- "Shouldn't we just try to do the right thing whenever we can? Why? It's so much harder to live like that. And it's not like someone's keeping score"
- —Eleanor to her ex-boyfriend
Prior to dying, Eleanor was a selfish, rude, and dishonest person who only ever cared about herself. Due to being neglected by her self-centered parents for most of her life, Eleanor grew to believe that depending on others was weak and thus prevented herself from ever being part of a group, even quitting a job simply because it required employees to hang out with each other after work. Eleanor is extremely insecure about her own ethical shortcomings, and as a result, lashes out at anyone who she perceives as more virtuous than her. She isn't ashamed to lie to others and go back on her promises, and rarely ever took responsibility for any of her actions.
However, after ending up in The Good Place by mistake, Eleanor attempts to learn about ethics from Chidi in order to avoid being sent to The Bad Place. While she initially did this solely for self-preservation, she begins to gradually become more selfless and thoughtful as time goes by, no longer needing to suppress her conscience and guilt. Though she rarely shows it, it is clear in a flashback that the lack of a loving and supporting family has deeply wounded her, and during her time in The Good Place she continues to better understand and accept her flaws in an attempt to become a truly good person.
Eleanor Shellstrop was born in Phoenix, Arizona as an only child. She moved to Tempe, Arizona for school, and by the time of her death she had moved back to Phoenix. Eleanor enjoys cursing and is constantly being censored. Her self-centered parents, Donna and Doug, largely ignored her when she was growing up, leaving her to fend for herself. She became a loner who disliked social activities of any kind; she did have a circle of drinking buddies but didn't care much about them and always shirked the duty of being designated driver. She even refused a high-paying job because she was expected to befriend her co-workers, preferring to become a salesperson for a sham pharmaceutical company where she sold fake medicine to the elderly. She swiftly became the company's top salesperson, surprising even her shady boss, Wallace, with her lack of scruples.
Season 1 Edit
Eleanor dies, but when she reawakens in the Good Place, she has no memory of her death. Michael, the creator of her neighborhood, tells her that individuals with embarrassing or humiliating deaths have their memory wiped for their convenience. With her permission, Michael tells Eleanor that she was killed when she was hit by a tractor carrying a billboard for erectile dysfunction pills and that one of the first EMTs to arrive at the scene was one of her ex's. Michael tells Eleanor not to worry anymore and that she's in The Good Place for the countless selfless acts she did to benefit not herself but the world. Michael pulls up a video showing her memories of the times she worked as a lawyer who fought against the death penalty and did human rights missions to Ukraine. Eleanor then comes to realize she's not supposed to be there. Those weren't her memories. In real life, she was a drug sales associate who took advantage of the sick and elderly, which she confided to Chidi Anagonye, an ethics professor, and her soulmate. Eleanor tells him that she needs his help to teach her to be good so she can remain in The Good Place. However, that turns out to be more difficult than expected when during the neighborhood party, she calls Tahani a cartoon giraffe and stuffs shrimp up her bra. Afterward, The Good Place turns chaotic with physical manifestations of her rude behavior wrecking havoc. Faced with the reality of the Bad Place, Eleanor earnestly tries to become a "good person" to stay in the Good Place. Although she believes eventually she will be found out she plots to keep the con going as long as possible. All the chaos is a result of the negative energy she puts out into existence in the Good Place. Eleanor also finds it difficult to believe that some are genuinely good people that do not have a hidden agenda.
Chidi attempts to help Eleanor along, volunteering her for selfless acts, but Eleanor finds it hard to keep on track and can't help but find the negative in everything. These sort of thoughts and actions lead to more disastrous consequences for the neighborhood. For example, Eleanor skirts clean-up duty for flying and trash begins to rain from the sky. This prompts Eleanor to "clean-up" her act and seriously focus on being good.
However, her secret isn't a secret for long, as Eleanor then receives an anonymous letter stating that they know Eleanor doesn't belong here. At first, Eleanor believes that Tahani was sending her that threatening letter, but after shadowing her neighbor for a while, Eleanor then believes that the letters are actually a subconscious guilt-trip made by her own mind. This view changes when Eleanor receives another message from anonymous saying to meet them in the town square. Spoiler alert, the sender was actually Tahani's self-mute soulmate, Jianyu, whose real name is Jason Mendoza. Like Eleanor, Jason was a mistake. He was a drug-dealing, EDM DJ from Florida who likes to play video games. He was not a Buddhist monk who took a vow of silence since the age of 8. Together, Eleanor and Jason attempt to stay in The Good Place but that proves more and more difficult as Jason isn't exactly the sharpest tool in the shed. Despite this, they both begin attending Chidi's classes on ethics and the study of being a good person in an attempt to belong. Jason wants to be himself, but Eleanor recognizes that if Jason is his true self, then they're going to be discovered fast. In an attempt to avoid being caught, Eleanor executes a plan of diversion which involved destroying a cake that her fellow neighbor spent 3 days working on. Michael tells them earlier that people spend their time in The Good Place fulfilling their life's purpose. For her neighbor, her life's purpose was to open her restaurant. When Eleanor destroys the cake, this has an insurmountable effect as she ends up literally "breaking the world". This creates a sinkhole in the middle of the restaurant, which Michael believes will fix itself after 3 days. However, Tahani discovers that the sinkhole is actually becoming larger, to her shock.
Chidi's teaching seems to help as Eleanor begins to notice that she's subconsciously doing good things, a trait she didn't have when she was alive, to the surprise of Chidi who considers it a common courtesy. Eleanor is excited to become a good person and is willing to spend hours of Chidi's time dedicated to learning ethics, which ends up tiring him.
