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Why The Time-Knife In The Good Place Was So Elusive

NBC's afterlife philosophy sitcom "The Good Place" introduced quite a few oddball and supernatural characters, places, and concepts during its four-season run. In Season 3, Episode 11, "Chidi Sees the Time-Knife," the main crew meets with Judge Gen (Maya Rudolph) in the Interdimensional Hole of Pancakes (IHOP, naturally) to discuss the issues with The Good Place's point system. This IHOP is unlike any Earth-dwellers have seen before: Michael (Ted Danson) describes it to his human companions as "like Grand Central Station, but for space and time."

Viewers are initially confronted with psychedelia in the IHOP, as the series' characters step into a bizarre, blue-tinted landscape with floating orbs and a green, slug-like creature called the Niednagel. The IHOP is so strange that Jason (Manny Jacinto) initially interprets it as what a bad salvia trip looks like. Eventually, Judge Gen transforms the IHOP so it appears like a normal place — first a regular Earth IHOP, then a generic meeting room — for their meeting about the flaws in the afterlife points system.

While the IHOP appears "normal" to the humans, Michael repeatedly reminds them not to move about the room too much because it is still the scary landscape that initially terrifies them. Eventually, Chidi (William Jackson Harper) moves around and is sucked into the 10 dimensions that make up the IHOP, where he witnesses something known as the Time-Knife. Unfortunately, "The Good Place" viewers never get to see it.

The Time-Knife may have been too hard to visualize — and too expensive

When Janet (D'Arcy Carden) catches a tiny version of Chidi careening through the IHOP and returns him to his seat, the philosophy professor is stunned. "I just saw a trillion different realities folding onto each other like thin sheets of metal forming a single blade," he says. Michael, unsurprised, quickly notes that this is called the Time-Knife and moves on. "Chidi Sees the Time-Knife" is the first — and last — time the Time-Knife is mentioned in the series, and it may cause some fans to wonder why audiences never see the infinite multiversal object on screen in "The Good Place."

In an episode of NBC's companion podcast "The Good Place: The Podcast," digital effects supervisor David Niednagel — whose last name was given to the Niednagel creature — mentions there were some 1,200 visual effects shots used throughout Season 3 (via Apple Podcasts). Visualizing the Time-Knife, which folds infinite realities, must have proved too much to work its way into the show's visual effect budget.

Joe Mande, who served as a producer and writer on the series, noted on the podcast that the Time-Knife was born out of a desire to play with "the theater of the mind." "What was [Chidi] experiencing when he was going in and out of the pancakes at that moment?" he notes in the podcast. It seems fans may never get to see the Time-Knife itself, but as Michael notes in the episode... "we've all seen the Time-Knife."