Analysis of The Good place release

Summary The Good Place is a show about Eleanor, a woman who wakes up in the afterlife and discovers that she has accidentally been placed in The Good Place instead of The Bad Place. With the help of her soulmate Chidi and her new neighbors, Eleanor tries to learn how to be a good person so she can earn her spot in The Good Place. However, as she struggles to prove that she deserves to be there, Eleanor realizes that her presence in The Good Place is causing chaos and must find a way to fix it.


Screenplay Story Analysis

Story Critique The story has a clever concept that allows for humorous takes on the afterlife. The dynamic between Eleanor and Chidi is entertaining and their conversations about ethics are interesting. The plot starts off strong, with a compelling introduction to The Good Place and its rules, but it becomes repetitive and predictable as the same conflicts arise in every episode. The characters are well-defined, but some of them (like Jianyu) are underdeveloped and don't add much to the plot. The twist at the end of the season is a game-changer that opens up new possibilities for storytelling.
Suggestions: To improve the screenplay, more attention should be given to the supporting characters and their backstories. Also, the conflicts should be varied and each episode should feel distinct from the others. The humor should continue to be a strength of the story, but it could benefit from more biting satire and political commentary. Finally, the twist at the end of the season should be foreshadowed more clearly throughout the episodes leading up to it.

Note: This is the overall critique. For scene by scene critique click here

Characters in the screenplay, and their arcs:

Michael

Michael is a friendly, enthusiastic, and humorous character who serves as the guide and architect of The Good Place. He takes pride in his work and strives for perfection in creating the perfect afterlife for residents. He is welcoming, professional, and mysterious, with a quirky sense of humor and a love for making jokes.



Eleanor

Eleanor is a self-centered and sarcastic woman who is struggling to come to terms with her new life in The Good Place after her death. She struggles with feelings of inadequacy and confusion as she tries to make sense of the afterlife, and often clashes with others due to her selfishness and lack of empathy. Despite this, she has moments of vulnerability and humor that help to endear her to the audience.



Character Arc Critique Suggestions
Michael Throughout the screenplay, Michael's character arc begins as someone who is enthusiastic and happy with his work, but slowly discovers flaws in his perfect design. As he learns more about the residents and becomes more empathetic to their struggles, he starts to question the morality of the system he has created. Michael's arc culminates in his decision to team up with the residents to fix the flaws in The Good Place and create a more just afterlife system. The character arc is well-developed and provides a compelling narrative that is driven by Michael's growth and development. However, the introduction of Michael as a mysterious character may be confusing for viewers, and it could benefit from a clearer explanation of his role and backstory.
To improve the character arc, the screenplay could provide more context and backstory for Michael's character earlier in the story. Additionally, the introduction of Michael as a mysterious character could be dialed back or explained more fully to avoid confusion for viewers. Overall, the arc is well-done and could benefit from some minor tweaks to provide a clearer and more compelling narrative.
Eleanor Eleanor's character arc follows her journey towards selflessness and redemption as she tries to improve herself in order to fit into The Good Place. She starts off as a skeptical and selfish person, but as she grows to understand and appreciate her surroundings, she begins to believe that she deserves to be there. As she becomes increasingly frustrated with the chaos she has caused, she decides to take action and proposes a risky experiment to fix things. Although the experiment ultimately fails, it is a turning point for Eleanor, who decides to sacrifice her own happiness in order to make things right for others. By the end of the movie, she has transformed into a selfless and caring person who has earned her place in The Good Place through her actions. The character arc for Eleanor is well-structured and provides a clear journey for the character. However, it could be improved by giving her more consistent growth throughout the movie, rather than just a few key moments. Additionally, some of her actions and decisions may come across as illogical or confusing to the audience, which could detract from her overall likeability.
To improve Eleanor's character arc, consider giving her more incremental growth throughout the movie, rather than just a few key moments. This will make her transformation feel more natural and believable. Additionally, make sure her actions and decisions are consistent with her character, and avoid moments that may come across as confusing or illogical. Finally, consider giving her more opportunities to connect with others and show her empathetic side, which will help to endear her to the audience.
Theme Theme Details Themee Explanation
The AfterlifeThe concept of the afterlife is introduced, with Eleanor waking up in The Good Place and meeting Michael, a designer of neighborhoods in The Good Place. Michael explains that there are many levels in The Good Place and that he’s just a helper. He also introduces her to the concept of Neighborhoods containing 334 perfectly matched human souls. The theme of the afterlife is central to the screenplay, with Michael explaining to Eleanor and other recently deceased individuals how their good behavior on Earth earned them a spot in this eternal happy place. The concept of good and bad behavior leading to rewards and punishments after death is explored throughout the screenplay.
Ethics and MoralityEleanor proposes an experiment that involves Chidi teaching her how to be good. The scene ends with an interruption in the form of an emergency meeting called by Michael.The theme of ethics and morality is explored through the character of Chidi, Eleanor's soulmate who teaches philosophy. The exploration of what it means to be good is a prominent theme throughout the screenplay, with Eleanor's fraudulent past serving as a conflict to this theme.
RedemptionEleanor wakes up in a pleasant waiting room and meets Michael, who explains she is in The Good Place. He answers her questions about how it works and tells her about the selective nature of the system. Eleanor is excited to learn she is rewarded for her good life and gets to spend eternity with her soulmate.The theme of redemption is briefly explored in the screenplay, with Eleanor's past fraudulent behavior serving as a source of conflict for her character. The idea of earning a spot in The Good Place through good deeds also touches on the theme of redemption.
Perfection and FlawsEleanor wakes up to find the world a confused mess; houses cut in half, trees twisted, people mutated, all because of her presence in The Good Place. Eleanor and Chidi unsuccessfully try to calm others and restore peace. Chidi slowly realizes that everything that is happening is due to Eleanor's presence. A frantic Eleanor tries to convince Chidi that others in The Good Place also have flaws and cannot be perfect. However, Chidi counters her by pointing out her past behaviour as narcissistic, superficial, and inconsiderate as well as the fact that every other person in The Good Place has contributed to making the place perfect. Eleanor ends up realizing that every single person in The Good Place is a 'dweeb'.The theme of perfection and flaws is explored through Eleanor's realization that every single person in The Good Place has flaws and imperfections. The conflict arises when Eleanor's presence in The Good Place disrupts the perfect balance, leading to chaos and destruction.
DeceptionEleanor expresses her dissatisfaction with her smaller house compared to those around her and asks her soulmate Chidi to assist her in maintaining the charade. Chidi refuses, stating his discomfort with lying. Michael proceeds to introduce her to her new neighbors, Tehani and Jianyu, with whom they plan to host a welcome party for the whole neighborhood. Eleanor struggles with maintaining the facade amidst her growing unease and hunger for frozen yogurt. Chidi contemplates telling Michael about Eleanor's secret, but ultimately is stopped by Eleanor, who reminds him of his promise not to hurt her.The theme of deception is explored through Eleanor's fraudulent past and her attempts to maintain the facade in The Good Place. The conflict arises when the facade becomes increasingly difficult to maintain, leading to tension between Eleanor and her soulmate, Chidi.
AcceptanceEleanor wakes up in a waiting room with a sign that reads 'Welcome! Everything is fine'. She meets Michael, who greets her and invites her to 'come on in'. Eleanor takes it in stride and starts asking questions, including how she died. Michael, checking his clipboard, tells her that she was struck and killed in a grocery store parking lot by a runaway column of shopping carts and an erectile dysfunction truck. Eleanor giggles and asks about religion, and Michael tells her who was close to guessing the nature of the afterlife. Greta enters, excited to find out who burps loudly and drinks a blue solution to cure Eleanor's post-revelation gas expulsion. Eleanor is relieved to know she's in the good place and follows Michael to have her questions answered.The theme of acceptance is briefly explored in the beginning of the screenplay, with Eleanor taking her death in stride and accepting that she is in The Good Place. The conflict arises when Eleanor's fraudulent past and attempts to maintain the facade become increasingly difficult, leading to tension between characters.



