It’s a clever move narratively, but because of the foundation The Good Place has laid and the creative reputation that precedes it, the impact is felt most deeply on an emotional level. Here was a manifestation of the sincerity and the honesty that marks Schur’s other TV worlds, crumbling to dust. The tables turn on a wickedly maniacal laugh from Ted Danson, who’d spent 12 episodes in the disguise of an avuncular divine messenger. (The creator of this world, he is named, not coincidentally, Michael; the finale is titled “Michael’s Gambit.”) Following the finale, TV critic Emily Nussbaum responded in the pages of The New Yorker (with a wink to The Good Place’s playful way of bowdlerizing curse words):

“After watching nine episodes, I wrote a first draft of this column based on the notion that the show, with its air of flexible optimism, its undercurrent of uplift, was a nifty dialectical exploration of the nature of decency, a comedy that combined fart jokes with moral depth. Then I watched the finale. After the credits rolled, I had to have a drink. While I don’t like to read the minds of showrunners—or, rather, I love to, but it’s presumptuous—I suspect that Schur is in a very bad mood these days. If Parks was a liberal fantasia, The Good Place is a dystopian mindfork: It’s a comedy about the quest to be moral even when the truth gets bent, bullies thrive, and sadism triumphs.”

In one swift, sickening turn, The Good Place gains several shades of complexity, and they color the second season of the show in ways that were unforeseeable a year ago. (NBC sent the first four episodes to critics ahead of the premiere; they’re pretty great—the third has an impressive amont of fun with the new status quo.) They’ve also renewed my appreciation for the times when the settings of Parks And Recreation and Brooklyn Nine-Nine look a little less like little slices of The Good Place on earth. Parks And Rec indulged a certain amount of wish-fulfillment in its later years—forecasting an enshrinement of its progressive values that, sadly, didn’t come to pass—but the show introduced plenty of truth-benders, bullies, and sadists to challenge Leslie’s faith in governance and community. The community occasionally filled all three roles simultaneously, in the form of the roving comment section that attended public meetings and visited city hall to loudly petition for time-capsule inclusions, tax exemptions, and permits for “missing bird” fliers. (“There’s no time! He can fly!”)

A few months after “Michael’s Gambit,” Brooklyn Nine-Nine took its own risk, puncturing its rosy view of the NYPD with an episode concerning racial profiling. In “Moo Moo,” Detective Sergeant Terry Jeffords (Terry Crews) searches his neighborhood streets for his daughter’s lost blanket, only to be stopped-and-frisked by a white patrolman. Like The Good Place and its finale, “Moo Moo” uses what we take for granted about Brooklyn Nine-Nine and reverses it to make an emotionally effective point: Just because the main characters on the show are good cops, it doesn’t mean everyone they work alongside is. This kicks off a complicated dialogue between Terry and his commanding officer, Captain Raymond Holt (Andre Braugher); Holt tells Terry not to file a report on the incident, Terry presses Holt on why. The scene that ensues deftly juggles the depth with which the performers have gotten to know their characters, the personal histories the show has woven for them, the fact that Brooklyn’s two highest ranking officers are played by actors who are black, and several variations on the word “besmirched.” It’s stunning work all around.

“We didn’t want it to feel like a completely different, special episode,” Dan Goor later told Uproxx’s Alan Sepinwall. That said, “Moo Moo” has an impact because of the ways it doesn’t resemble the average Brooklyn Nine-Nine. The officer who harasses Terry upsets the balance of the show’s idealized world; “Moo Moo” draws a great deal of drama (and a little bit of humor) out of the characters attempt to restore that balance. It’s something they can’t fully restore, but the episode still ends on a note of celebration and poignancy between Crews and Braugher.

The good places in the Michael Schur catalogue aren’t impenetrable fortresses, and the shows that are set there aren’t guaranteed escapes from the demons, the cranks, or the racist cops that populate our world. But even at the bottom of the deepest, darkest pit, there’s bound to be sincerity, emotion, and honesty. For viewers living in a world that looks increasingly like The Bad Place, that counts for a lot.