In the opening minutes of NBC’s cult sitcom The Good Place, a bow-tied “architect” named Michael invites a recently deceased “Arizona dirtbag” named Eleanor Shellstrop into his office in the great beyond, to explain to her the secret of how the universe works. Starting with that moment, the show would go on to introduce a procession of memorable oddballs, some friendly and some unfriendly to Eleanor’s primary mission in death: to have a chill afterlife.
Some of The Good Place’s characters have been literal demons, disguised as humans. Some have been humans who behave like demons. Collectively, they’ve helped tell a four-season-long story about how our universe has become intolerable — and about how we might be able to fix it. It’s a story that finally reached its end in tonight’s extended series finale.
The ranked list of The Good Place players below is limited to anyone who has influenced the action in a significant way. It’s fun that the show’s writers gave various waitresses, clerks, and bartenders in their Australia episodes hilarious names like “Eeth Kurban” and “Waomi Natts,” but none of those folks had much impact on Eleanor’s journey. Also, please note that there’s not much to be gained from making fine distinctions between — for example — Betsy and Brittany or Chad and Chet, so some larger subcategories of Good Place characters have been lumped together.
The overall goal here is to give a proper send-off to all the weirdos, jerks, and badasses who’ve made this sitcom so uniquely fun and so surprisingly thoughtful. Some of the show’s worst people (and demons, and Janets) turned out to be some of its best characters. It’s also a testament to how well-written The Good Place is that its absolute best characters are the ones fans saw the most.
So welcome to The Good Place! Everything is fine. Let’s meet the neighbors.
42. The “Janet babies”
Created by the super-computer Janet (with the help of her first warped attempt at making a person, Derek), these bare-bones humanoids never do much on the show, besides populate the background in the Neighborhood and trick season four’s newly deceased test subjects into thinking they’re in the Good Place. The babies’ most realistic attribute? Like any actual, reasonable person, they’re unimpressed by Michael’s amateurish attempts at becoming a songwriter and/or performing magician.
41. John Wheaton
The Good Place writers have usually done a fine job of striking a balance between mocking our real world’s everyday annoyances and showing some compassion for those responsible. Through no fault of the very funny actor Brandon Scott Jones, the character of John Wheaton — a newly dead online gossip columnist, sent to season four’s more experimental version of the Neighborhood to torment Tahani — never fully clicked, perhaps because it felt like the show was more interested in skewering a shallow, mean internet personality than in making him fully rounded.
This obnoxious little Canadian kid only appears in roughly one minute of a single episode (season three’s “Don’t Let the Good Life Pass You By”), in which he bikes onto a kindly hermit’s property and starts pushing the old man around. But Raymond does serve a purpose, because he inadvertently illustrates for Michael and Janet that Doug Forcett — the human renowned across the universe for best understating the afterlife’s “points” system — has been a miserable sap ever since he saw the light. That’s when Michael begins to realize that being “good” doesn’t necessarily equate to “a good life.”
39. Fred Booth
Like Raymond, Fred Booth’s very existence changes the course of eternity … and all because he lost his wallet in the Australian pub Drinking Nemo. Just when Eleanor has just about given up on self-improvement, she decides to do one last good deed, returning a stranger’s lost cash. When the square family man Fred shows her the small child’s drawing he keeps in his wallet, Eleanor bursts into tears and decides maybe humanity isn’t so bad. The future of every living thing on Earth may be saved, all thanks to “a dork and his very untalented daughter.”
38. Eleanor’s friends and co-workers
During her first go-round on Earth, Eleanor was — just barely — a functioning adult human woman, who had roommates and jobs and even a few boyfriends. Most of them appeared in flashbacks only in passing, as the people the hedonistic Eleanor lied to, betrayed, or just tried to ignore. As a group though, they represent “obligation” — something our heroine could never stand. Agree to grab a drink with the gals from work, and the next thing you know they’re expecting you to be their designated driver or to pet-sit for them during a vacation. Those aren’t the kinds of things a Shellstrop does.
