By Emelia Salakka
One might consider it an ambitious move by Netflix to drop Season 2 of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt on us right in the heart of one of the busiest times of the year in television, with big name shows like Game of Thrones about to premier a new season, and Better Call Saul’s second season coming to a close. But Kimmy Schmidt’s heavy-handed sophomore season comes to play ball, and swings just as hard. It’s living, breathing, vibrant proof that standard television constraints are obsolete. Hip-hip hurrah, streaming!
Season one was a sparkling success, having been regarded as “the first great sitcom of the streaming era” by critic Scott Meslow, and having an impressive seven Primetime Emmy nominations under its belt. Season two did not disappoint, providing eager fans with gripping character development and shaking up the plot Bond martini style. Throughout the second season, there’s a consistent tug-of-war in the writing room between maintaining the highs and lows of the spectacularly unique storyline and providing us with side-stitching humour that keeps us clicking ‘next episode.’ The result leaves us with thirteen episodes each capable of making you laugh and cry in their own right.
Finally putting Reverend Richard Wayne Gary Wayne and the Indiana mole years behind her, Kimmy goes into her new life with her head held high, finally expecting to achieve complete control. Try as she might, Kimmy soon realizes that she can’t always get her way, and that her mole-woman past will always be a part of what makes Kimmy… Kimmy. After all, where else would she get her immense quirk that the internet simply can’t get enough of?
Alongside Kimmy we see the other main characters unfold before our eyes as we learn their truths and strifes. In the first episode, we explore Titus’ past in his brief marriage to Vonda, whom he left before they could even have their first dance. This bold move was due to his anxiety over the sham nature of their marriage (on account of Titus’ sexual orientation) leading him to escape and start a new life under the name Titus Andromedon. Despite the troubles Vonda’s return brings Titus, Kimmy’s quality as a friend comes into question when her only concern is for herself.
Season two shows us a totally new side of Kimmy that we hadn’t been introduced to in season one, as her selfishness only continues when Titus isn’t the only one who falls victim to Kimmy’s questionable behaviour. Dong, who is newly married to Sonya so that he’s able to stay in the United States, makes it clear that his first priority is to avoid deportation. Kimmy’s persistence to have more than a friendship with Dong causes her to irrationally crash the brunch held for the new couple, with Dong’s immigration officer in attendance. Needless to say, this strains the relationship between the two even further. But even with the writers’ blatant attempts to get us Unbreakable fans to dislike Kimmy, they can’t resist giving us a laugh along the way. Queue the silverfish!
Speaking of changing characters, the racy development in Jacqueline’s character’s heritage as a Native American woman had me struggling not to cringe. Not only is this arc a prime example of whitewashing, but it expects the viewers to excuse the utter ignorance and disrespect of Native American culture on the account of Jackie Lynn being a “white idiot.” This is the only turn in season two that I’m just not able to get on board with despite my unyielding love of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Unnecessary? Certainly. At least there’s some sense in this plot branch with Jackie’s parents essentially telling her to go back to her own life in New York where she belongs and her realization that money isn’t everything. I simply fail to see how the addition of this plot line adds at all to the overall story. Perhaps season three will provide an answer?
Tina Fey makes her second appearance in the show, first as an incompetent lawyer with a hilarious perm, and now as a therapist named Andrea with an insatiable thirst for the bottle. Andrea is determined to help Kimmy get to the root of her issues and her inability to face them head on. I find myself rooting for Kimmy to achieve ultimate self-discovery and understanding, but at the same time, do we really want a Kimmy Schmidt devoid of the very issues and misunderstandings that bring us those 3am giggles? Hmm.
Overall, season two of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt brings us to a new depth that we didn’t quite have in the first season. The plot hits closer to home as Kimmy’s issues are more relevant to the human experience than they are to being a mole-woman, and are unilinear with any coming of age story. Season two makes us feel closer to Kimmy as we explore her flaws and root for her healing, all the while being spoiled by excellently timed comedy that offsets some of the gravity of the heavy issues explored. Are we a little confused by some of these subplots? Absolutely, but that’s all the more reason to re-watch again and again until Netflix gifts us season three all wrapped in Kimmy-fied bows.