of existence, and euthanasia on our own imperfect planet.

The pain and suffering many mortals face towards the end of their life is far different to the sense of ‘quietude’ felt by Good Place residents when it’s their time to move on. However, the script is very much rooted in human concerns.

Much like our own Earthly understanding of death, exactly what happens when a person crosses through the door is unknown, even by the omniscient Janets. All residents know is it will be peaceful, a condition which every one of us hopes for from our inevitable deaths.

Michael The Good PlaceNBC

There are also parties and gatherings prior to the act of crossing over, where the individual can celebrate and look back on their life surrounded by those who loved and knew them best.

This holds parallels with the gatherings sometimes held by those in countries where euthanasia is legal, where those ready to move on spend quality time with loved ones; saying their goodbyes and contemplating what made their own individual life special.

Crucially, these passings are not framed as sad within The Good Place. Any other show where three major characters are swallowed up by a deathly oblivion would be seen as tragic to the point of unwatchable.

However, in this universe, the nature of the ending – framed as a choice, as peaceful and informed – leaves viewers on a hopeful note, remembering instead how the characters lived and became wise and resourceful enough to reach this point.

The Good PlaceNBC

The sense of a person continuing to have meaning beyond their existence – leaving a sense of themselves and what they’ve learnt behind – is palpable within the closing scenes.

This is perhaps most evident in the closing narrative of Michael, who is gifted the opportunity to live on Earth as a human; navigating the same moral conundrums he once weighed and judged as a demonic architect.

We see Michael name his pet dog Jason, showing his clear, enduring affection for the group of humans who forever changed his perspective on the universe, and led to him becoming a truly kind-hearted and gentle being.


We also see a glowing speck from Eleanor’s obliterated essence land on a would-be selfish neighbour, who is about to dump Michael’s post in the bin rather than make the effort to hand it to him. A very pre-death Eleanor thing to do.

However, touched by a little part of Eleanor, the neighbour opts to give Michael the mail by hand, much to the former demon’s delight. This small act of being selfless – a key part of Eleanor’s Bad Place character development – made Michael’s day, and illustrates how her legacy will live on.

Although the reality of this concept is perhaps less obvious in real life, the message is clear. The small acts of kindness we can all make every day may well outlive us, influencing those around us in a way that can and does ripple outwards and onwards.

For this, I can only borrow the words of Chidi, who gave what may well go down as one of the most beautiful and poetic speeches in television history:

Picture a wave in the ocean: you can see it, measure it, its height, the way the sunlight refracts… and then it crashes on the shore, and then it’s gone.

But the water is still there. The wave was just a different way for the water to be for a little while. That’s one conception of death for a Buddhist. The wave returns to the ocean, where it came from, and where it’s supposed to be.

The Good PlaceNBC

Perhaps the most poignant – and relatable – part of this bittersweet conclusion was the reaction from the romantic partners of those who chose to cross over.

This decision did not take away from the love between the respective couples. Indeed, Jason was so determined to ensure Janet would remember him that he spent one thousand Jeremy Bearamies searching for a necklace he had made for her.

The way in which Janet and Eleanor supported and accepted Jason and Chidi’s decisions was shown to be an act of love, and there was no attempt to show choices to cross over as being somehow selfish or conflicted. Indeed, this was the most certain we had ever seen the usually indecisive Chidi.

My heart broke when Eleanor tried to tempt Chidi back from the edge with trips to Athens and Paris, and it broke further when – in a rare moment of tearfulness – she begged him not to leave her alone. But, when she gave him her blessing to go, this was quite rightly shown to be the most ethical decision.

The Good PlaceNBC

According to euthanasia campaigning group My Death My Decision, voluntary euthanasia and/or doctor-assisted suicide is only legal in the countries of Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, and Switzerland, as well as in six US States (California, Colorado, Montana, Oregon, Vermont and Washington State).

Although the terms ‘euthanasia’ and ‘assisted suicide’ are often used interchangeably, they actually have quite different definitions. According to the NHS, euthanasia is ‘the act of deliberately ending a person’s life to relieve suffering’, while assisted suicide is ‘the act of deliberately assisting or encouraging another person to kill themselves’.

In the UK, where I’m writing this article, assisted suicide is currently illegal under the terms of the Suicide Act (1961) and can be punishable by up to 14 years’ imprisonment. Euthanasia is regarded as either manslaughter or murder, with a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

Despite this harsh legislation, 86% of the British public support the choice of assisted dying for adults who are terminally ill, according to statistics from the Campaign For Dignity In Dying. The compassion is clearly there, even if the framework is not.


As a society, we don’t talk about death all that much – whether through fear or denial – despite this being the one certainty which has united human beings since the dawn of time.

From the very first episode, The Good Place has grappled with what it means to be human and, crucially, what it means to live a life led by ethics. Death is very much entrenched in these teachings and, in retrospect, it’s clear we were always going to get this ending.

In its final philosophy lesson, The Good Place opened up conversations we all need to be having about what it means to have a dignified, peaceful death; championing the right of every single person to leave this planet having endured as little suffering as humanly possible.

The show’s enduring legacy will undoubtedly be the little spark of light which lands on your shoulder, encouraging you to remember that though we all die, it doesn’t have to be a sad and painful experience. All we can do is to be there for one another, as best we can, until the very end.

If you have experienced a bereavement and would like to speak with someone in confidence contact Cruse Bereavement Care via their national helpline on 0808 808 1677.

If you’ve been affected by any of these issues and want to speak to someone in confidence, please don’t suffer alone. Call Samaritans for free on their anonymous 24-hour phone line on 116 123.

Topics: Featured, Euthanasia, Netflix


My Death My Decision and 2 others
  1. My Death My Decision

    My Death My Decision

  2. NHS

    Euthanasia and assisted suicide

  3. Dignity In Dying


Julia Banim
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