Eleanor can no longer keep up the facade. Once Janet is murdered and Chidi is guilty of the act, Eleanor knows she must speak up. In front of the whole town and Michael, Eleanor confesses to everything, to everyone's shock. Faced with the possibility of going to the bad place, Michael takes pity on Eleanor and arranges for her to stay in the Good Place but needs to prove that she's good. He gathers testaments from Chidi, Tahani, and Jason. He determines whether they're telling the truth via an orb that changes color depending on whether the answer is true or false.
Michael negotiates with his superiors, who've determined that at least two people must go to The Bad Place -- they don't care which two. Eleanor immediately recognizes that it has to be her and Jason, the two people who were placed here by accident. Jason is reluctant to leave Janet, having found love with her. Chidi believes he should go because he helped Eleanor when he should've given her up. Tahani doesn't want to leave Chidi and demands that it be her and Chidi who leave instead.
The group continues to argue and then Eleanor is struck with a revelation. She deduces that they are not in the Good Place at all and that they are actually in the Bad Place being tortured by Michael. Eleanor had to keep the secret that she was a horrible person, Chidi was faced with the dilemma of harboring a fugitive and his inconsistent ethics which managed to destroy all his relationships, Tahani was fulfilling her good motives with bad intentions, and Jason is just too idiotic to work with.
When Eleanor confronts Michael and his superior about her discovery, they begin to laugh evilly. Everything was true. The four of them were specifically chosen to inflict pain on one another, not with whips and fire, but with social engages. Michael was irritated at how fast Eleanor was to understand everything. He didn't expect her to confess in front of the entire neighborhood, Chidi's lessons were working. But, he learned from his mistake. After he wipes their memories, he's gonna start over, but this time he's going to spread them farther apart in order to make it more agonizing and longer.
With the prospect of having her memory wiped, Eleanor realizes that the only thing that won't be wiped in the neighborhood would be Janet. Grabbing note paper, Eleanor tries to think of something that'll help her. Realizing something, Eleanor writes something down and places in Janet's mouth.
Once the world resets, Janet presents the paper back to a memory-wiped Eleanor who looks at the note that reads "FIND CHIDI" to which she replies "What the fork is a Chidi?".
Season 2 Edit
Eleanor finds Chidi at a party she attends. She shows him the paper with "ELEANOR - FIND CHIDI" written on it, and explains how she obtained it. At first, Chidi does not believe her. After the party, the two head to Eleanor's house to discuss this, but then Michael walks in on them, followed by several others, including Tahani, Jason, and Eleanor's new soulmate. Just like in Season 1, they begin arguing after talking for a short period of time, and Eleanor realizes that they aren't in the Good Place.
Michael tries several more attempts at torturing the four, but Eleanor keeps figuring it out.
But, Vicky threatens Michael. She says that she would tell Shawn that there have been over 800 attempts. Eleanor and Chidi go to Mindy St. Claire's, where Eleanor finds out in a previous version, she and Chidi were in love. Michael then asks Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani, and Jason for help in hiding this fact, they form "Team Cockroach." Michael also starts to regularly attend Chidi's ethics classes, but one day, Eleanor makes him have an existential crisis.
After Shawn finds Michael's records, the four are roasted by Michael. Eleanor finds that he has hidden clues into the roasts, and she figures out what to do in order to prevent being caught by the demons of the Bad Place. After, Michael finds them and creates a hot-air balloon to take them to the Good Place. Eleanor is happy about this, but then Michael tells them that the only way to get into the Good Place is to go to a judge in the middle of the Bad Place.
Eleanor comes up with a plan to get into the Bad Place. The group disguises themselves while Michael goes to get special pins to get into the portal. She explains to Chidi why lying is ethical in this situation.
Then, when they are about to get into the portal, Michael finds that he had forgotten a fourth pin for Eleanor. He then sacrifices his own pin to get her to the judge.
The judge says that every one in the group must complete a test in order to get into the Good Place. Eleanor says that she wants everyone to test together, so that if even one person fails, they all go to the Bad Place together. Eleanor's test was a test of her own selfishness. In the end, everyone in the group, with the exception of Eleanor, fails their tests, but she still chooses to lie and pretend that she failed to accompany her friends. The judge is about to escort them to the portal when Michael and Janet appear. Janet confesses her love to Jason, which inspires Chidi. Chidi walks up and kisses Eleanor, both realizing that their feelings are reciprocal.
- Eleanor's primary form of torture was to place her in "The Good Place" with the knowledge that she did not belong and that her existence was "destroying" the neighborhood. Not only leaving her with the stress of maintaining her secret, the guilt of "endangering" the neighborhood, but also forcing her to endure lessons with Chidi.
- Although Eleanor is the "worst" of the four, she has also shown the greatest ability to grow and improve her person. This is likely because she has no delusions of what kind of person she is and is able to tackle her negative aspects head on.
- Unlike Jason, Eleanor never made any "serious" offenses (like a major crime, or having a vanity license plate). She mainly was just mean, rude, and dismissive of all those around her.
- Her favorite TV show is "The Real Housewives of Atlanta".
- Her favorite "book" is Kendall Jenner's Instagram feed.
- Eleanor died after being run over by a boner pill truck after dropping margarita mix in a parking lot.
- It is strongly implied in the show, and has been confirmed by William Jackson Harper (the actor of Chidi) that Eleanor is 'super bisexual'. She has slept with Chidi in eight different reboots and has admitted attraction towards both Tahani, Vicky, and Simone.
- Eleanor has a thing for sexy mailmen. The deeds which contributed to her entering The Bad Place included deliberately setting a mailbox on fire to get a mailman to remove his shirt, and at one point she replaces one of the disliked clown portraits in her Neighborhood 12358W house with one of a sexy mailman.