Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Watching this season of Kimmy Schmidt has really been like watching two seasons smashed together in the middle. Given that Franken-plotting — and the fact that we’re going to spend the better part of the finale with Kimmy’s mom in Orlando — it’s important to note that the show has dropped more than a few plotlines in its pursuit of Kimmy’s therapy story line. One appearance from Xan definitely wasn’t enough, while Deirdre Robespierre and Jacqueline’s much-touted rivalry seems to have evaporated after one episode of gamesmanship. Dong appears to have been deported forever, or at least until season three. And I guess Mimi Knassis is passed out on someone else’s couch. (Sob!)
Instead of tying up those loose ends, the show has leaned full-tilt into a more recent plot introduction: Dr. Andrea’s alcoholism. She’s officially crossed the line from day-night dualism to full-on problem drinking, as revealed in a therapy session when she blows on a cup of tea that actually contains ice cubes. Kimmy, ever the fixer, thinks that she can help Andrea quit day-drinking and get back to her semi-functional self. But while “Kimmy Meets a Drunk Lady!” implied that Andrea had hit a rough patch after a breakup, this episode reveals that she’s been an alcoholic for a long time. Drunk Andrea on Sober Andrea: “Bitch can’t handle eating alone, because of her dumb childhood. The other day at lunch, she was like, ‘I’ll just have one glass of Sancerre with my shrimp salad. Before you know it, I’m there with the three Bs: Bourbon, burgers, and busboys, comma, getting high with.”
The concept here is that Andrea’s decline will ultimately help Kimmy make another breakthrough on her abandonment issues. After all, even handcuffing Andrea and taking her to a rooftop backfires, thanks to a surprise CamelBak full of vodka hidden under Andrea’s coat. The backslide into rehab and a surf camp for recent divorcées is pretty much inevitable. Still, Kimmy refuses to give up: “I care because it’s my fault. It’s my fault your boundaries got screwed up, and that’s why you’re leaving.”
Of course, none of that is actually Kimmy’s fault, as Andrea helpfully informs her in an Oprah voice. But I’m getting frustrated with episode after episode circling back to the necessity of Kimmy confronting her mom. Not only does that add a ton of pressure on their climactic interaction, it dismisses the notion that Andrea’s plight is actually worth our empathy. That’s weird for a show that’s dropped a lot of screen time on Tina Fey going full Lost Weekend, especially since it’s some of the darkest work of her acting career. I’m not sure what kind of logic it takes to argue that being trapped in a bunker for 15 years is more fixable than chronic alcoholism. Watching Andrea nae nae off into the sunset is pretty funny, but it’s also pretty heartbreaking. In a show that’s unafraid to let its characters grow, Andrea seems to be the completely stuck exception.
On the other hand, personal growth is certainly looking good on Titus, whose relationship with Mikey continues to be sweet enough to make my outside bones fall out. (On the upside, I should be able to exchange them for quarters from a “demon that my parents know.”) Having seen his ghost of Christmas past back in the Scrooge episode, Titus is now confronted with his potential future: Norman Gordon, an elderly wannabe actor who’s still chasing bit parts on Law & Order: Drifter Incineration Squad when he keels over dead (in a level-one improv bit about Hillary Clinton in IKEA, no less).
Confronting the death of a person you see as your darkest timeline is a plotline that’s been done many times before, but I like the way UKS walks it. There’s no secret revelation that Norman is actually some amazing guy — because he wasn’t. Instead, as Ice-T poignantly asserts, “He was to his own self true, and in that way, he lives forever.” Similarly, the show’s method of giving Titus a shot at his dreams feels hopeful but realistic. We know the cruise-ship show won’t be some sort of big break — to say nothing of the norovirus he’ll contract — but it’s an argument that smaller dreams are still worth believing in, especially with the love of someone like Mikey, who believes enough to wait for him.
Less believable is the suggestion that Jacqueline is actually falling in love with Russ. She’s been offscreen for too many episodes to make this feel like any kind of payoff, and frankly, one scene of emotional confession about the roots of his do-gooderism isn’t enough time for David Cross to humanize what’s been a pretty odious character. Jacqueline’s been lost this season, so it’s hard to know what we’re supposed to want for her. Considering the show has already argued that she’s a better person when she’s in trophy-wife mode, this doesn’t feel like a good place to take her character.
And so, into the finale we go, with Kimmy and Titus both headed to Florida. Will a real roller coaster be used as a metaphor for an emotional roller coaster? Almost certainly!
- Paula Abdul bookends the season, as Kimmy explains she’s “dressed to party like an MC Skat Kat.” (Andrea’s drunken response: “You know where is a cat?”)
- Great subtle callback to Jacqueline’s ghost chairs when Russ accused her of looking like she was moving out of her place. “I was moving in. I have 100 chairs!”
- Jeff Richmond, the show’s composer and Mr. Tina Fey, makes a cameo in Titus’s Trident audition song, accompanying him on the piano. (If you’re interested in how Richmond composes for the show, I interviewed him about it.)
- David Cross’s foreign phone conversations were hilarious, both Russian (“Let me start by saying your people murdered my grandparents”) and Australian (“G’day, mate! Outback Steakhouse!”)
- I continue to be impressed by the show’s commitment to sneaking in small visual jokes: The headlines on the paper Kimmy reads say, “De Blasio Pledges to Ruin City” and “Local Cloud Looks Like Bird.”
- I know it’s not the most original joke, but I cackled when Titus answered the phone with “Andromedon Productions. You can’t spell our name without ‘drama’ if you spell it wrong!”