37. Doug Shellstrop
On the one hand, Eleanor’s dad is a terrible person, who barely parented his daughter during her first stint on Earth. On the other hand, without insensitive jerks like Doug Shellstrop failing to buy her birthday cakes, does Eleanor ever become Eleanor?
36. Manisha Al-Jamil and Waqas Al-Jamil
The desperate, trend-chasing socialite Tahani Al-Jamil was also — like Eleanor — cursed with awful parents. Manisha and Waqas constantly pitted her against her sister Kamilah, always with the expectation that Kamilah would excel and Tahani would fall well short. They doomed her to a life as a hanger-on — more notable for the company she kept than for anything she ever did with her family’s vast fortune.
35. The original Neighborhood demons
In the shocking season-one finale, The Good Place reveals that Michael’s Neighborhood is, in fact, an experimental outpost of the Bad Place. This means all the residents viewers met throughout that season — like the chipper café owner Pilar, or the exacting restaurateur Patricia — were actually demons, each trying in their own subtle way to drive the heroes batty. Very few of these folks appeared more than once or twice … aside from Gunner, a big, bearded man-eater who in season two occasionally asks Michael if it’d be okay if he nibbled on the humans, just a little, as a treat.
34. The Bad Place demons
During the show’s few trips to the Bad Place, what’s mostly stood out is how the demons working under the big boss Shawn seem … normal. Sure, hell’s employees may be required to “Axe up” with body spray as soon as they clock in; and sure, a dude like Chet (played by Kristen Bell’s husband, Dax Shepard) may work in the “Department of Toxic Masculinity.” But otherwise, what’s funny about the afterlife’s rank-and-file is that they’re a lot like every other cubicle-dwellers that so many Good Place viewers grudgingly tolerate, day after day.
33. Toddrick Hemple and Lance
Here are two exceptions to the “nondescript Bad Place employee” standard. These two demons nearly always appear not in human skin-suits but in their original forms: Toddrick as a lava monster, and Lance as a kind of toothy slug. Yet just like Chet and the rest, these two beasties talk like ordinary folks. For them, it’s always punch in, punch out … another day, another soul to torture.
32. Glenn and Val
In the hierarchy of Bad Place demons, Shawn’s inner circle ranks a bit higher than the Lances and the Chets. The timid Val functions mainly as an executive assistant, while Glenn (who also played a role in the original neighborhood) seems mainly to be Shawn’s designated target of abuse. Eventually though, Glenn — whose real name is “Snakes Pour Forth From His Anus” — goes rogue, and tries to warn the humans about one of Shawn’s sabotages. For his trouble, Glenn gets zapped into a puddle of primordial goo by Janet’s evil incarnation, Bad Janet. “Goo” is the larval stage of demon-dom, followed later by “slug monster,” “giant ball of tongues,” and “social media CEO.”
Though he’s rarely been much more than a background demon, Bambadjian has been one of the show’s most reliably funny characters, if only because his general blandness seems to annoy people (okay, Eleanor) for no real reason, prompting them to shout his name angrily, often directly into his smiling face. That right there is comedy gold.
31. The fake soulmates
After the big “Oh, this is the Bad Place” reveal at the end of season one, the show (and Michael) did a reset at the start of season two, putting the humans back in a slightly tweaked Neighborhood, and giving them skin-suited demons as soulmates. Through multiple subsequent reboots, the core four were saddled with a succession of torturous partners, including the likes of Luang (who forced the Jacksonville DJ Jason Mendoza to stay in his Buddhist monk Jianyu persona almost 24/7) and Quinston Timeclock (who posed as Tomas, a short-statured do-gooder who had Tahani dressing like “a plumberess … or is it a toilet-sweep?”). Perhaps the greatest fake soulmate of all though was introduced in a season-four flashback: Esmerelda, the knife-wielding, raven-tending witch who always ruins game night.
