Well, well, well. Long time, no post. I’ve been meaning to write another post for this subsection of my blog, but couldn’t think of anyone good. I posed the question on Twitter and only got one response, but that response was really good. Thus, the rest of this post.
The Good Place
Why Eleanor Shellstrop is a Slytherin
Even though all my posts in this series contain spoilers, I feel it especially important to point out that there will be spoilers in this post. And, while Alive Eleanor Shellstrop might’ve been happy to ruin your day with spoilers, I am not. So. Bear that in mind.
Eleanor Shellstrop has quickly become one of my favorite characters on television, mainly in regards to her character development and genius one-liners. But she’s not all unmitigated sass— Ms. Shellstrop is one Slytherin-blooded dame. She’s manipulative, ambitious, and cunning. Eleanor is, in essence, the epitome of what it means to be a Slytherin. Of course, that’s nothing that should keep her from the Good Place.
Eleanor is an expert manipulator. When she was alive, she worked as a telemarketer for a pill company. The pills were useless, but Eleanor was still the company’s top salesperson. She conned primarily the elderly, preying on their worries and fears. This, along with her overall terribleness, is what sends her to the Bad Place in a shopping cart.
Once in the “Good Place,” Eleanor quickly realizes she has been mistaken for someone else. The history they have on her isn’t hers and she doesn’t belong here. So, she must learn to fit in. She begins taking lessons on ethics from her assigned soulmate Chidi. If she learns how to be a good person, she won’t be discovered as a fraud. Her desire to become a better person isn’t so much about becoming a better person as it is pretending she is.
That is, until these ethics lessons start to work. This is where ambitious Eleanor comes out. She strives to be a great ethics student because it ultimately will make her a better person. This is especially evident in the season two finale, when she’s given a second lease on life (or is put into a simulation— the answer is unclear). Once she decides to be a better person, she throws herself headfirst into charity work. In fact, she makes her whole life about it. Eleanor dedicates herself to making the world a better place.
What’s more, all the wildest, so-crazy-it-just-might-work plans are Eleanor’s. In order to stop Michael from “retiring” and ruining her chances at becoming the best Eleanor she can be, Eleanor decides to kill Janet (as Janet is the only one who can initiate his retirement). When Eleanor is outed as a fraud, she does good deeds to try and accrue the points necessary to stay in the Good Place. Of course, she soon realizes her score won’t rise because she’s doing it for self-preservation and not altruism.
Which, of course, brings us to Eleanor’s cunning. It’s due to her ability to think deviously that she is able to pick up what others cannot. Eleanor figures out the Chidi she is speaking to in the season two finale is not, in fact, the real Chidi. In “Leap to Faith,” when Michael has seemingly turned on Eleanor and the other humans (Tahani, Chidi, and Jason) and is going to send them to the real Bad Place, Eleanor is the one to pick up on the clues he left behind for them. And, of course, in all 802 iterations of Michael’s “Good Place,” Eleanor is the one to figure out it is really the Bad Place (with one notable exception in which Jason figured it out). At every turn, Eleanor figures out the game being played.
Eleanor Shellstrop is living proof (well, sort of) that Slytherins can be good people. In fact, her Slytherin traits help her be a good person. Her ambition and cunning allow her to see all sides and figure out the best way to help someone or expose a truth. Her skills as a manipulator allow her to blend in anywhere, even in a pretend heaven. Eleanor Shellstrop— a woman who turned a demon into a good person(ish)— is one hardcore Slytherin indeed.