Netflix’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt first surfaced from the bunker in March 2015. That’s only a few years ago, but given the embattled, current sociocultural climate, doesn’t it feel like much longer?
Ellie Kemper’s titular Kimmy emerged after 15 years as a kidnapping victim of Jon Hamm’s doomsday reverend, and viewers have reaped the benefits of periodic check-ins with the rose-tinted and consistently hilarious series. The series never overthinks or dwells too long upon things, even while touching upon serious issues, and that’s exactly what one receives in this final batch of episodes. Although Kimmy’s saying goodbye, she leaves us, and the rest of the show’s characters, in a brighter place. That’s not an easy feat in 2019, and while this Tina Fey/Robert Carlock brainchild might not spring to mind every day, week, or even month — there are simply too many TV shows out there to distract us — this plucky heroine makes her audience capable of taking on the world with a renewed perspective.
Netflix may still drop an Unbreakable movie at some point, but the streaming service has been quiet on that possible development, so we may as well assume that Kimmy and friends are done. While they’ve been at our binge-watching disposal, we’ve endured one of the most fraught political cycles in recent history and witnessed the #MeToo movement’s height. In these final fourth-season episodes, the story obviously hasn’t saved the world, but Kimmy infuses the hope that she might do so within her own universe. She sets about that feat with tactics that the irreverent series deserves, all while evaluating what’s really a traumatic past for her in a way that this show does reliably well.
The process of writing this review was almost too easy. Basically, the existing, effusive template that’s worked so far for the series still serves as a source of escapist enthusiasm. If you loved Kimmy and friends so far, you’ll appreciate the way their stories conclude, for these reasons:
– These final adventures are as zany as expected. Titus spoofs the “Living Single” theme song, Amy Sedaris’ Mimi and Jane Krakowski’s Jacqueline tangle with millennial suitors, and the guest stars are a delight as always. They include Ronan Farrow (doing what Ronan Farrow is famous for doing), Jon Bernthal (in a role that’s mostly unlike his The Punisher persona), Billy Eichner (his cameo is so brief but so good), and Zachary Quinto (who is funnier here than I’ve ever given him credit for being). Busy Phillips and Lisa Kudrow come back for final bows, and Mike Carlsen’s Mikey returns in a few ways. Hopefully, by the end, people will realize how underrated his character has been all along.
– The “Sliding Door” episode, which frames itself like the 1998 Gwyneth Paltrow movie of the same name) is atypically long at 53 minutes, but it’s worth the haul and still breezy. Within, the characters explore how their lives may have taken startlingly different paths, especially if Kimmy hadn’t been kidnapped. Well, the foresight of her recognizing “stranger danger” all those years ago takes an unexpected twist that results in what’s easily the most gratifying episode of the past two seasons. I shall not spoil the ending twist but throughout, we gain the realization that Kimmy’s happy with where she is in life. She obviously doesn’t feel appreciative of her experiences in the bunker, yet she acknowledges that they helped her become the person she is today.
– This season almost needed to make a #MeToo contribution, and in the first half of the season that arrived last year, we saw a gender-flipped, somewhat frivolous treatment of the issue. That wasn’t a disrespectful take at all, but given that this series doesn’t treat anything seriously, it played satirically with Kimmy inadvertently making remarks (while firing an employee) that were interpreted as suggestive. She obviously has boundary issues from being trapped in the damn bunker, but the show did need to take the subject more substantially so yup, it was time to literally phone Ronan Farrow. He shows up in service of an exposé on Mr. Frumpus, a puppet who pervs on Titus. It’s an odd approach that fits the series and still delivers the message with oomph, mostly because of Farrow’s real-life reputation as an advocate.
– Sadly, there’s no prolonged appearance by Jon Hamm’s Reverend Wayne Gary Wayne or DJ Slizzard during these final eps, though we do see a few seconds of the former in a demon-Santa suit. Perhaps the dearth of Hamm will be disappointing to some, but it’s also high time that Kimmy fully moves past her past, of which he’s a reminder. She does (in an act of desperation) attempt to capitalize upon her Mole Woman label, and that doesn’t go as planned, which is a signal to her. Finally, it’s time for Kimmy to save the world, and the Netflix audience shall enjoy watching their heroine put plans in motion for that task. Kimmy and her backpack held our hands for a few tough years, but if optimism has its way, things are gonna be alright now.
Netflix’s ‘Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’ streams on Friday, January 25.