If you didn’t love the freshman season of Tina Fey and Robert Carlock’s zany spiritual 30 Rock spin off you wont love what they’ve done this time around.
But if, like me, you don’t hate joy, then strap on your sequined Heelies™, dig out your favourite scrunchie and follow me; Kimmy Schmidt is BACK!
Picking up nearly exactly where season 1 left off the second year offering takes a few episodes more to find its feet while it ties up old plots and neatly braids them into new ones;
Kimmy (Ellie Kemper) has put the Reverend behind bars and is, she thinks, finally free to move on with her life. But her issues, induced by both the bunker, and by the shoddy parenting that left her vulnerable to abduction in the first place are beginning to surface in strange and interesting ways. She stress burps when she’s repressing things, lashes out when anyone tries to be physically intimate with her and is almost pathologically driven to help and support her friends to the point of putting all of their needs before her own.
Titus (Tituss Burgess)starts the season still trapped in his sham marriage but it’s a plot so quickly resolved and set aside as to be basically pointless. But in his slow, roundabout Titus does begin to take baby steps towards living the life he’s always wanted and becoming a more complete, fulfilled person. His acting career actually begins to gather some momentum, he finds a paying job and, prepare yourself; he finds love. In the best and most adorable way ever, by bonding with his new mans over his zany fashion sense and their shared adoration of The Lion King. And better yet, it’s with Mikey, the newly out construction worker from season 1 who Kimmy accidentally helped to realise he was gay after she obliviously fixed his misogynistic attitudes.
Mikey (Mike Carlsen) , for the record, is light, and sunshine and I wont even talk about how wonderful he is because you need to watch him and experience him. He’s the human embodiment of Dug from Up, and he literally makes Titus a better and more likable person all round as Titus not only falls slowly in love with the man but gently and sweetly ushers the gruff construction worker into his newly discovered queer culture. In discovering someone who both needs his support, and can support him, Titus begins to soften up, open up and actually live.
Rounding out the basement gang is Lilian(Carol Kane) who actually finally gets to be more than the crazy old lady. Her fears of gentrification are finally coming to fruition and her season long arc follows her somewhat lonely attempts to fight progress while her tenants and friends sort of ignore her plight in its entirety.
But just as she finally gives in to the new developments and the high speed internets and the millennials (which is the new word for Hipsters, I guess?) she’s offered a real chance to fight back and you bet your ass she takes it. Lilian also gets some sweet and genuine scenes with not only Kimmy, who she helps learn to express decades worth of repressed anger, but with Jacqueline, whose life has fallen into semi-crisis since her divorce.
Jacqueline, Jane Krakowski portraying a Native American woman who passes as white in order to become a Manhattan socialite, briefly returned to her South Dakota home and in her very Jacqueline way managed to reconnect with her roots. Though she’s too far removed from her culture to be any good at it, far too Jacqueline, she still learns important lessons, comes to accept her place really is in Manhattan, but not as a white socialite. Instead, Jacqueline’s plan is to claw her way back to the top of Manhattan Society and use her position to support Native American rights and causes. It’s a journey she actually sees through, though through no fault of hers, is doomed to failure. She learns a hard lesson about just how little the rich care for literally anyone that isn’t themselves, but at the same time, she learns to be a person. The season ends with Jacqueline possibly the closest to real happiness of all the characters and it’s a journey to watch. Jane Krakowski is an absolute gem, a shining star who, regardless of the understandable controversy of her role has done something really wonderful with Jacqueline in this second season. The’ Jenna Maroney’ clone of season 1 was the foundation for someone who visibly develops layers and depths over thirteen episodes. And yes, okay, this is Jacqueline. When her scheme falls short she almost immediately reverts to gold diggerism and she makes the incredibly dodgy decision to tie herself to a man whose family literally owns the Washington R*dsk*ns. But he hates the name and has lobbied his family to change it, and she and he might genuinely, truly love each other and figure that united they might be able to change things.
Just. Watch it.
Oh, and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the new love of my life, Deirdre . Socialite frenemy to Jacqueline, Anna Camp’s hilarious Deirdre is a work of pure genius. She has a 150 IQ and a Major in Political Science and she’s pretty sure she psychologically tortures people because she has so much wasted mental energy but she honestly doesn’t know. If Anna Camp isn’t back next year I’ll write a tweet with all the angry face emojis.
We never doubted they could but in the second year running the team behind Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt has just crushed it.
The mood of the show was a little different this year, a little more introspective but that was in no way a failing. It was more like the show growing and advancing, just like Kimmy is meant to be. As Kimmy matures she has to start confronting the darker issues stemming from her background and the show seems to be using the second season to do the same thing. The joke a minute format scaled back just a tiny amount, leaving room for the characters to delve just a bit deeper into their issues and in Kimmy’s case to examine more deeply the specific set of social and cultural circumstances that led to her abduction. While it’s as always dressed up in the shows rainbow bright colour scheme they actually manage to be educational, drawing attention to the ways in which young women become vulnerable to victimisation.
It’s a complicated show, it’s a complicated plot. It’s a zany, quirky comedy built around a very dark subject matter, it tackles incredibly real subjects like racism and inequality and the negative impacts of ‘progress’ on the people progress so often leaves behind. It’s dancing around some very scary subjects hinted at by Kimmy’s violent responses to certain situations but never feels offensive or mocking. Kimmy is Kimmy, she’s a survivor, a badass, utterly fearless at all times but she went through something and she’s damaged.
The second season embraces that and doesn’t flinch away from it, but it always follows Kimmy’s lead. She’s a bright shiny person, irrepressibly optimistic , so her issues will be tackled in a bright shiny, irrepressibly optimistic way.