Colleen Hayes/NBC
Dan Snierson
January 31, 2018 AT 01:22 PM EST

Turn off that Bloodline binge, fire up a burrito with extra envy sauce, and prepare to enter the portal that will whisk you to final judgment — or at least to the season finale of The Good Place.

NBC’s twisty, peppy, brainy afterlife comedy winds up its second season on Thursday at 8:30 p.m. ET/PT by picking up on the other side of last week’s cliffhanger. At the end of “The Burrito,” Bad Place architect Michael (Ted Danson) and knower-of-things Janet (D’Arcy Carden) barged through the portal and into the chambers of Judge Jen (Maya Rudolph), who had just rendered a verdict of eternal damnation to Eleanor (Kristen Bell), Chidi (William Jackson Harper), Tahani (Jameela Jamil) and Jason (Manny Jacinto). So… is there heavenly hope yet for this possibly redeemable quartet? Perhaps we should check in with the true overlord of this universe for some guidance. “It’s at least temporary reprieve from the punishment, that’s the most important thing,” series creator Mike Schur tells EW. “They’re about to be sent down, and then Michael’s arrival with Janet [brings] a possibility of their souls being saved. Michael has a little more information that may be relevant to the judge.”

Said info involves that unsuccessful plea that Michael brought to the Bad Place boss last week. Says Schur: “He made an argument to Shawn [Marc Evan Jackson] that basically amounted to: ‘We’ve been told that the system measures people’s value, and I accidentally learned that people’s values seem to have some ability to fluctuate. These four people were labeled by our system as bad people, and then I accidentally did this experiment where they kept proving that they have at least the capability of getting better, so that ought to be taken into account in some way. Shawn obviously was not super willing to care about that. But he’s going to make a similar argument to the judge, and see what the judge has to say about that.”

Here’s what else Schur has to say about “Somewhere Else”: it serves as another acting showcase for Bell. “This season has largely been about seeing the world through Michael’s eyes because we didn’t get to do that in season 1, so we refocused,” he says. “We had this new toy to play with, and the new toy was Ted Danson, and that’s a pretty fun toy. So, he’s gotten these big, juicy highlight moments. We go a little bit back the other way in the finale, and Kristen shines comedically as she always does, but there’s a lot of really wonderful dramatic acting, there’s romance, there’s excitement and fun and drama — it’s a giant sweeping performance for her. The rest of the ensemble is also there — and they’re all good — but we really had a good time designing a big finale for her. In case you had forgotten while watching season 2 that Kristen Bell is really good at acting, you’re going to be reminded of that fact.”

Last year’s finale revelation was a mind-melter — The Good Place is Bad! Really bad! — and popped the balloon that contained everything you knew. This year’s capper, however, aims to thrill differently. “If you just keep yanking the rug out from everybody, and going, ‘Everything you thought is now this totally different thing!,’ then I, as a viewer, would start to go, ‘Well, why should I believe anything you say?'” says Schur. “All you’re doing is watching the show and trying to guess the actual reality of what’s going on. So, we don’t do that. The end of this season is not ‘Guess what? We were right the first time — it really is the Good Place!’ You could just keep doing that forever, but it’s utterly diminishing returns. We tried to remain true to the DNA of the show in that we tried to do things that are interesting and surprising and maybe you didn’t see coming, but everything that you have learned about them to this point remains similar. Or actually, really true.”

Schur, of course, is playing it close to the Jags jersey about the final moments of the episode, but you might want to re-read this hint a few times: “The very, very last thing that happens in this season is a pretty perfect bookend as it relates to the first thing that happens in the season. It feels like a completed journey in some way. Not completed like the show’s over, mind you, it’s not a series finale. It makes a lot of sense given what happened at the beginning of the year.” Don’t fork up and miss the show’s final “holy shirt!” moment of the season.

*As a bonus preview gift for you, we asked Schur to offer up one-word finale teases for each character:

Michael: “Risk-taker.”
Eleanor: “Team.”
Chidi: “Fork.”
Tahani: “Friendship.”
Jason: “Word?”
Janet: “Blunt.”
Jen: “Goosebumps.”

 

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