Kimmy’s adventures in the big city after 15 years of captivity continue, as does her can-do attitude and unassailable good mood for a second season of Netflix’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. The show’s first season had the clear mission of showcasing Kimmy’s ineptitude with dealing with the trappings of the twenty-first century due to her stunted knowledge of pop-culture, stunted in 90’s lingo, catchphrases, fashion, and technology. The show worked well also because the first season’s endgame was the trial of the cult leader who had kidnapped Kimmy and three other women for years in an underground bunker. Such a strong storytelling arch really helped frame the show and allowed the viewer to jump aboard the crazy train full of a motley cast of zany characters, even when not all the jokes fully landed and when the show decided to delve into some weird and unfunny plot points (most of which involving bizarre takes on race). All things considered, I was a big fan of the first season, I discussed it here on this blog as one of my first posts last year, and convinced several friends to give the show a go.
I am still a fan of the series, but a bit more hesitant and less enthusiastic than I was last year. Firstly, the show has no clear framing this season. It’s just a set of 13 loosely related episodes that continue to showcase Kimmy (Ellie Kemper) and her weird friends living in the city and having “weekly” adventures. The closest the show comes to a theme this season is Lillian’s (Carol Kane) constant fight against gentrification. The second season also seems to be tonally dissonant with the first’s: in the first season there was a lot of bite and what felt like subversive elements wrapped up in a distracting shiny and overly happy bow. This time around everything felt a bit more sanitized and less daring, more like a Sesame Street approach. There are still a ton of funny bits, like when Titus (Tituss Burgess) happily plays a piano on the sidewalk with the word BEDBUGS emblazoned on it in spray paint (a truly nightmarish scenario to anyone even passingly familiar with the havoc the critters can wreak on one’s life). More perplexing, though, was that this year the show seemed to take on too much of the tone and characteristics of Tina Fey’s previous show, 30 Rock, and lost a bit of what made Kimmy different and its own animal.
I was quite disappointed with how the show continued to miss the mark in regard to its discussion of race. After the criticism that the first season faced, especially concerning its depiction of Native Americans and East Asian characters, many expected the show to switch things up a bit. Instead, the second season goes after these jokes harder than ever and is completely unapologetic and brazen about it. Sometimes it weirdly and shockingly does work, like Titus performing a one man show about his past life as a Japanese geisha, but sometimes it seems the show is just trying to raise a middle finger to the easily offended and to “PC” attitudes and mentalities, which is all fine and dandy if you can do so in a smart way and/or be funny about it. In general, though, the show still hasn’t figured out how to do it successfully, and sometimes this can leave a bad taste in the mouth.
This season also finds a whole bunch of guest stars that show up for either a one-off joke or a recurring role. The only way I can explain the proliferation of Robert Durst jokes this season is that the writers must have just come from a The Jinx binge-watching session prior to planning out the episodes. He is either name checked, discussed, alluded to, or shows up on screen (played by Fred Armisen) in almost every single episode. I have no idea how to discuss it, as it just makes no sense and seems like an attempt at bizarre absurd humor (the type that SNL viewers are used to between 12:30 and 1 am). Most of the guest stars and actors don’t really add much to the show, even the usually amazing Lisa Kudrow, who shows up as Kimmy’s mother, don’t fully work. The one recurring character that works on every level and who is consistently hilarious is Amy Sedaris as Jacqueline’s (now White, no longer Voorhees, played by Jane Krakowski) frienemy Mimi Kanasis – the only reason there are no quotes from her below is because most of her humor comes from facial expressions, reaction shots, and background acting whose hilarity cannot be conveyed in print. Anna Camp does also a good job as a rival NYC socialite of Jacqueline’s who thrives from competition after she has abandoned a fulfilling career and life in order to become a desperate kept woman.
Some familiar faces from the first season return (Kimmy’s fellow mole women, her sometimes paramour Dong, the Reverend), but some of the magic that made up that first great season is gone, or maybe some of the glitter just wore off. The show is still good, lots of funny lines are delivered (see below), and it’s still quite charming. The series has already been renewed for a third season, so my hope is that over the course of the year the writers will regroup and find what made this show so great and deliver that level of great comedy – preferably with a stronger storyline to follow, which seems to be when this show is at its best.
PERSONAL FAVORITE QUOTES OF SEASON 2:
- Kimmy, we have a wonderful thing here in New York called moral relativism. Where you’re from, in the Midwest, people say: “I’ll never cheat on my wife,” or “I’m not gay, I’m a wrestling coach.” And then one day: BOOF! The wheels come off, they do it all in one week, and drop dead. Here we say: “Eh, so I kissed a priest in a leather bar. Who am I hurting?” -Lillian
- -I’ve made some kissing mistakes… -Kimmy
-Hey. Making out with John Mayer is just a part of living in New York. -Jacqueline
- You think you know everything ’cause you got bit by a roach that crawled out of a dictionary. -Titus
- Sorry, but giving up is not my jam. My jams are: grape, jock, and Space! -Kimmy
- Until recently I couldn’t even have a dead husband so #respectmyjourney! -Titus
- Don’t even get me started on sex. I mean, it’s weird, and it’s gross. And it’s way too close to where we poop and pee which is why I’m never gonna do it. Well, I guess we all have our issues. -Purvis
- What are you doing? You’re not supposed to eat those. They’re biscotti… they’re terrible! -Mikey
- You broke my happy place. It used to be like Disney World, but now it’s the unhappiest place on Earth. Like everywhere else in Florida. -Kimmy
- Kids can make you feel like you’re king of the world, like Leonardo Di Caprio before chubs took over the whole floating door. And then they turn on you for no reason, like me with Kate Winslet. -Titus