NBC’s The Good Place remains one of the most innovative and courageous sitcoms in television even as it rapidly approaches its series finale. Creator Mike Schur has earned the right to take his foot off the gas pedal—The Good Place‘s surprising storytelling has never been afraid to tear down its support structures and rebuild itself on the fly. But in Thursday’s midseason finale, Schur and the Soul Squad delivered an unexpectedly touching episode just when you thought The Good Place might be bogged down in plot muck.
“The Answer” sees our resident ethics expert and stomach ache connoisseur Chidi (William Jackson Harper) regain all of his memories throughout the show’s numerous timelines—real life and afterlife alike. The takeaway: after 300 years of indecisive and compulsive obsession to think his way to a solution, our lovably nerdy protagonist has finally realized that life’s toughest questions don’t have simple answers.
“Sometimes you have to get a bird’s-eye view of things in order to really see them clearly,” Harper told TheWrap in a recent interview. “Getting that huge download does sort of throw everything into relief. And there’s the benefit of having seen all these different lives and the running themes,” he continued. “That gives him a lot of clarity, having this magical thing happen where suddenly you get to see where your habits are, what your paradigm is and ways it needs to shift in order to move forward.”
The fundamental truth that Chidi has been searching for his entire existence finally crystallizes in a note he writes to himself before having his memory wiped: “There is no ‘answer’ … but Eleanor is the answer.”
I’m not crying, you’re crying.
“Whether it’s romantic or friendly or, sometimes antagonistic, there’s something about the energies of these two people that they’re drawn together,” Harper said. “They need each other so, so deeply.”
“I think that for Chidi, Eleanor is the reason, she’s the point, she’s the person that he exists for. It’s a sort of clarity. It’s just this clear moment: Here’s this other person who encapsulates everything I need or want, whether I know it or not.”
That’s one hell of an emotional character arc to be packed into a half-hour sitcom. The hope, now, is that Chidi’s newfound clarity will help him save all of life on Earth from being erased by the Judge. Fingers crossed.