Last night, Mike Schur broke the news—not entirely unexpected, but still a little sad—that the fourth season of his beloved NBC series The Good Place would be its last. Schur made the announcement via a letter posted on Twitter—emphasizing that the decision to end the series came from him and other members of its creative team, and them alone. But for those seeking more detail on how Schur views the series, and why he felt 53 episodes (including an hour-long finale) was the right time to stop, you’re in luck: He also gave an extensive interview to The Hollywood Reporter last night, laying it all out, from when he worked out exactly how long he wanted the series to be, to NBC’s reaction to the news, to his take on the ethical framework underpinning the entire show.
Schur confirms that he worked out the entire arc of the show during a planning session after it was renewed for a second season—i.e., after the show cleared the point where it wouldn’t just go down in history as a very strange, very wonderful single-season delight:
I didn’t feel like it needed to be definitive but I needed to have a sense of how long I thought the idea could sustain itself. I came to the conclusion pretty quickly that it was four seasons. There were times early on where I felt like maybe five and maybe it’s three. (Laughs.) Once I settled on four seasons, I didn’t tell anyone — except the writers. I didn’t tell the studio or network because I wanted to make sure that I was right and I wanted to leave open the possibility that as we as a team developed the show, I wanted to allow the possibility that something could change and there was more I wanted to do.
Schur says he told the show’s cast—who remain some of the most effectively tight-lipped in TV, apparently—about the news while they were shooting the tail end of the show’s third season. He also says he resisted the urge to make the series’ end one of its much-valued mysteries, noting that there’s a big difference between the narrative twists that The Good Place thrives on, and actually pulling the rug out from under fans: “There is something tempting about the idea of Beyoncé-ing the ending of the show, where you do an episode and say goodbye and runaway! That’s a fun idea in theory but the way we’ve planned out the final season, I don’t think people would not know.”
The overall impression, happily, is that this has been an extremely considered choice; Schur talks as much in the interview about the ways the show has enhanced his own connection to ethics as he does the mechanics of bringing it to a close. (“It’s a very simple utilitarian calculation that there are other people involved here and they have every right to know what their futures are.”) He also makes sure to promise that The Good Place will go out as it lived (and then died, and then lived again, and then we all see the Time-Knife): “So we’re going full tilt until the end. Everybody at the end of the day is happy that we’re going to end it the way we started it: at a breakneck speed, with a lot of crazy, wild twists and turns.”