Screenwriting Resources on Themes

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Studio Binder Movie Themes: Examples of Common Themes for Screenwriters
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John August Writing from Theme

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Story, Plot, Genre, Theme - Screenwriting Basics Screenwriting basics - beginner video
What is theme Discussion on ways to layer theme into a screenplay.
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Goals and Philosophical Conflict
internal Goals Eleanor's internal goal is to come to terms with being dead and navigate the afterlife. She also desires acceptance in this new world while fearing judgment and punishment for her past behavior. Her internal goals later evolve to maintaining her fake identity as a good person and proving she belongs in The Good Place. The protagonist's goal is to understand her place in the afterlife and whether she deserves to be in The Good Place. Her fear and desire both revolve around belonging in the utopian community.
External Goals Eleanor's external goals are to understand how The Good Place works, explore her new home, and fit in with the other residents while avoiding trouble. Her immediate external goal is to enter the room and meet someone named Michael. The protagonist's external goal is to explore and understand her new home in the afterlife and the broader afterlife system.
Philosophical Conflict The overarching philosophical conflict of the screenplay is the tension between religious beliefs and the reality of the afterlife, as well as the nature of goodness being subjective and context-based. These conflicts challenge the characters' beliefs and values, forcing them to grapple with the consequences of their actions.


Character Development Contribution: The goals and conflict contribute to Eleanor's character development by challenging her beliefs and values, highlighting her flaws, and pushing her towards redemption and growth. The protagonist's journey of self-discovery and grappling with her past actions deepens her character.

Narrative Structure Contribution: The goals and conflict provide a strong narrative structure by creating tension and driving the plot forward. The protagonist's internal and external goals, as well as the philosophical conflicts, create a framework for the story to unfold.

Thematic Depth Contribution: The goals and conflict contribute to the thematic depth of the screenplay by exploring concepts such as morality, redemption, and the afterlife. The philosophical conflicts highlight the complexity of these themes, challenging the characters' beliefs and values and pushing them towards growth and self-discovery.


Screenwriting Resources on Goals and Philosophical Conflict

Articles

Site Description
Creative Screenwriting How Important Is A Character’s Goal?
Studio Binder What is Conflict in a Story? A Quick Reminder of the Purpose of Conflict

YouTube Videos

Title Description
How I Build a Story's Philosophical Conflict How do you build philosophical conflict into your story? Where do you start? And how do you develop it into your characters and their external actions. Today I’m going to break this all down and make it fully clear in this episode.
Endings: The Good, the Bad, and the Insanely Great By Michael Arndt: I put this lecture together in 2006, when I started work at Pixar on Toy Story 3. It looks at how to write an "insanely great" ending, using Star Wars, The Graduate, and Little Miss Sunshine as examples. 90 minutes
Tips for Writing Effective Character Goals By Jessica Brody (Save the Cat!): Writing character goals is one of the most important jobs of any novelist. But are your character's goals...mushy?