TV Show Analysis – Exploration of the afterlife on television: Upload vs The Good Place (The afterlife’s benefits and shortfalls)

The afterlife, according to a definition published on Wikipedia, is a “purported existence in which the essential part of an individual’s identity or their stream of consciousness continues to live after the death of their physical body.”

The Wikipedia page on the afterlife goes on to state that according to the various ideas about the afterlife, the essential aspect of the concept is that the individual that lives on after death “may be some partial element, or the entire soul or spirit of an individual, which carries with it and may confer personal identity.” The Wikipedia page goes on to analyse the concept of the afterlife based on the two main ways it has been viewed by the various religions and cultures around the world – reincarnation, and Heaven and Hell.

Many television shows and movies have explored the concept of the afterlife, usually by focusing on either reincarnation, or Heaven and Hell. When I finished watching the first season of Upload in 2020, I realised that one of the reasons I thoroughly enjoyed it was due to the fact it explored the afterlife as a certainty, as opposed to a concept based in religion and/or morality that may or may not exist. Everyone in the Upload universe knew that the afterlife existed, but in the form of digital worlds, the quality dependent on the money the person or their families could afford. Instead of religious or moral, the afterlife is socioeconomical.

Another realisation I came to after watching Upload’s first season was how similar it is to The Good Place, another show which explores the afterlife. What makes The Good Place unique is its focus on the Heaven and Hell concept with the Good and Bad Place respectively, however the concept is turned on its head with the twist at the end of its first season. Its subsequent seasons focus on addressing the flaws that slowly emerge with the finality of the Heaven and Hell concept of the afterlife, with the protagonists ultimately changing the system of Heaven and Hell (or the Good and Bad Places) altogether.

This three-part analysis will compare Upload and The Good Place – their concepts of the afterlife, and their afterlife’s benefits and shortfalls. This final part will outline the benefits and shortfalls of Upload’s and The Good Place’s respective afterlives.

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