Spoilers ahead for season one of The Good Place.
This week, NBC announced that it renewed its fantastical sitcom The Good Place for a second season — a decision that seemed inevitable after the show’s first 13 episodes ended with a doozy of a cliffhanger. When it debuted last September, The Good Place led viewers to presume that star Ted Danson played a benevolent but bumbling afterlife architect named Michael, who’d accidentally let Kristen Bell’s selfish dirtbag character, Eleanor Shellstrop, into a rational universe’s version of heaven. But in the season finale, creator Michael Schur revealed that he’d been conning his audience all along: This so-called “Good Place” was actually the “Bad Place,” a bold reinvention of Hell where Eleanor and three other losers — a dopey Florida DJ named Jason (Manny Jacinto), an ethics professor named Chidi (William Jackson Harper), and a glamorous philanthropist named Tahani (Jameela Jamil) — would be tortured for 1,000 years, stuck in a fake paradise that they didn’t deserve.
In the end, Eleanor saw through Michael’s ruse, and he responded by wiping his victims’ memories and restarting the experiment. That’s more or less where we left off at the end of season one — so now that we know we’ll get to see more, what can we expect next? Below, Vulture considers seven unanswered mysteries that’ll keep fans excited for season two.
1. How will Michael’s reboot work?
In the closing minutes of the finale, a riled-up Eleanor blanks out and then reawakens back in Michael’s lobby, in a repeat of how the pilot episode began. But this time, when Michael introduces her to her soulmate, it’s not the annoyingly moralistic Chidi, but rather a distractingly hunky mailman who takes off his shirt just as Eleanor prepares to confess that she’s a fraud. If the architect’s original plan was to pair off Eleanor with Chidi and Tahani with Jason — with everyone else in the neighborhood a plant from the home office — then what, exactly, is his new plan? The main idea is that these four condemned souls will torture each other for centuries, while the universe’s meanest pencil pushers observe with glee. How will that happen, though, if they don’t even know each other?
2. Will the flashbacks continue?
Before The Good Place debuted, Schur compared it to Lost. The reason why became clearer once viewers saw that nearly every episode contained flashbacks, little snippets of how the main characters had lived on Earth. Then, toward the end of the first season, we saw the dying moments of Eleanor, Jason, and Chidi — almost all of the big four, save Tahani — which would seem to indicate that the story of their earthbound lives has been pretty much told. It’s entirely possible that Schur and his writers consider the flashback structure to be an integral part of what makes The Good Place unique, but if so, they may want to heed the cautionary tale of Lost (and, more recently, the CW’s Arrow), which eventually ran out of entertaining ways to fill in more backstory. Granted, it would be nice to learn more about Tahani, and the finale’s look at Michael toiling away in the Bad Place office suggested that there are other ways to keep this flashback pattern in play. But the minute this show delivers its equivalent to Lost’s “origin of Jack’s tattoos” episode, beware.
3. Will we get to see the Good Place?
Now that we know Eleanor and her pals aren’t actually in the Good Place, that raises one big question: What is the Good Place actually like? Throughout the first season, it seemed like Michael’s neighborhood was less than perfect, filled with irritating neighbors and way too many frozen-yogurt shops. In season two, perhaps we’ll get to compare what we’ve already seen of faux-heaven with the real deal (and also learn more about what goes on behind the scenes). And maybe the show will be more openly critical of the cultural and class biases inherent in the Good/Bad system. Based on the philosophy of Michael’s faux Good Place, someone with enough money to launch a charitable foundation has a big advantage over someone who can only be kind on a small scale. It’s like carbon offsets: The rich can be jerks in their daily interactions, so long as they compensate with cash. It’ll be interesting to see an actual Good Place someday, and meet the kind of people who make it for real.
4. Are the other Bad Places as bad as we’ve been led to believe?
We’ve heard secondhand about the original recipe Bad Place, and we’ve met one of its most obnoxious architects, Trevor (played by a wonderfully douche-y Adam Scott). We have every reason to believe that Trevor’s Bad Place and the many others like it do indeed conform with our common cultural conceptions of Hell, based on what Michael said to his colleagues in the finale when he proposed his new design, and based on how the unfailingly honest humanoid-computer Janet has described it. Still, we haven’t seen any other Bad Place with our own eyes. Is every torture neighborhood as subtle in its cruelty as Michael’s?
5. How does Mindy St. Claire fit into all of this?
Up until the mind-blowing finale, the best episode of The Good Place’s first season was “Mindy St. Claire,” which introduces a woman who’d fallen through the cracks of the universe’s filing system and ended up living by herself in what Eleanor hopefully referred to as “a Medium Place.” Once we actually met Mindy, though, it was clear that she had it pretty rough out on her own, with very little to do for all eternity. Now that we know the truth about Eleanor’s situation, everything we’ve learned about Mindy St. Claire’s fate suddenly seems unreliable, too. Did Michael and his co-workers concoct the Medium Place as yet another means of torture? And was this all part of the larger ruse to make Eleanor feel miserable?
6. What if these people actually are meant for each other?
One key component of Michael’s diabolical scheme was that he took two seemingly mismatched couples and declared them “soulmates,” in order to watch them suffer as they pretended to be happy with each other. And yet, by pairing Eleanor with Chidi, Michael inadvertently wrecked his own plans: The ethicist’s lessons in how to be a good person pushed the show’s heroine into making choices that exposed the whole charade. There’s a lot about the logistics of the afterlife that we still don’t know — including how groups of people are assigned to Places, be they Good or Bad — but the particulars of how this foursome ended up in same spot may be the most crucial to understanding how the universe works. Perhaps there’s some sublime order underlying even Michael’s apparent malevolence. If he could create a neighborhood where Jason finds happiness with Janet, and Eleanor and Chidi develop a real affection, then maybe there’s some good in him after all.
7. How long will it take for Eleanor to figure out what’s what?
Before her memory was erased, Eleanor wrote a note to her future self — “Find Chidi” — and then stuck it the mouth of Janet, who delivered it back to her after the reboot. One of the delights of The Good Place so far has been Schur and company’s willingness to accelerate plot twists that other shows would hold back for a finale. For example, Eleanor’s “secret” was widely revealed halfway through the first season, which necessitated a lot of rushed decisions and narrative development that made the last six episodes especially lively. With that as a precedent, it’s highly unlikely that season two will wait too long before Eleanor again unravels the big mystery of where she is.
Looking back, that’s really what makes the news of NBC’s renewal so welcome. Michael may intend to restart this whole process from the beginning, but The Good Place isn’t the kind of show inclined just to repeat itself for 13 episodes, with minor variations. Judging by Schur’s previous sitcom creations Parks and Recreation (developed with Greg Daniels) and Brooklyn Nine-Nine (developed with Dan Goor), he tends to build out his comic universes after season one, adding characters and concepts until they’re as richly populated as any science-fiction/fantasy mythology. With the introduction of Trevor and Mindy and Michael’s skeptical colleague Shawn, the show has already deviated from its original “bad person tries to be better and makes everything worse” premise, with fruitful results. And given that this series is taking place in a realm where the writers can throw in just about anything they imagine, it’ll be fun to see what they dream up next.