29. Neil and Matt
The afterlife isn’t just divided into “good” and “bad” places. There’s also a vast administrative structure, including the Neutral Zone’s accounting office, where Neil and Matt tally up every good and bad thing humans do. Hilariously played by, respectively, Stephen Merchant and Brad Morris, these pencil-pushers are, like many bureaucrats, so backlogged and so disillusioned that they can only get through their days with gallows humor and fantasies of suicide. That’s the inevitable outcome when someone spends hundreds of years keeping track of the likes of “Songs With Specific Dance Instructions” and “Weird Sex Things.”
28. Jeff the Doorman
Another of the universe’s working class, Jeff guards the portal between the mortal world and the beyond. As played by the marvelous comic character actor Mike O’Malley, Jeff is relatively easygoing, and not too hard to persuade. The dude can be bought off with pictures of frogs and cups of hot antimatter; he lets Michael slip back and forth because his shift doesn’t end until the year 9,000,000,000 and he really just wants something to do.
27. Chidi’s friends and parents
Alone among The Good Place’s main four humans, the moral philosopher Chidi Anagonye had a relatively happy childhood, raised by two smart and attentive parents, and surrounded by academic colleagues and girlfriends who — for the most part — tolerated his incredibly frustrating tendency toward debilitating indecision. Characters like the cowboy boot–wearing Henry, and Chidi’s eternally patient childhood buddy Uzo, provide a nice contrast to their fussy pal, and show that even when nurtured under the best conditions, a good person like Chidi can still be a nuisance.
26. Dave Kattertrune and Patricia Kattertrune
What would Eleanor’s life have been like if she’d had a different dad? She gets a glimpse at that alternate reality when she finds out her mother faked her own death (after grossly overbidding at an auction for a date with Gene Simmons), and has since been making a go of it in placid suburban Nevada, living with a sweet-natured architect and his 9-year-old daughter. Andy Daly gives a funny and winning performance as the understanding father, Dave, who remains unruffled by the strangeness of the Shellstrops, and is raising the kind of nice kid Eleanor might’ve become, if only Donna had settled down earlier.
25. Donna Shellstrop
Point: Eleanor’s mom is a terrible person, who barely parented her daughter during her first stint on Earth. Counterpoint: without her influence, where would Eleanor have learned dirtbag power moves like ordering a 7&7&7 (which is seven shots of Seagram’s 7 consumed in seven minutes)?
24. Kamilah Al-Jamil
Tahani’s younger sister is the kind of beloved celebrity she longs to be, acclaimed as a genius in multiple disciplines, from visual art to music to film to whatever the hell you call the Budapest exhibition where Kamilah makes omelets for museum-goers. In short: She actually matters in the world. Setting her up as Tahani’s lifelong competition makes the older Al-Jamil’s insecurities and name-dropping all the more understandable.
23. Larry Hemsworth
Speaking of overlooked siblings, this (fictional) non-acting Hemsworth brother was at one point engaged to be married to Tahani, who also knows a thing or two about being hounded incessantly by the mean-spirited scandal-mongers at “T-M-Zed.” Larry — a rich, handsome pediatric chiropractor — is a case study in “the grass is always greener.” Compared to Chris, Liam, and Luke, he thinks of himself pudgy and homely and boring, and has to be reassured by Tahani that “fixing baby spines is just as valuable as acting.”
22. Chris Baker (a.k.a. Linda Johannsen)
Chris is really a one-joke character: He’s a dimwitted demon whose go-to move is to distract Eleanor by stripping off his shirt and exercising. But sometimes the best gags are the most predictable. The Good Place writers always found just the right way to deploy “shirtless Chris” — including throwing Eleanor and the audience a curveball by having Chris go undercover in season four as an irritatingly unimpressed Midwesterner named Linda Johannsen.
21. Brent Norwalk
Determining the best The Good Place character involves more than just deciding which one we’d most like to hang out with. (If that were the criteria, Jeff the Doorman might shoot straight to number one.) It has much more to do with what this person — or demon — brings to the story as a whole. Brent Norwalk is clearly a louse, with his unearned sense of entitlement and his dumb golf shirts. But he presents an interesting challenge for Eleanor, who in season four has to find a way to make someone with a knee-jerk revulsion for “kindness” and “understanding” into a better person. Plus, Brent provides one of the final season’s highlights when he pens Six Feet Under Par: A Chip Driver Mystery, the perfect parody of “an airplane read,” right down to lines like, “She was the type of girl you couldn’t take in all at once or you’d die. You had to take her in bit-by-bit, like a great work of art, like the Louvre.”
