Airtime: Friday, April 15th on Netflix
Episode: Season 2 (S02)
Tweetable Takeaway: #UnbreakableKimmySchmidt is bolder, weirder and better than ever.
UNBREAKABLE KIMMY SCHMIDT returned for its second season this weekend true to form, full of meta-humor, rapid-fire one-liners, pop culture references, and the show’s signature mix of flat-out absurdity and a touching sincere love for its characters. At the end of the first season, Kimmy’s kidnapper the Reverend (Jon Hamm) was put behind bars. With her external threat neutralized, Kimmy now has to deal with her internal demons, as she learns that even though she may be out of the bunker physically, emotionally part of her is still there.
Ellie Kemper shines as Kimmy, with her wide-eyed naiveté and positivity masking the darkness within, as she’s rightfully diagnosed with PTSD in the latter half of the season. Last season, she was almost outshined in her own show by her hilarious co-stars Tituss Burgess as her gay roommate Titus Andromedon and Jane Krakowski as her out-of-touch socialite boss Jacqueline Voorhees, as evidenced by the fact that both garnered Emmy noms while she was ignored. This season, although Titus as has a heart-warming storyline about his new relationship with a recently out of the closet construction worker, Kimmy is the star.
The opening episode is one of the strongest of the thirteen-episode season, opening during a disastrous Christmas celebration. We flashback three months earlier (the show returns to this celebration in episode eight), where Titus is dealing with the unexpected arrival of his wife Vonda (Pernell Walker) and Jacqueline is trying to live as Jackie Lynn back home with her Sioux family. Thankfully by the end of the episode Jacqueline returns to New York, realizing that she no longer fits in—she was convinced the Electric Slide was a ceremonial dance to the Corn God and replaced the ceremonial peace pipe with a much trendier electronic vape. Titus reconciles with Vonda after learning that Ronald Wilkerson, his original identity, has been declared dead. The two reconnect at an Amtrak platform (in the absurd world of Kimmy Schmidt, Amtrak trains always run late so that lovers can find each other) and reenact their wedding dance set to Paula Abdul’s “Forever Your Girl.”
Meanwhile, after some prodding by Lillian (Carol Kane, who absolutely kills it this season) who has just reconnected with her first love Bobby Durst (Fred Armisen, playing an unhinged Robert Durst from The Jinx), Kimmy takes the plunge and kisses Dong, despite the fact that he’s technically married to Sonja from their GED class. Kimmy and Dong’s romance ends in episode eight, when he’s deported right after they hook up for the first time. Their relationship had to end sometime, so that Kimmy can keep growing as a person, but at least it brought us some memorable moments, such as Kimmy trying to help Dong and Sonja fool their immigration officer by creating a photo album full of fake, staged memories, including the two posing in robes in front of a billboard of Steve Harvey with the caption “Met Steve Harvey at a spa. He’s taller than you think!”
Like last season, the show has an impressive roster of guest stars including the return of Amy Sedaris as the hilariously desperate divorcee Mimi Knassis, Anna Camp as Deirdre, queen of the “Pilates Stella McCartney vegan ankle boot banh mi detox” loving Upper East Side moms, David Cross as a property rights lawyer, Zosia Mamet as a clueless hipster who rents Kimmy and Titus’s apartment on Airbnb, Jeff Goldblum as Dr. Dave, a Dr. Phil-esque horrific daytime TV psychiatrist, and Lisa Kudrow as Kimmy’s mom, the root of a lot of her emotional issues, in the final episode, to name a few. Tina Fey, who last season played a Marcia Clark lookalike lawyer, returns as Andrea, Kimmy’s alcoholic therapist she meets in episode nine while moonlighting as an Uber driver.
The music is great throughout. Episode five features Titus singing songs from fake musicals such Annie-knockoff Gangly Orphan Jeff and an unauthorized Helen Keller musical featuring “Feels Like Love” (“Is this him or a mop or a chair or a cop? Sad to say, but to me it feels the same.”), which hilariously comes to serve as the score to his new relationship. Kimmy’s emotional awakening in episode nine is scored by a cassette called “Now That Sounds Like Music!”, which has recognizable but legally different versions of hit songs such as Art Smelly’s “I’m Convinced I Can Swim.”
Last season, the show received some criticism for what some perceived as its racially insensitive subplot involving the very white Krakowski playing a Native American, as well as the stereotypical broken English and heavy accent of Kimmy’s love interest Dong, played by Ki Hong Lee. In this season, Lee has dropped the exaggerated accent—he improved his English by watching Keeping Up with the Kardashians, leading to a funny running gag of character’s knowing way more about the family than they thought—but show creators Tina Fey and Robert Carlock tackle the haters head on. In the third episode, “Kimmy Goes to a Play!”, Titus puts on a one-man show based on his past life as Japanese geisha Murasaki called Kimono You Didn’t, heavy white makeup, drawn-on eyebrows, husky-sized kimono and all. This draws the outrage of Internet commenters, who Kimmy invites to the show, oblivious to their sarcasm of their seemingly positive response to her sticking up for Titus online. The commenters are won over by his amazing singing voice and admit that they were wrong to put him on their list of top five Hitlers.
Throughout the season, Titus falls in love with Mikey (Mike Carlsen), the construction worker who cat-called Kimmy, only to realize that he was overcompensating, as he’s actually gay, last season. Their relationship is adorable, perfect, and built on the foundation that all relationships should be built on: a love for food and The Lion King. Lillian fights gentrification of the neighborhood as she did last season, but she really grows as a character, sticking up for herself and perhaps getting into politics. If there’s one complaint I’d make about this season, it’s that Jacqueline’s storylines don’t feel as integrated into the show as Kimmy’s, Lillian’s, and Titus’s. There are a few episodes that she isn’t in at all. This makes sense, as Kimmy no longer works for her, but it was a bit disappointing. Jane Krakowski is a national treasure.
All in all, this was an excellent second season, which includes a bombshell in the final episode that Kimmy will have to deal with in season three. Unbreakable Kimmy Schimdt is on its way to joining its predecessor 30 Rock as one of the all-time greats.
Jennifer Trofa lives for two things: spreading the “Superstore” gospel and themed “Law & Order: SVU” marathons on USA.
Jennifer Trofa | Contributor