Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Eschewing the complicated openings of seasons past, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt kicks off the first half of its final season in its comfort zone: parodying vintage sitcoms with a very catchy Jeff Richmond–composed theme song and some grade-A mugging from Ellie Kemper.
“Little Girl, Big City” might take place entirely in Kimmy’s head (and that tree full of poorly tossed berets), but by the standards of this very weird show, she and her friends are living relatively normal sitcom lives. Titus is back on the audition circuit, with Jacqueline pursuing a new career goal as his manager. Lillian, having traveled with the ailing Artie until he passed away, is once again the unofficial mayor of East Dogmouth. And Kimmy is thriving as the den mother at Giztoob, infusing her special blend of fun and T-shirt cannons into the lives of a bunch of nerdy coders. That is, until she’s asked to fire an underperforming employee.
This isn’t Kimmy’s wheelhouse, as she mopily confesses to C.H.E.R.Y./L., the Chardonnay-pushing office Yuko. (“Hey, I’m not just a cybernetic empathy-response Yuko/lamp, I’m also your friend/lamp!”) So she decides to cheer up Kabir as she lets him go, complimenting his eyes, giving him a back rub, and dropping trou to demonstrate that “embarrassing stuff can happen to everyone!” As a result, she quickly finds herself on the receiving end of a sexual-harassment complaint.
Kimmy’s essential innocence allows the show to have fun with the #MeToo movement without stressing out viewers or undermining its essential seriousness. Even if she’s not “a Weinstein or a Spacey or the President,” Titus informs her, “there’s a reckoning going on, and it’s important. And as overdue as the library book I’ve been using as abs.” (Titus would know, having been propositioned by Mr. Frumpus the puppet on the Sesame Street casting couch.)
Kimmy comes to realize that despite her good intentions, she’s violating a lot of the same boundaries that the Reverend did with her and the other mole women, and decides to treat everyone in her office like the person she most loves and respects: Titus. It’s an impressively fleet-footed treatment of a tricky subject, managing to actually deliver the poorly phrased “happy ending” that Kimmy promises her office mates.
Lillian is also searching for a happy ending for Artie, who died in Norway after a fight over a certain president. (“Of course I don’t support his politics,” she tells him. “I’m just telling you those were the best steaks I ever ate!”) He’s asked for his ashes to be scattered on the site of his childhood summer camp, which is now the Snoke House, a fancy members-only club.
After failing to gain entry through conventional means, Lillian tries disguises, resulting in one of the most singularly glorious moments of this show: Carol Kane dressed up as and pretending to be Cyndi Lauper. (“I just wanna have fun!” she tells the doorman.) The gambit doesn’t work, but with some inspiration from her neighborhood coke dealer, she manages to sell Artie’s ashes to a gang of banker bros for $1,200 and the promise that they’ll snort it all inside the building. “This is the most fun I’ve had disposing of a body since … oh, don’t make me choose!”
Titus and Jacqueline aren’t having quite as much fun, as Jacqueline struggles to find him acting gigs. Still hung up on Mikey and his decision to stay with his new boyfriend, Titus realizes that the peak-TV era means he can probably pretend to have a show on a network no one’s heard of and still get away with it. So he and Jacqueline press-gang one of Kimmy’s employees to “talk to the contuter and make it do posters,” then plaster them all over Mikey’s job site.
Sure enough, Mikey calls to congratulate Titus, who asks for some consulting help for his character The Capist. (“A super-strong crimes fighter who owns a cape store” by day, he just so happens to be a “construction mon” by night.) Unfortunately, his ego gets the better of him, and he ends up inviting Mikey to the set to meet his “co-star” Greg Kinnear, whom he chose based on a Google image search for “white guy not scary.”
Thankfully, the real Greg Kinnear is indeed not scary — in fact, he “loves love” enough to agree to a fake fight scene with Titus, to Mikey’s delight. (“Greg Kinnear knows my name … that’s as good as it gets!”) And in an era where every celebrity has a TV development deal for nothing in particular, he suggests that Titus turn The Capist into a real script, and pitch it with him. Score one for White Talent and its sole black client.
• Of all of Titus’s Kimmy name puns, “Kim Kimmery Kim Kimmery Kim Kim Karoo” might be the most extra.
• Also extra: Even by Jacqueline standards, Jane Krakowski’s outfits this episode are insane. That burgundy dress with the giant sleeves! The skin-tight leather pants with leather gloves and a leather corsage!
• “Little Girl’s” theme-song description of the Big Apple as “a fruit that’s bigger than people … full of business worms” is honestly as good or better than anything in “Empire State of Mind.” Just saying.
• Mikey is just delighted to be a consultant for a TV show, “like all those sex criminals they hire for SVU.”
• Speaking of which, Tina Fey’s reputation for making not-particularly funny jokes about sex workers, usually with no discernible plot relevance, continues to be well-earned. In just this one episode, we get a reference to the Snoke House’s Prostitute Lounge, Lillian pitching herself as the kind of stripper who’s “Okay if you kill me,” and then Lillian-as–Cyndi Lauper actually murdering a stripper with a hammer. In an episode that’s otherwise pretty on-point about the consequences of sexual harassment, it’s a discordant note.
• The episode ends on a puppet hand handing over a briefcase full of cash. Could Mr. Frumpus be putting a hit out on Titus?