20. Simone Garnett
Next to Brent, Simone may be The Good Place’s most controversial character. She was a fan favorite in her earliest appearances, where she poked at Chidi’s pretensions and generally served as a more grounded counterpoint to our kooky heroes. But the decision to include Simone among the test subjects in season four’s experimental Neighborhood — surely motivated by the noble intention of keeping the wonderful Kirby Howell-Baptiste on the show — did the Australian neuroscientist a disservice, making her come off as less of a witty realist and more of an obstinate obstacle. She still ranks in the upper half of The Good Place roster though, because of how much she brought to season three, and because she’s the person who forces Eleanor and company to reckon with how bad Brent really is.
19. The Good Place committee
For the most part, The Good Place writers have aimed their satirical barbs at self-centered, arrogant, “politically incorrect” boors, easily recognizable as right-wingers. But the show’s creator Michael Schur has saved his most scathing mockery for the ineffectual touchy-feely types who represent the actual Good Place. Accommodating to a fault, these hypersensitive bureaucrats would rather talk through a problem for a thousand years than make a choice that might offend anybody. During the series’ final two seasons, it becomes clearer that these boobs may be more responsible than the demons for the grossly unfair universal order.
Helpfully stationed in the mailroom just outside the Good Place — a building that resembles the reception area in a small-town church’s office — the sweetly trusting Gwendolyn gives the heroes a preview of what they can expect from their gullible heavenly hosts. She believes every story this motley crew throws at her, whether Jason’s saying they were chased into the mailroom by a Dracula with a bazooka, or Michael’s saying the humans won a contest from “Weird Contest magazine.” Even when Michael asks (purely as a hypothetical … wink-wink) whether he can use Gwen’s off-limits phone, she just smiles and says, “What a fun thought experiment!” What a fun character, too.
17. Hypatia of Alexandria
You can call her “Patty.” Played by the brilliant Lisa Kudrow, the first person the humans get to know when they arrive in the actual Good Place in the series’ penultimate episode is an Egyptian philosopher and mathematician, who after nearly two millennia of paradise has become so bored and complacent that she refers to Chidi as “a think-book man,” and isn’t sure whether the number five is an “S” or “math.” Hypatia delivers another important lesson to the heroes, showing them that even heaven is overhyped.
16. Timothy Olyphant
Yes, that Timothy Olyphant. In one of season four’s funniest surprise cameos, Janet holds the attention of an impatient celestial Judge by bringing the Justified and Deadwood star into her void, so he can keep the Olyphanyt-loving Judge happy while the humans and Michael explain their new afterlife plan. Not content merely to be eye candy, Olyphant almost immediately — and hilariously — starts offering his own opinions on the plan’s strengths and weaknesses, because he’s always been an ornery cuss.
Created by Janet to serve as her post-Jason rebound boyfriend (and played by the fabulously zany Jason Mantzoukas), Derek is like a limited-function, perpetually buggy “beta” version of the Good Place’s master A.I. Ever since Derek’s introduction, his “Maximum Derek” oddity has provided a comic grace note to multiple The Good Place episodes — including all the ones where he pretends to be sophisticated by filling martini glasses with cocktail garnishes.
14. The Jacksonville Gang
Jason’s Florida pals — and his, um, father, “Donkey Doug” — should rank high on this list just for their names alone. Pillboi! Acidcat! Li’l Peanut! (Did we mention Donkey Doug? We did? Well, let’s mention him again; he’s probably already forgotten.) The Good Place writers have clearly had a lot of fun these past four years bringing “Florida Man” headlines to life courtesy of tales of Jason’s adventures as a combination DJ, dancer, and dastardly rogue — an apparently all-too-common triple-threat in a city where a monster-truck company called Cabz gives rides too and from the Randy “Macho Man” Savage International Airport.
