Atharva Deshpande lives in Nashik, Maharashtra. He is a cinephile and a bookworm. He likes to talk about books & movies that interest him.
I am going to discuss the whole character arc of Michael, played by Ted Danson, from The Good Place, who’s technically the main character of the show.
So, spoilers ahead!
Because this is the type of show you should watch without knowing too much about it.
Introduction and Premise
The Good Place premiered on September 19, 2016, and became a fan favorite very quickly. TGP is a 13 episode TV Show that ran for four seasons concluding its run on January 30, 2020. This series deals with the afterlife and the morality of human beings while being quirky and funny.
Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell) founds herself in a good place neighborhood after her death. People come to Good and Bad places based on their actions on earth. But it’s actually wrong in the case of Eleanor since she wasn’t really a good person on Earth. She confesses this to Chidi Anagonye (William Jackson Harper), her soulmate and all hell breaks looks.
Of course, this premise is something different and never heard before. But when we talk about the afterlife, there have to be immortal beings. Michael (Ted Danson) is the architect of the neighborhood where Eleanor is. He even explains the point system.
Michael’s Intro to The Good Place
From here on, I am gonna talk about Michael while spoiling a lot of episodes.
S01E01: Everything is Fine
In the beginning, we see Michael is just an eager being who’s excited about his first neighborhood. He has very eccentric reactions to human objects and a longing for human life. We almost see him as an angel. He becomes the elderly, father figure character almost every sitcom has.
S01E13: Michael’s Gambit
For the whole season, Michael follows the usual helping hand character. The twist comes in the season finale. In Michael’s Gambit, we come to know that the neighborhood where Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani, and Jason are living is actually The Bad Place. Michael isn’t the guardian angel, he is a demon. In fact, he himself planned this crazy torture experiment as an architect.
This twist shook almost all the internet back when the season finale was released. A smart twist, or rather an explanatory one. we were all blown away. But the blow was also onto over conventions as we see one of our staple character stereotypes being twisted. Michael is a demon. He is actually our antagonist. Everything we have seen as character development in season one gets lost. The rug underneath us is pulled.
Michael Learns To Be Human
The Demon and The Humans
Beyond this point, Michael’s swooping transformation begins. With the brilliant twist, Michael has come into the center of the show. At the end of the season finale, Michael reboots all the humans. This makes him the only character audience follows; because he knows what the audience knows. We see the example of this and his powers in S02E02: Dance Dance Resolution.
But, in the same episode, we see Michael is failing, rather miserably. His leadership gets questioned when the demons under him (who were acting like normal people in front of the humans) start a rebellion. Michael’s notions get challenged and he has to do something vicariously. He has to team up with the humans. It takes a whole episode for the humans to even trust his project, but Michael and The Team Cockroach make a pact.
With this new dynamic, Team Cockroach (team of humans) put on a condition. They ask Michael to sit with them in the Ethics lessons which are conducted by Chidi.
This is where the writers began throwing some important philosophical themes at us through Michael.
S02E04: Existential Crisis
Michael starts the classes with the humans, but Chidi is having a tough time getting through to Michael. Of course, it’s tough to teach ‘human’ philosophy to an immortal being. So, Chidi comes up with a solution. He throws Michael in the hole of Existential Crisis. The result is somewhat like this.
Now, When Michael begins to understand the Existential dread, he also begins to understand humans. He enters the shoes of humans. But he still is a demon. Proof of which can be found in S02E05: The Trolley Problem (which is another episode of philosophy lesson mixed with brilliant humor).
This continues in season two where Michael understands the value of friendship, the understanding of human nature. But as the season comes to the end. We see Michael is ready to even sacrifice himself for the humans. The end of season two begins Michael's journey towards a savior. He begins to question the system because he sees humans have the capacity to change.
The Accidental Savior
In Season 3 and Season 4, Michael begins another experiment. He begins this to save the four people he cares about. His motivation to save others is limited for his friends. He keeps on trying to help the humans, but he ends up failing.
(Now I am not going to spoil seasons 3 and 4; because you should really not miss it.)
During his journey through the events of Season 3, Michael discovers the fault in the afterlife system and begins to find the solution. He suggests an experiment. He keeps on finding a solution and ends up being the savior of humanity.
He believes in humans and their capacity to change and follows through with the experiment. He even is ready to blow himself up for the sake of the experiment.
Michael's character becomes one of the most brilliant characters from 'The Good Place'. You see, all of us like a good redemption tale. But it needs a Michael-type character who questions the systems, brings on new inventions, and creates a pathway to becoming the accidental savior.
Michael doesn’t begin his journey as a big-time savior, neither does he know humanity needs to be saved. But it’s the characterization of Michael through various situations that force him to change.
Overall, that’s what Michael taught me, to adapt to the change, understand the fault and be innovative. Michael Realman is one of my favorite characters ever written in a TV Show.
A few words about Ted Danson
Now, before concluding, I really feel the need to talk about Ted Danson. Mr. Danson played Michael for four years on the show and I don’t think anyone could have done a better job. Danson’s style of humor, his persona, and his dialogue delivery really make Michael exceptional.
Of course, the writers get credit for the character of Michael, but Danson also paints such a character that when you re-watch this series, you will realize the double meaning of his lines.
Some of his comebacks will stay in your mind.
Finally, The Good Place is filled with these kinds of eccentric and interesting characters. It is one of the most ingenious shows on TV. If you have read so far, I doubt if you haven’t seen the show. But just in case you haven’t seen this show yet. Check it out on Netflix.
I am planning a few more articles about 'The Good Place'.
Let me know if you liked this in the comments
Thanks for Reading.
© 2021 Atharva Deshpande