Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt‘s third season premieres on Netflix on Friday. Where there was some question before the second season began whether the show would change significantly once episodes were being made explicitly for Netflix (the first season having been produced for NBC, before the Peacock decided it didn’t want Kimmy after all, and sold it elsewhere), Kimmy has by now established exactly what its tone is, regardless of its theoretical home base, and thus there’s not a lot new to say in a global sense about the upcoming episodes. Instead, here are a few key points to know, and I’ll be back next week with a full spoiler review of the whole season after I’ve seen past the six episodes Netflix gave in advance to critics:
1. The first few episodes are good, not great, but that’s not a huge concern.
This was the case in the previous two seasons as well, where the first half of each had plenty of funny Tina Fey/Robert Carlock-style gags, but were primarily setting up second halves where Ellie Kemper’s Kimmy had to stare down the demons of her uncomfortable past. In the first season, it was the trial of her captor, the Reverend Richard Wayne Gary Wayne (Jon Hamm). In season two, it was therapy with a Jekyll-and-Hyde shrink (Fey herself) that helped Kimmy find emotional closure with her absentee mom (Lisa Kudrow). Those were the episodes in each that made Kimmy into more than a joke-delivery system, and I’m assuming something similarly complicated and weird is coming in the back half, while these early installments are mainly a lot of set-up, plus running gags.
2. Kimmy is going to college!
Among the early character arcs: Kimmy decides to build on her GED and go to college, Titus (Tituss Burgess) returns from his cruise ship job and wonders what to do about his relationship with Mikey (Mike Carlson), Lillian (Carol Kane) runs for office to try to stop gentrification in East Dogmouth, and Jacqueline (Jane Krakowski) and boyfriend Russ Snyder (David Cross) continue plotting to get his family to change the name of the Washington NFL team to something less racist.
3. Jacqueline and Titus are both much more complicated — and friends!
Maybe the biggest change between seasons one and two — and something that likely would have happened even if the show had stayed on NBC — was the depth and shading Fey, Carlock, and the other writers were able to give to Kimmy’s two closest friends. Where Jacqueline was once a shallow, stupid gold digger, now she’s… well, she’s still not very bright, but she means well, and genuinely likes both Russ and Kimmy, rather than just using them the way she used to use everyone. Similarly, Titus’ romance with Mikey, and the strengthening of his friendship with Kimmy, hasn’t eliminated any of the ridiculousness of the character — early episodes this year include him auditioning for Sesame Street and doing an elaborate parody of Lemonade — and in fact makes it funnier, because it’s coming from a slightly realer place. Krakowski and Burgess are both extremely funny, but they’ve now joined Kemper in being able to walk that careful line between pathos and absurdity.
And one of the best new episodes involves Jacqueline calling on Titus for a favor, the less of which you know in advance, the better, save that it involves him renaming himself “Cork Rockingham” for a night.
4. Familiar, funny faces continue to abound.
There’s more of Hamm, Cross, Fred Armisen (as Robert Durst(!), who is still dating Lillian), Josh Charles (as Russ’s cruel brother), and Amy Sedaris (as Jacquline’s pal Mimi), plus some welcome new guests including Laura Dern (as a woman trying to help Kimmy divorce the reverend), Peter Riegert (owner of a Whole Foods-style grocery chain looking to expand into East Dogmouth), Hamilton alum Daveed Diggs (a fellow late-in-life college student), and another 30 Rock alum in Judah Friedlander (as a potential employer for Titus). Fey’s got a long list of contacts, and continued skill at deploying people in ways where they can be their funniest without overpowering the regular characters.
Come back early next week for mini reviews of every episode of the season.