A hell of a lot has changed since the series finale of The Good Place aired seven months ago. (See: pandemic.) And it has indeed been quite difficult to, well, take it sleazy in these most trying of times. Which is why that now is as Good a time as any to revisit the bittersweet melanchola-joy you felt whilst watching Eleanor & Co. say goodbye to each other before dissolving into the sparkly foreverafter. But instead of simply rewatching the beloved afterlife comedy's supercharged, soul-satisfying gut-punch of a finale, you can peek behind the scenes and see what it was actually like for the cast — Kristen Bell (Eleanor), D'Arcy Carden (Janet), William Jackson Harper (Chidi), Manny Jacinto (Jason), Jameela Jamil (Tahani), Marc Evan Jackson (Shawn), and absolutely Ted Danson (Michael) — to convene on the Universal lot in Burbank last summer and read aloud the last chapter of the Soul Squad's topsy-swervy adventure for the first time.

Creator Mike Schur kicked off the table read of "Whenever You're Ready" with a heartfelt, humorous preamble and a salute to each cast member. ("When I think of this show in years to come, I will think of the things that you all did that no one could ever write," he said. "I will remember the scrunched-up look of terror on Jameela's face as she stared at a centaur that had her head on it. I'll think of D'Arcy's Janet-in-repose stance, which for some reason involved her holding her thumb in her opposite fist, which both makes no sense at all and also makes absolutely perfect sense…") From there, the read-through rode through all sorts of emotions, resulting in sad sniffles, cathartic happy-laughs and tissue grabs. Lots of tissue grabs. Harper consoled Carden as she struggled to have Janet announce the farewell party for Jason before he moved on. (Jacinto lightened the mood with this Jason quip: "Okay, homies, you're sad. I can tell because you have the same looks on your faces that my teachers did whenever I raised my hand in class"). Jacinto then received a supportive hand from Jamil when he, as Jason, told Janet, "I love you. I hope you have a nice rest of eternity." And after listening to Chidi's potent, poignant Buddhist metaphor for death ("The wave was just a… a different way for the water to be, for a little awhile…") telling him, "Just say goodbye to me now and then leave before I wake up," and finding his mailman-and-wrestler calendar in his stead the next morning, Bell was battling tears, too.

NBC's presentation of the table read, which EW brings you exclusively and features footage from the finale, also allows you to see the small ways in which the finale changed from script to finished episode. For example, Judge Gen's (Maya Rudolph) "Cool it!" line to acting-is-reacting-is-preacting-is-being Vicky (Tiya Sircar) morphed from Lee Strasberg into Daniel Day-Lewis, and Michael originally spent the last 500 Bearimies learning "Louie, Louie," not "Hey, Delilah." Architect-in-training Tahani's first attempt at a house was more of a… cow-Jeep. And as it turns out, Michael wound up working as an architect when he took his final human form. Also, his knee and back are killing him. And he wants cookies. So many cookies.

All sorts of delights await when you watch this hourlong table read, including Danson's pleased, flip-the-script reaction to Michael's final words that wrap up this four-season journey. And as Team Cockroach start reaching for the Kleenex, you might, too. "The table read was brutal," Jamil told EW last year while shooting the finale. "I thought I wouldn't cry because I'm dead cold English bitch, but I did. So if I cry, that means America's absolutely f—ed." With that warning out of the way, feel free to pour yourself a big cup of antimatter, grab a buffalo wing from Stupid Nick's Wing Dump, press play on the video above, and ascend back into the afterlife. Take your time. Whenever you're ready.

The Good Place is nominated for six Emmys at next month's ceremony, including Outstanding Comedy Series and Outstanding Writing (for Schur's finale script).

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