I’ve Got a Theory: A Bullshirt Theory About “The Good Place”

“I’ve got a theory that it’s a demon. A dancing demon! No, something isn’t right there…” Buffy the Vampire Slayer Original Cast, “I’ve Got a Theory”

SPOILER WARNING!!!! Major spoilers ahead! Do NOT read if you haven’t seen the first two seasons of The Good Place. There is also one very minor spoiler at the end for season 3 with a spoiler warning before it, based on an interview with Michael Schur. Read at your own risk. This is a theory for entertainment purposes only. I take no responsibility if any of it is correct (highly unlikely) or spoils anything. Much like Jon Snow (and Jason), I know nothing…

For years I’ve been coming up with all kinds of crazy theories about various TV series. The theories range from the plausible, such as a certain character eventually killing him/herself on Veronica Mars, to ones that could have been true but were never proven because the show was cancelled {insert shameless plug for Damien here} to completely outrageous theories that are just for fun, like 80% of my Mr. Robot theories. (Is anything really too crazy for Mr. Robot, though?) I’ve actually been right a few times, even with some crazier ones. This theory about Michael Schur‘s forking brilliant show, The Good Place, probably falls somewhere between “I could see that” and “This crazy bench is going to the Bad Place just for this theory.” It’s not perfect, but it’s not completely without merit, especially on a show with many twists.

So what is it? It all boils down to one thing: Chidi (William Jackson Harper) is not who he says he is. There’s much more than that, though. I’ve come to believe that Chidi is/was a demon or even (far less likely) some sort of god…

chidiwhat

This is undoubtedly your reaction to this.

Now, I’m sure you’re thinking I’ve completely lost it, but stay with me. Let’s start with something basic that isn’t a point for or against this theory but would make it interesting. Chidi was a Moral Philosophy professor. How crazy would it be if the anxious one who was supposed to be the most ethical one was actually the one deceiving everyone? Moral philosophy professor is a pretty good front if you want people to follow and trust you.

That bit doesn’t hold much water beyond me thinking it’d be funny, so let’s move on to something slightly more sound. Characters are rarely given random names. Buffy, for example, got her name because Joss Whedon liked the juxtaposition of a silly, insignificant name with someone as fierce and strong as the vampire slayer. The Good Place has shown that at least one name also has some meaning behind it. Tahani (Jameela Jamil) mentioned in “Tahani Al-Jamil” that her full name means “Congratulations, Beautiful,” which checks out and isn’t just something the show made up because it fits Tahani.

Sexy skyscraper Tahani obviously lives up to her name, but what about the others? Eleanor (Kristen Bell) means “shining light” or “bright one.” Michael (Ted Danson), the architect who created the neighbourhood, means “who is like God?”. Janet (D’Arcy Carden) means something along the lines of “God’s gracious gift.” Jason (Manny Jacinto) means “to heal,” and while he might not be very bright, he has shown some unexpected emotional intelligence, helping Michael and Tahani feel better when they were upset. His silent monk name Jianyu can mean “prison,” which is kind of what not being able to talk was for him. Finally, Chidi means “God exists.” God exists… in the form of Chidi? Hmm…

Obviously several names (Michael, Janet, Chidi) have religious meanings, which makes the case stronger, but they all fit the characters well. Even some minor characters, like Tahani’s sister Kamilah, have names that represent them. In “Rhonda, Diana, Jake, and Trent,” the humans adopted aliases when they went to The Bad Place Headquarters. Their alias names also sort of fit them. (My favourite is Jake Jortles, which Jason picked to rhyme with Blake Bortles, but Jake as a word/name means “a sexually immature male wild turkey under two years old” or “supplanter.” If that doesn’t describe Jason, what does?!) The other humans picked their aliases, but Chidi said he couldn’t lie and got his in The Bad Place when a demon called Chet (Dax Shepard) mistook him for a demon called Trent, which means “trespasser.” Technically all of them were trespassers, but it’s interesting that Chidi was the one who got the alias name assigned to him that means “trespasser.” Perhaps being in the Bad Place Headquarters isn’t the only place/way he’s a trespasser. I may be ascribing too much meaning to everything, but the names were clearly chosen for a reason.

tahanicongratulatonsinarabic

The sexy giraffe herself: Congratulations, Beautiful!

“Rhonda, Diana, Jake, and Trent” had several bits that supported this theory. Chidi and the others all trespassed while trying to get to the real Good Place, but it’s interesting that Chidi was the one who was mistaken for a demon. Chet saw him and said, “Trent! Is that you?” Chidi nervously laughed, “Who else could it be?” Chet told Jason Jake that Trent was his “top dog,” and they’d worked together for 100 years in Partial Decapitations. 100 years! Maybe the Bad Place doesn’t calculate years the same way we do, but that is still a long time to work with someone, even if it was 800 years ago. You’re not likely to forget someone you worked with for 100 years who made enough of an impression on you to be your top dog.

Chet said another demon was having trouble torturing a guy and needed some ideas from Chidi Trent. Chidi was hesitant but – book lover that he is – said to torture the guy by giving him books because he once tortured a chick who hated reading (Eleanor) by giving her “mad books to read around the clock.” Such a Chidi way to torture people, right? At first the guy didn’t think it was a good idea, but Chidi convinced him. Torturing people by making them read? Who else would even think to do that? “Naughty bitch” Shawn (Marc Evan Jackson), Michael’s superior. In the very next episode, Shawn tried to do exactly that – torture Michael by locking him in a room with a stack of The New Yorker magazines that would keep coming. Clearly books are an approved method of torture in the Bad Place!

chidisoulmatewillbebooks

Even Chidi doesn’t really want books to be his soulmate.

