Unimaginable horrors seemed to be promised for NBC’s The Good Place season 3 finale, “Pandemonium.” It’s name is “Pandemonium.” It was easy to imagine a swarm of bees with penises descending upon the Soul Squad’s new faux Good Place, which is actually the Medium Place in disguise. If the time a flock of cocktail shrimp wrecking the original fake Good Place didn’t qualify as “pandemonium,” the terrors promised in the 2019 finale had to be bad, right?
Well, “Pandemonium” revealed viewers weren’t in for a spectacle of Bad Place-style tortures for Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell) & Co. Instead, it was emotional chaos on the horizon as Eleanor and Chidi Anagonye (William Jackson Harper) were forced to break up. And not in a bittersweet “I love you, but maybe we should see other people?” way. These two split in a “All of Chidi’s memories of Eleanor and his friends have been fully erased” way.
It’s an upsetting end to season 3, but one that was inevitable. Not only did The Good Place hint a split was ahead earlier in the season — this shake-up has the chance to fix the comedy’s most pressing critique right now.
If there’s a single moment that should have sent off alarm bells over the health of Eleanor and Chidi’s relationship, it came in last week’s “Chidi Sees The Time Knife.” By the end of the episode, Eleanor and Chidi are settled into their creepy clown-decorated home as part of their latest plan to save the afterlife. Then, Eleanor damns the couple for the foreseeable future with blind optimism. “Most of the time, we’ll just get to live together like a normal couple,” she predicts. “We’ll can chill out and just relax.”
This is a Mike Schur comedy about two people battling the will of cosmic judges, bureaucratic demons, and the universe itself — they don’t get to “just relax.” The second Eleanor said as much, it became clear The Good Place was about to ruin her happy relationship for the good of comedic tension and narrative complexity.
However, it was impossible to realize how far the NBC comedy would take destroying its central couple. In the beginning of “Pandemonium,” Eleanor, Michael (Ted Danson), and Tahani realize the Bad Place choose Chidi’s ex-girlfriend Simone Garnett (Killing Eve BFF Kirby Howell-Baptiste) to be a part of the new class of afterlife guinea pigs. Simone's entrance into the Soul Squad 2.0 immediately threatens the setup, so Michael is allowed to erase her memories of Chidi, Eleanor, Tahani, and Jason from earlier in the season. But, Chidi realizes deleting Simone’s memories isn’t enough — for all of this to work out, he also can’t remember her. If he doesn’t lose those memories, he’ll definitely spill the beans by accident, ruining the experiment and dooming all of humanity to actual hell in the process.
The problem is, Chidi’s memories of Simone are all wrapped up in Eleanor, meaning he’ll have to lose their season 3 love story — and the hundreds of love stories he was able to recently remember — for the team's gamble to succeed. Because, again, the good of the entire human race rests on this experiment. He agrees. On Chidi and Eleanor’s last night together, Michael gives them a movie of their memories together, and it’s a real tear-jerker of sweet moments. The next time we see Chidi, he’s a blank slate.
While this is a nightmare for anyone who ever shipped Eleanor and Chidi, it’s also a blessing for The Good Place. Recently, the series came under fire for giving Chidi a great romance with Simone, a fascinating and beautiful Black woman, only for him to break up with her and quickly realize Eleanor, a small blonde woman, is the real love his life. Although Eleanor and Chidi have lifetimes of history between them, it felt like the comedy fell into one of television’s most boring tropes: women of color being discarded for their white peers, with little to no reason given.
Now that Chidi doesn’t know Eleanor or Simone, he’ll be able to make a totally fresh decision, which The Good Place will actually have to explain and defend in step-by-step detail over an already-confirmed season 4. Fall 2019 can’t come soon enough.