When the first season of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt was released on Netflix last year, many praised the series for its witty comedy, colorful characters and social commentary. Season 2, which came out on April 15th, tones some of those elements down to focus on characterization and trying to embrace a more psychological tone while keeping its comedy… with mixed results.
WARNING: This review contains spoilers
One thing that didn’t make a lot of sense to me while I was watching this season was the fact that the it begins with a Christmas party, but then immediately goes three months back… for apparently no reason. However, when I finished the season, I realized that the series was just using the themes of Christmas (family, acceptance, forgiveness… ) as foundation for the journeys of its characters.
Talking about Season 2 of Kimmy Schmidt is talking about the characters. While Season 2 gives bigger roles to other previous characters (Lilian, Mickey, Buckley…), while presenting new ones (Deirdre, Russ, Andrea…), Kimmy, Titus and Jackie continue being the most fleshed-out characters. Starting with my favorite, Jackie has probably had the most interesting storyline this season. Ever since she was introduced in the beginning of the series, I thought she was the one with most potential (which is saying a lot considering Kimmy’s backstory). Having gotten divorced from Julian, Jackie tried everything to re-gain her life, money and status back. She went back with her Indian family for a while, she put her son Buckley on drugs (only UKS can do that) and she did everything she could to impress her friend Deirdre Robespierre (played by the amazing Anna Camp). Hitting rock bottom (or at least the type of rock bottom rich people like her can hit) and Kimmy’s help made her realize that being nice every now and then doesn’t hurt, and that maybe she should start considering others as well. However, she doesn’t really act on that lesson until she unexpectedly falls in love with another rich, but thoughtful man, Russ (David Cross).
Another character who saw success in his love life is Titus. While Titus is probably the funniest character in the series, I was not all satisfied with his storyline last season, which was basically all about him trying different jobs and auditioning with little to no success. This time, Mikey (Mike Carlsen), a construction worker who randomly appeared last season, comes back as a Titus’ boyfriend. However, as sweet as Mikey was, he didn’t get too much of characterization, but rather little traits, mainly the fact that that he was new to being gay. Even him coming out of the closet was related to Titus’ own issues, like how he never got the chance to give a coming out speech or to shut homophobes down. As a matter of fact, we learned that Titus has some issues as well: not only does he have insecurities and fears, but he also appears to have past lives/personalities (although that could just be his acting nature). This past lives storyline comes to shine in what has probably been the most controversial and talked about episode of the season: ‘Kimmy Goes to a Play!‘. Just happening to coincide with the current controversy of the whitewashing adaptation of Ghost in the Shell, the episode comes out as hit-and-miss statement about Internet activists needing to relax and not be so offended. Except they should be offended because there are more than enough reasons to be offended about Western’s portrayal of Asian culture. If that wasn’t enough, the Internet group who criticizes Titus’ Geisha play was called “Respectable Asian Portrayals in Entertainment”. Seriously What’s the point of it spelling “R.A.P.E.”? Sorry UKS, I love you, but that was just wrong and I found it impossible to laugh at it (the Chandler-Internet line was funny, though).
Next to Jackie and Titus’ storyline, Kimmy seemed to be drifting in the first episodes, not quite sure where to go after the trial from last season. The beginning of the season was all about her pinning for Dong (and being quite unfair to both him and Sonja if I may add). Ironically, Kimmy is the one who ends the season being single, while everyone else is in a relationship (and I’m kind of sad that those Kimmy/Jackie teases went nowhere). Kimmy’s storyline peaked up around halfway through the season when she met drunken therapist Andrea (hello again, Tina Fey). Andrea helps Kimmy see that she has LOTS of issues: insecurities towards men, bottled up emotions (that come out as burping for some reason), fear of abandonment due to mommy issues… To which I say, considering all she went through in the bunker, is it any wonder she needed therapy? (And how come the Government didn’t provide the Mole Women with therapy after they got rescued?). This was a pretty tricky storyline, though. While I appreciate the show’s intention to add¡ some realism into the story and to pay attention to Kimmy’s problems, the way in which it was handled left a lot to be desired. For starters, comedy reasons aside, I didn’t quite get the need to add Andrea’s double-drunken personality into the mix. While it was interesting to explore alcohol’s inhibition effect and how therapists can have problems too, it felt like the spot was more on Andrea than on Kimmy. At least, ‘Kimmy Finds Her Mom!’ was all about Kimmy and her mother (Lisa Kudrow!) and, after a rather confusing sequence in which they argue on a roller coaster, Kimmy realizes that, while she’s entitled to anger, it’s wiser to move past it. Screaming at each other is not going to change the past and she can only look forward from now on.
It might seem hard to believe, but comedies are probably one of the hardest genres to write. It’s not just the pressure to make people laugh (which this season struggled to do in comparison to the past one), but the fact that sometimes you have to treat delicate subjects with a serious tone, but still get away with the light atmosphere. This is actually the reason why I was skeptical with the show when I first heard about it, but its first season actually surprised me in a good way. However, Season 2 started to resent from adding the serious tone: giving these characters emotional depth to help them move forward is great plot-wise, but it does affect the comedy in the long run. And no, adding cheesy cartoon-y lines in the middle doesn’t help. We will have to wait until Season 3 to see if all these developments pay off.
FINAL NOTE: Will ‘Now that sounds like music’ be available on iTunes? Even better, will it be released as a cassette tape?!