13. Doug Forcett
Ever noticed how many The Good Place characters are named Doug? There’s Eleanor’s dad and Jason’s dad (which, frankly, is a weird coincidence … especially since Eleanor’s pop probably would’ve been called “Donkey” too, if he lived in Florida instead of Arizona). And then there’s Doug Forcett, the legendary human who figured out the universal points system while he was still a Canadian teenage stoner. In season three, Michael and Janet eventually get to meet this super-Doug (delightfully played by our real world’s own legendary Michael McKean), and discover that in the 40-plus years since he discovered the truth about the afterlife, this Doug’s been living a miserable life, eating radishes, drinking urine, and trying to save every snail he trods upon. He’s another case study in how it’s possible to take “living right” too far.
Way back in season one, the first “official” representative of the Bad Place viewers met was Trevor, played by Adam Scott, an actor who has excelled throughout his career at playing both virtuous schmoes and absolute creeps. He’s in the latter mode in The Good Place, playing Trevor as a “torturer” in the broader sense of the word. Yes, like the rest of his ilk he’s fond of penis-flattening; but he’s also into telling women to “smile more,” and he’s the kind of guy who boasts about having sex with the ladies who’ve rejected him. The arrival of Trevor is one of the first indications on this show that “hell” has a lot of meanings.
11. Vicky Sengupta (a.k.a. “Eleanor Shellstrop”)
Give a lot of credit to Tiya Sircar for making Vicky more than just a one-off plot contrivance. She’s introduced in season one as “the real Eleanor Shellstrop,” who was stuck being tortured in the Bad Place while our Eleanor enjoyed the perks of paradise. Once Michael’s ruse is exposed, we learn that “Eleanor” is actually an acid-snake demon named Vicky, with an alpha-dog personality and a passion for the theater. She’s been a fun occasional nemesis to Michael ever since — mainly because she actually believes in his afterlife innovations, but is sure she could do it better.
10. Mindy St. Claire
One of season one’s best episodes introduces Mindy, a greedy cokehead who had a deathbed conversion and ultimately did so much good for charity that she earned her way into … well, not heaven exactly, but not hell either. The show’s conception of a “Medium Place” — filled with warm beer, Eagles songs, Anne Rice novels, and VHS copies of Cannonball Run 2 — expanded the universe of The Good Place and set up one of the series’ central dilemmas. Good, bad, or medium, an eternity of anything is bound to get boring.
9. Judge Gen
Before Eleanor and company bucked the system, the ultimate cosmic arbiter Gen (short for “Hydrogen,” the only other thing in the universe when she was born) hadn’t issued any rulings in a while, and was instead spending most of her time eating burritos and binge-watching television. But in a way that just made her an unlikely ally to the humans, if only because she’s developed some sympathy for the miserable flesh-bags — or at least wants us to keep making her favorite shows. Of all the eternal beings we’ve met on The Good Place, the Judge has the most relatable goals: just wanting to get back to eating junk food and watching TV, forever.
The Good Place’s primary antagonist first appeared in season one in the guise of the Judge, before revealing himself as the actual boss of the Bad Place. In both personae, his demeanor doesn’t change much; he’s always comically deadpan and snippy. Once he’s free to be himself though, he can express his genuine enthusiasm for punishing humans’ orifices and genitalia. That’s what makes him such a formidable foe to Michael: How do you reason with a guy who’s that passionate about butthole spiders?
7. Other Janet(s)
Janet is not a robot, not a girl … and not alone. The multitude of Janets on The Good Place include some more basic models of Good Place assistants: efficient and pleasant. And of course there are the Bad Place’s many “Bad Janets,” who are vulgar and flatulent. Disco Janet is groovy, and Neutral Janet is … neutral. (End of conversations. And in one of the show’s best episodes, “Janet(s),” the core four humans all became a Janet, while hiding out in the vast Janet-void. These role(s) have all been a terrific showcase for D’Arcy Carden, an improv vet making the most of her biggest break in showbiz.
