Netflix released the whole second season of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt on Friday, and I’m going to offer some overall thoughts on the season, followed by specific takes on each episode, coming up just as soon as I ask whether Cate Blanchett is really a great actress, or just tall…
Netflix made the first six episodes available to critics, and while I enjoyed most of those early installments, the back half of the season was by far the stronger part, and the phase of things where the shift from making episodes for NBC to making them for Netflix was much more apparent. Season 1 also turned more serialized towards the end, with the trial of the Reverend Richard Wayne Gary Wayne, and it had its emotional moments as Kimmy faced down her captor. But the later episodes of season 2 felt darker and more complicated in their attempt to address Kimmy’s emotional damage. It didn’t suddenly turn into an introspective drama – one of the ways Kimmy deals with her denial is through a huge belch (which Ellie Kemper warned me about) – but there was a sincerity to the later episodes that was striking in its effectiveness.
That’s not just the case with Kimmy dealing with both the bunker and her feelings about her estranged mother, but in Titus realizing he has real feelings for Mikey (and that he’s not sure if he still wants to be an actor), in Jacqueline discovering that there are things she cares about more than money and status, and even to an extent in Lillian battling the hipster gentrification of East Dogmouth. The joke writing on this show is so good, and so dense, that it could get away with being a live-action cartoon all the time without anybody minding. But this season ultimately felt even richer and more satisfying than the first, because all those absurd punchlines and visual gags were wrapped around characters who felt increasingly human, in a way that didn’t undercut the silliness.
So let’s go episode-by-episode through all the mayhem:
EPISODE 1: KIMMY GOES ROLLER SKATING!
This one has to set up a lot of the season’s story arcs (including a teaser that won’t be explained until we get to episode 8), as Jacqueline spends time back on the reservation (prompting the newfound interest in defending her heritage that will drive a lot of what she does this year), Titus faces down the wife he abandoned on their wedding day, Lillian resumes her affair with “Little Bobby Durst” (played perfectly by Fred Armisen), and Kimmy continues to struggle with the situation with Dong. But even in establishing where much of the season’s going to go, “Kimmy Goes Roller Skating!” still works well as an individual episode of the show, with its own built-in running gags like the way everyone keeps being surprised by how much they know about the Kardashians, or the great romantic comedy deconstruction at the end establishing that Amtrak isn’t actually a train company, but a business that always runs late so people can have romantic connections.
EPISODE 2: KIMMY GOES ON A PLAYDATE!
Not my favorite installment of the year, but one that establishes a couple of players who’ll be notable later on: Anna Camp as Jacqueline’s society nemesis Deirdre Robespierre, and Mike Carlsen as Titus’ construction worker boyfriend Mikey (who appeared back in season 1’s fifth episode, “Kimmy Kisses a Boy!”). It also has the season’s only appearance of Xanthippe, whose childish rivalry with Kimmy is always fun (Ellie Kemper miming booby honking!), particularly as we see that she views Kimmy the same way Kimmy views the Reverend.
EPISODE 3: KIMMY GOES TO A PLAY!
The less said about this one – basically, the Kimmy Schmidt equivalent of that West Wing episode where Aaron Sorkin had Josh yell at people on message boards for a while – the better. Also, the way the episode ends with high society mistaking Kimmy and Jacqueline for a couple suggests an ongoing storyline for the season, but this is the first and last we hear of it.
EPISODE 4: KIMMY KIDNAPS GRETCHEN!
First of all, why has Netflix not already greenlit an animated Bunny and Kitty spin-off, co-starring the voices of Dean Winters and Will Arnett, and rated TV-MA?