“Chidi Sees the Time-Knife” is a slippery episode of television, in good ways and bad. After a season that has journeyed around the world, across the Jeremy Bearimy-scape of the afterlife, and through the infinite expanse of Janet’s void, the penultimate episode of season 3 explicitly returns the characters to something like the status quo. It feels like it could be the end of the season, one of those trendy post-Game of Thrones finales that sets the foundation for next year. But the actual finale airs next week — and the general whiplash of this season’s twists makes me loathe to assume anything about the show’s future.
In many ways, “Time-Knife” echoes season 2’s penultimate episode, which marked the first appearance of Maya Rudolph’s Judge and the first time that the Judge gave Michael and his human pals the opportunity to change her mind via elaborate social experiment. This time, they’re meeting at IHOP, the Interdimensional Hole of Pancakes, which either looks like a Diane Von Furstenberg pattern from Spring 2013 (per Tahani) or like a bad salvia trip that will end in a few minutes when everyone wakes up in Pillboi’s broken hot tub (per Jason.)
It’s a weird place, full of grotesque negative-zone slug creatures called neednoggles (neednoddle? neegnobble? spelling unclear, all sound gross!) The Judge pulls a filter over the frightful place so it resembles an actual IHOP. Michael gives the Judge his accumulated findings about the unfairness of Good Place points-keeping, how even just buying a tomato at a grocery store winds up creating negative consequences. The Judge is unimpressed. “Your big revelation is life is complicated?” she retorts. Michael’s got no follow-up; he does the backpack kid dance because people always enjoy that, don’t they?
The day is saved by holy fool Jason, who tells a very long story from his days in Jacksonville that concludes with a universal truth. “You can’t judge humans,” Jason tells the Judge, “Because you don’t know what we go through.” It’s a challenge the Judge accepts. She sets off for Earth — and returns, shocked. The Earth is a mess, she explains: “Also, I guess I’m black, and they do not like black ladies.” She admits that she had a good time in Hawaii, though she barely left the resort — which, c’mon Judge, you can swim anywhere, the action’s happening on the hiking trail!
What the Judge experiences most of all are the unintended consequences of modern life. So she calls up Shawn, the Bad Place demon, who’s been busy torturing William Shakespeare by describing the plot of the Entourage movie. Shawn doesn’t see anything wrong with the system. Humans invented Limp Bizkit and slavery: Case closed! Michael admits humanity has problems — Nazis, again, ugh forever — but begs for a reconsideration of the fading points system. After all, didn’t Michael’s prisoners learn to change themselves in his neighborhood? Doesn’t that imply some possibility of redemption — that humans would all be good if they lived in a place where they could just focus on being good?
That’s when Chidi announces that he has an idea. But only after he sees a trillion different realities folding into each other like thin sheets of metal forming a single blade. Y’know: The time-knife. We’ve all seen the time-knife, right?
NEXT: Recycle, Reduce, Reuse!