6. Jason Mendoza (a.k.a Jianyu)
More than just the archetypal “dumb guy,” Jason is a magnificent creation: a human of pure impulse, who pursues immediate gratification and considers a Molotov cocktail a reasonable reset button when he gets into trouble. There’s scarcely a single The Good Place episode where he doesn’t get the best lines. (It’s hard to pick a favorite, but how about the time he wanted to become Spider-Man by letting a spider bite him, and was happy to find that, “He gave me the power to swell up my hand!”) Even though Jason’s limited awareness of what’s actually happening in any given moment limited his ability to play much an active role in his afterlife buddies’ schemes and capers, Manny Jacinto’s portrayal of the character is so sweet and energetic that he never seems one-dimensional.
5. Tahani Al-Jamil
The Good Place’s first two episodes revealed that both Eleanor and Jianyu/Jason were nowhere near good enough to belong in the real Good Place, but we didn’t learn that Chidi and Tahani were also on the naughty list until the season-one finale. But didn’t we already kind of know the truth about Tahani? An incorrigible braggart and a self-indulgent snob, the aristocratic Ms. Al-Jamil always seemed deeply flawed — albeit in a lovable way, thanks in large part to how Jameela Jamil always projected the character’s insecurities alongside her humblebrags. There’s something poignant and almost tragic about Tahani, who was led to believe after she died that she was finally getting her due, only to have the rug pulled out from under her yet again.
Ted Danson has given multiple masterful comic performances in his long career (and a few good dramatic ones as well), but he’s never played anyone quite like Michael: a demon architect of rare vision, whose fascination with humanity led him to develop a new method of self-torture that ultimately changed the universe. Danson has captured Michael’s goofy naïveté (nothing is more adorable than his excitement over ordinary human things like “getting a rewards card … any rewards card”), but also his deep sense of shame at having participated for so long in afterlife system that drifted drastically from its mission. Michael’s been both a father figure and a lost soul to the show’s human heroes, and Danson’s ability to play him as a well-meaning bumbler has been one the real joys of this show.
3. Eleanor Shellstrop
Too often, the lead character on a popular show can become a drag, sucking up plot lines and airtime that fans would rather see go to the more colorful and complex supporting cast. (Examples: Rick on The Walking Dead, Jack on Lost, and even Buffy on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.) But Eleanor was always good company on The Good Place. A clever and fundamentally good-hearted person who led a sloppy and selfish life — in part out of necessity, in part out of laziness — Eleanor was always down-to-earth, funny, and more than a little horny, in a way that made her failures easier to take. (Eleanor, encouraging her friends to have sext daydreams: “Do you not do that? You can do it for free!”) From start to finish she remained a relatable everywoman: someone who, like so many of us, could’ve been a better citizen of Earth if she hadn’t gotten off to a bad start and then let entropy take hold.
2. Chidi Anagonye
One could argue that Chidi is The Good Place’s most essential character. He’s both the learned scholar who can explain the show’s deeper philosophical themes and he’s a bundle of neuroses who failed at being a “good” human because for the most part he was too afraid to try. He’s a delight when he’s squealing over the the excitement of reading a book, and he’s hilarious when he’s feeling so low that he’s making chili with Peeps and M&Ms. Perhaps most importantly, Chidi’s the perfect balance to Eleanor: deliberate where she’s impulsive, and intensely self-critical where she’s unapologetically cocky. Their growing realization that they need each other to be truly happy underlines one of the series’ fundamental lessons: that there’s no good place without good company.
What if Siri and Alexa had a baby, with the magical powers of a genie and the form and demeanor of a flight attendant? That’s one way to describe Janet, the afterlife’s charming, unflappable concierge, whose first appearance on The Good Place clarified right away that this show was going to be more than a little fantastical. Janet is a fan favorite in part because the character exists beyond gender and beyond any other clearly defined physical form. And yet Janet can change, and improve, and forge connections. If the most powerful AI in the universe still needs some tweaks, maybe we too can forgive ourselves for our imperfections — and know that we too can get better.