Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
As the episode’s title promises, the season-two finale executes a plotline that’s been building for the better part of the series: Kimmy finally confronts her neglectful mom, Lori-Ann (played by Lisa Kudrow, as foreshadowed in the cartoon song from earlier this season).
Because Lori-Ann is an Orlando-dwelling coasterhead, that confrontation necessitates a trip to Universal Studios, in a montage-y promotional grab that reads a little weird considering that Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is no longer on NBC (though Universal is still a producer). There must have been some sort of leftover contractual ties or something, because Kimmy noshing on Fear Factor worms and high-fiving SpongeBob (“Who is this guy? Do kids like Cheese Businessman?”) seems like the kind of overt product placement that UKS would normally tear to shreds, not embrace.
Aside from that weirdness, the crux of “Kimmy Finds Her Mom!” revolves around a technically challenging roller-coaster sequence that must have been a bitch-and-a-half to shoot, but ends up only draining the tension from Kimmy and Lori-Ann’s big confrontation. Kudrow is terrific, as always, and she and Ellie Kemper clearly try their hardest to deliver a convincingly acted scene while they’re thrown every which way on the coaster. But the editing of Kimmy and Lori-Ann’s fight isn’t well-paced with the mechanisms of the coaster itself, and there are a lot of gratuitous action shots that end up pulling the viewer out of the scene. The sound mixing also makes it a real challenge to hear the dialogue; I had to watch the sequence three times to hear all of the jokes correctly, including the weird little capstone with the coaster attendant about MRAs. (I tried to do some Googling on that CDC statistic, and it appears to be a misinterpretation of a study on sexual violence.)
I can see why Tina Fey and Robert Carlock wanted to try this big coaster set-piece: It’s a finale, after all, and an extended scene of recrimination needs some added goofiness to play convincingly as comedy. But as a climax to all of Kimmy’s emotional struggles, which have gone to some dark places, it feels a little hollow. I much preferred the simpler, complementary metaphor of Kimmy’s inability to tie her shoes. It explains her relationship with her mom, the reason she got kidnapped, and her fear of Velcro. Although the coaster sequence doesn’t land cleanly, Kemper’s performance in this episode demonstrates why she deserves Emmy consideration: She’s nailed every emotional scene thrown at her (and there have been many) without ever straying from the essential cheeriness of her character.
Given that the four leads are mostly separated in this finale, it’s not surprising that the non-Kimmy stories feel a little rushed. Lillian’s viral fame leading to a potential career in politics provides a clever setup for season three, but the show doesn’t really have time to dig into the details at all. Same goes for Titus’s detour to Titusville, which is tight on time and largely covers old emotional territory — namely Titus’s fear of failure with Mikey — in a more cursory way than the show did earlier in the season. At least we get that great one-on-one lunch scene with Ian Roberts’s failed astronaut, along with all of the delightful Bette Midler references and Titus comebacks that it entails. (“No one’s gone to space at all since 2011.” “So space is like American Apparel?”)
Since I wasn’t feeling Jacqueline’s relationship with Russ in the last episode, I was pleasantly surprised that their plotline both stuck its landing and paved a path for season three. The revelation that Russ’s family owns the Washington Redskins is an inspired choice (and a great callback to Jacqueline’s car-sweat-lodge hallucinations at the top of the season), which manages to accomplish a lot of good plot work in one fell swoop: making it plausible for Russ, who understandably hates his goonish family, to fall for Jacqueline; getting Jacqueline back in the money; and finding a new means to unite Jacqueline’s high-society life with her devotion to Native American causes.
If you think the team’s name is super racist and should have been changed decades ago — as I certainly do — there’s something undeniably appealing about the prospect of Fey and Carlock loading up the third season with a load of arguments in support of getting it done. (Josh Charles’s line that the name “has been around forever, and I respect tradition, which is why I get operated on by my barber” is a good first taste of blood.) Despite the showrunners’ bad-to-worse engagement with apology culture earlier this season, this seems like an attempt to atone for the missteps of season one — on the show’s terms, of course.
And of course, it wouldn’t be UKS without an eleventh-hour revelation in the finale: It turns out that Kimmy and the Reverend are actually married, which seems like it would’ve been hard to legally pull off within the confines of an underground bunker. But since Kimmy doesn’t remember it, I’m sure we’ll get a complex and mildly horrifying explanation in 2017.
- A “fetch” that really should happen: The term “get-aheader,” which, as Titus explains, “is when you take control of a situation by saying negative things before anyone else can. Like when Madonna said Dangerous Game was terrible before the critics could.” (I am so, so guilty of this.)
- I’m glad that Kimmy finally got her high-five, and that her mom was mystified by the indifference of New Yorkers. “That’s dumb. What do they do when Truckasaurus eats a car?”
- As a native Floridian, I can attest that while gator insurance for your car may not be a real thing, I definitely had no choice but to hit a few different swamp animals with my car while crossing coastal highways.
- Titus’s favorite part of the space program is that it led to Jeannie being released in I Dream of Jeannie. “Thank you, NASA! [Laughs.] She was his slave!” (I also love his backronym for NASA: Never Accomplishing Space Anymore.)
- Lori-Ann’s regrets about having Kimmy at age 17 are pretty priceless, from being disappointed about not getting hit in the face by a tire at a demolition derby, to her rueful statement that “I could’ve been Whitesnake’s Yoko Ono.”
- I hope Fred Armisen’s Robert Durst will just keep popping up in the show at random intervals forever. “Who’s Bobby? I’m his sister Robertina Durst, and I’m mute.”
- Thank you for watching and reading. I look forward to more laughs next year, when UKS further tramples on my longtime dream of marrying Jon Hamm.