Trent was hardly the only time Chidi’s identity was questioned. In “Category 55 Doomsday Crisis,” a Bad Place torturer called Bart (John Hartmann) claimed to be an identity theft expert. He suspected that Chidi was hiding something. Chidi said it was just about his soulmate, but it’s very interesting that an identity theft expert suspected Chidi of all people of hiding something. Did I mention he was playing an identity theft expert?!

In “The Burrito,” Team Cockroach, as they called themselves, were given tests by the judge (who was not a burrito) to determine if they got to go to the Good Place. They decided to be judged together, so either everyone got into the Good Place or no one did if anyone failed. The judge told Eleanor and Chidi that they got in, and Eleanor and Chidi then had to decide if they really would go without the others or stay in the Bad Place since Tahani and Jason failed their tests. Eleanor paced through magic doors, and they debated what to do. Chidi tried to convince her to leave the others behind because they deserved their places in the Good Place and to be happy. Eleanor figured out the twist – this decision was her test and that wasn’t the real Chidi! The real(?) Chidi’s test was in another room, deciding between two hats because it was so difficult for him to make a choice. Demons can look like humans, but it’s telling that Chidi was the one who was essentially cloned.

Speaking of cloning, in “Rhonda, Diana, Jake, and Trent,” Team Cockroach attended a ceremony in the Bad Place that turned out to be an exhibit about them. It was complete with robot-like mock-ups that looked, sounded, and talked just like them, describing their characteristics. Chidi’s mock-up was obviously mocking Chidi’s indecisiveness, saying, “I’m Chidi Anagonye. Or maybe I’m not.” Maybe the real Chidi Anagonye isn’t even Chidi Anagonye! Maybe he’s Trent!

chididoesthatmeanimnotsupposedtobehere

Well…

Chidi was sent to the Bad Place because he caused pain to everyone around him by being so indecisive. That hardly puts him in the same category as a selfish ashhole who’s mean to everyone, an idiot who tries to rob places and sells fake drugs, or a vain woman who does good things only for praise, fame, and spite. Those are all things they somewhat knew were wrong, but Chidi genuinely thought he was a good person. Lacking self-awareness, it never even occurred to him he wouldn’t be in the Good Place. When he found out he was in the Bad Place, he always assumed it was because he drank almond milk, knowing it was bad for the environment. He never even thought it could be anything else, and if anything, his inability to make decisions tortured Chidi more than anyone.

They went through hundreds of attempts and were rebooted hundreds of times, and every time, one of them figured out that they were actually in the Bad Place. Chidi was the only one who never figured it out. Maybe he was too busy getting stomach aches from all the anxiety or was too focused on helping Eleanor to figure it out. He’s hardly stupid, after all. He figured out that all the bad things that happened early on – flying shrimp, giraffes everywhere, Eleanor having different PJs than everyone else – were because Eleanor didn’t belong there. How could the smartest one be the only one who never figured out they were in the Bad Place? Even Jason figured it out once! With the exception of maybe Eleanor, who knew she wasn’t a good person before, they all lacked self-awareness but all still figured it out, except Chidi. What if, for one reason or another, he was never meant to figure out they were in the Bad Place?

eleanorholymotherforkingshirtballs

There could be a good reason he never figured it out. This theory, as I said, is not without its weaknesses, just like any other theory. Sure, Chidi could have been there as a demon to help torture the humans or keep an eye on Michael or even torture Michael by making sure his neighbourhood failed (or by making Micheal read his manuscript). It could be an evil twin thing, but that’s so done. I don’t believe those, but there are a lot of ways the show could work around Chidi being a (former?) demon.

You may say, “But we’ve seen his time on Earth as a human, even as a kid! We saw his death!” Yes, we did. There’s also a chance he was a demon but was not in on it. How would that work? Perhaps Chidi really was Trent and was a demon. We’ve seen that even demons can be tortured. Perhaps Chidi did something wrong and was sent to Earth as a human as punishment and is continuing to be tortured. From Partial Decapitations to professor? We know that their minds can easily be wiped, so Chidi may not even remember his past as a demon. This would also make it easier for the audience and Team Cockroach to accept Chidi not being who they thought he was. It’s less of a betrayal but still an interesting twist, even though Michael was already forgiven after deceiving everyone. Michael wouldn’t necessarily even have to know about Chidi’s demonic past. I would love to see a different side of Chidi if there were flashbacks to his past as a demon. I would also love to see Chidi’s reaction to finding out about his true identity as Trent, especially if there’s a struggle between who he was and who he is now.

chidiohfork

What an epic freakout Chidi would have if he found out he was a demon!

It will certainly be interesting to see what happens in season 3 when the humans are back on Earth. Eleanor has already found Chidi (who still didn’t speak French or have a Nigerian or Senegalese accent when Eleanor found him in Australia, though – spoilers! – this will apparently be explained in season 3) on Earth, but this is a series of many twists and turns. Anything could happen. My theory is probably far off and if it’s at all correct, probably wouldn’t happen until closer to the end of the series, but it will be exciting to see what other “Holy motherforking shirtballs!” revelations the characters and viewers have in season 3.

Season 3 of The Good Place premieres on NBC on September 27th and Netflix UK and other international markets on September 28th. Watch the first two seasons on Netflix UK now and on Netflix US starting August 28th.

 

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s