by Dominic Mah
It took me a weekend of binge-watching to wake up to the fact that Avengers: Infinity War and the NBC sitcom The Good Place are almost the same story. Except, Infinity War is a superhero slugfest about cosmic catastrophe, and The Good Place is an observational comedy about the afterlife. Apart from that existential difference, they have very noticeable parallels.
MAJORLY INFINITE SPOILERS FOR BOTH SHOWS FOLLOW:
The omnipotent “villain” snaps his fingers to effectively end the universe… at the end of The Good Place Season 1, and also at the end of Infinity War. I know, Thanos doesn’t fully end the universe, but he could if he wished, making him roughly as powerful as Ted Danson in The Good Place. Both apocalyptic finger-snaps happen while confronting the blonde hero in their ostensible moment of victory: in Thanos’ case, while being nearly-killed by Thor’s axe; in Michael/Ted Danson’s case, to interrupt Eleanor saying, “Ya basic.”
Both have a Filipino guy who is so dumb he’s completely adorable: Drax (Dave Bautista) and Jason Mendoza (Manny Jacinto). Both characters are known for saying things which are too literal and, by human standards, totally stupid.
DRAX: “I have famously huge turds!”
JASON: “Apples you eat their clothes, but oranges you don’t?”
Both practice the art of quiet stillness as a means of deception. Both are fan favorites for their good-natured buffoonery. Both are, in their way, hotties.
Fun fact! Chris Pratt a.k.a. Star-Lord also rose to fame playing “the stupid fun guy” in a Michael Schur-produced sitcom, so if Andy from Parks & Recreation is any indicator of career paths, Mr. Jacinto should have a heart-throbbing future ahead.
Both have a competitive love/hate relationship between two sisters, and then one of them dies. Infinity War has crabby Nebula and stabby Gamora, The Good Place has post-cool Kamilah and the accomplished-but-terminally-envious Tahani. Gamora suffers a fatal fall at Thanos’ hand, Tahani… uh, well you gotta see how she aces herself for yourself, but it’s really her own fault.
Fun fact! Jameela Jamil (Tahani) and Karen Gillan (Nebula) are both 5’11’’, according to the infallible interwebs.
The turning points of both stories hinge on questionable life choices by a central white person. There’s been a lot of fandom fuss over Star-Lord’s actions in the climactic fight against Thanos. One reading is Star-Lord forks up the chance to beat Thanos by letting his emotions overcome him when Mantis has almost got it under control. It’s implied that if Star-Lord had a little more chill, showed some deference and situational awareness, and checked his aggro bro-ness, they would’ve sedated Thanos. Instead, half the universe dies. This subtle critique of aspirationally-Alpha-white-person behavior is spelled out more clearly, and hilariously, in The Good Place. Here, Kristen Bell would be analogous to Star-Lord. She is a self-confessed “medium person” (not too good or too bad), but is at her worst when emotional attachment threatens her delicate sense of self, and tends to lash out with self-defeating results. (See: the Chidi thing, the Tahani thing, the olive thing.)
Fun fact! Kristen Bell is not technically a Marvel Chris, but she is blonde and perfect-looking and named Kris…ten. Based on physical type, she could easily be tapped to play a prominent Marvel woman, say Moonstone, Firestar, Stature, Jocasta, or one of the various Spider-Womans.
Both the Avengers’ Vision and The Good Place‘s Janet are artificial intelligences who may have to die to save the rest of the ensemble cast. In both stories, the heroes decide to protect the artificial being’s existence rather than destroying her, even though the fate of reality is at stake (S2 E7, “Janet and Michael”). Both artificial people beg their friends to kill them so as to avoid disaster, but their friends don’t want to kill them, because friends.
Fun fact! Janet also demonstrates superhuman strength in what so far constitutes The Good Place’s lone “fight scene” (if you discount Eleanor and Tahani’s minor tussles).
Both have a very smart African man who provides ethical leadership (and compassion) to the Avengers/Team Cockroach, but whose central human flaw is indecision due to over-analysis: in T’Challa’s case: to open Wakanda or not? To unfreeze next to Nakia or not? To be a good man or a good king? All the philosophical implications! To be sure, Chidi of The Good Place could never lead Wakanda, what with his crippling inability to choose between a grey hat or a brown hat. But not unlike the Black Panther, he offers an invaluable moral resource whenever Captain America/Kristen Bell come calling for aid.
Fun fact! Although it’s established that Chidi was born in Nigeria, raised in Senegal, and has lived abroad in France and Australia, it’s yet to be resolved why he speaks American-accented English in his “real world” flashbacks, outside of the auto-translating environs of the Good Place.
Also, obviously, both are about death.