Well...I'm not sure if The Good Place had my least favorite series finale anymore. Anyone who saw my posts on that thread knows I really, really hated that finale, so even though I'm not as...super passsionately angry about this one, we had 5 times as much time with these characters so I was more invested in them, and I was just...really sad about this one (and I was not in a great mood when I watched it because of everything going on right now, so that probably influenced how I felt about it at least to some degree).
First of all, I'm annoyed at Peter Lenkov's "you have to be married and have kids to be happy and fulfilled" BS (and to be completely honest, find it a little sad), although I guess I shouldn't be surprised after Joe White repeatedly telling Steve to find a woman. I mean, I would get it if the message was "don't be alone, be around people who love you" (although some people genuinely are happier alone), but I don't see why it has to specifically be a conventional romantic relationship leading to marriage and kids. I just find that so...limited, when there are so many other options and possibilities of different types of relationships. Although I feel like the show's always had a more...I want to say conservative, but I'm not sure that's exactly the right word...maybe traditional, slant, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised that they handled it the way they did.
So I didn't like ending at all, although I'm kind on conflicted about what I would've preferred. I kind of go back and forth between thinking Steve should've ended up with Danny and thinking he should've been single.
Part of me definitely wanted him with Danny. I felt like almost this entire episode (and, to be honest, basically the entire series) was spent illustrating his feelings for Danny. He's chosen him over Catherine multiple times, there was the "the person you care about most in the world" line, which he never argued, while it was shown over and over and over again throughout the course of the series that he and Catherine together did not work.
One of the interviews I read mentioned that for the past couple seasons he seemed to be having a bit of an internal struggle, which I thought could've been about trying to come to terms with his (romantic) feelings for Danny, or that he liked guys in general. I feel like there was enough to support that interpretation (the boy in high school with the guitar, and his friend Freddie from the military). To me both of those relationships came across as something other than platonic, even if it was one-sided feelings on Steve's part that he may not have even been aware of at the time. Maybe I'm just imagining things, but something about the ways those scenes were played just gave me that impression. And while I knew that a show like this would never go there, I have to admit I was still somewhat disappointed.
I also really don't understand why, if it was their plan all along to have them end up together, they made Catherine such an unlikeable character. I'll admit a significant part of my problem with the character was the actress (I don't want to get too much into behind the scenes happenings, but I am curious how certain actors feel about the ending), but I also had a problem with the writing and the way she treated Steve.
If the show insisted on giving him a female love interest, there are so many other characters who I would've rather he ended up with (Alicia Brown would've been interesting, I thought; Quinn, which is where I thought it was going at one point; Lynn; Brooke; Emma; even Ellie Clayton, who I didn't particularly like but would've preferred to Catherine). There was just too much baggage with Catherine, and I thought them agreeing that they were better off as friends was the end of it, so the last minute reunion was kind of jarring to me.
On the other hand, I never got the impression that romantic relationships were particularly important to Steve. As we got into the last part of the finale, I kept waiting for an "I already have what I've been looking for" sort of epiphany from him, for him to realize that he didn't need to go searching the world to find what he wanted because he already had it in his friends, his team, his chosen family, and to find peace and happiness there. For him to have all of these deeply emotional goodbyes with people that loved him and still feel it was necessarily to leave them (especially when it had only been a week since Danny almost died, and the episode, hell, entire series, made it so clear that Danny was the most important person in the world to him) just made no sense to me, and to be honest, I found it pretty depressing.
I mean, I know Lenkov has said he's not leaving forever, that he will be back, but to me, it was played as if he was leaving for good, and I thought there was just an overall sad undercurrent to the last few scenes. I also thought there should've been a focus on Steve and Danny's relationship in the end. Regardless of how you interpret the nature of it, theirs was clearly the most important relationship in the show. There are multiple ways I think it could've played out, but they could've still had a reunion with Catherine if they wanted but still have had the final scene be Steve and Danny. (Maybe I'm crazy, but nothing will ever convince me that Steve will ever love Catherine as much as he loves Danny, even if you interpret that love as platonic.)
Clearly PL just really liked the Catherine character (although, again, if that's the case, I question why she wasn't written as a more likeable character) and wanted to be very explicit about how things ended up, which...whatever, that's his right as a writer (although I'll admit I don't exactly have a super high opinion of him after reading the interviews he's done since the finale aired and hearing about what he's done on social media).
I know a lot of people don't like shows ending without a definitive end (and I sometimes agree, depending on the show/situation/details) but I think it would've been an improvement here to leave things more open-ended/ambiguous, so people could interpret it however they wanted. In general, I tend to prefer more "business as usual/life goes on" types of endings, where you know things are continuing on for these characters, we just don't get to see it (like Elementary, which I kept finding myself comparing this finale to for various reasons; handling the Steve/Danny relationship similarly to the way they handled that show's main relationship in the finale would've been basically my ideal ending, to be honest) to major changes in the final episode. But even keeping the episode almost exactly the same, but without showing a person at the end, would've been a huge improvement in my opinion. Show Steve sitting on the plane, look up to see someone that the audience can't see and smile, maybe say something ambiguous like "I'm glad you came" or something, and then fade to black. That way everybody could've imagined the mystery person was whoever they wanted it to be and both camps could be happy.
So I don't know...overall it just didn't work for me. There were a couple scenes that I liked (not surprisingly, the ones with Steve and Danny), but an eleventh hour "leave behind everyone who loves him to run off with someone who never passed up an opportunity to leave him" does not constitute a happy ending to me.