Written by Christopher Diggins
The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Season 2 Premiere:
After losing her boyfriend and her job, Kimmy (Ellie Kemper) is feeling down. She struggles to get over her newly married ex Dong (Ki Hong Lee) while worrying that best friend Titus (Titus Burgess) abandoning his wife is a sign that he’ll abandon her too. Meanwhile, Jacqueline (Jane Krakowski) struggles to adapt to life with her family.
Season 2 of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt opens with a bizarre flash forward to Christmas with Kimmy and her friends. We’re treated to tantalizing hints at what’s to come, including a new roommate named Mimi, Titus having a Japanese alter-ego, and Kimmy’s old GED classmate/wife of her ex Sonia (Suzan Perry) breaking in through their window screaming at Kimmy. These developments are, of course, meant to make us want to find out what leads to this point, but in truth they hardly require explanation. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is a screwball comedy, a show that exists just left of reality where nearly anything can be taken at face value. The Season 2 premiere gives every indication it will continue on that path, and it’s all the stronger for it.
When we last left Kimmy and her friends, they’d just been given the double bombshell of her boyfriend Dong having to marry someone else to avoid getting deported and the return of Titus’ wife Vonda (Pernell Walker). Now we get to see how both of them are handling the fallout of these events. In short: not well. Kimmy is halfheartedly dating again, but she can’t get the thought of Dong out of her head. And Titus’ wife is suing him while he can’t even muster the decency to be nice to her, let alone apologize. His behavior makes Kimmy worry that he’ll eventually run out on their friendship too, while frustration at her situation, along with some advice from Lillian (Carol Kane), has her considering giving in to moral relativism and pursuing Dong anyway.
There’s an inherent tension to the two main plotlines of this episode that makes them never quite gel. Kimmy’s plot is all about her ignoring her own moral compass so she can try to be with Dong. Meanwhile, in Titus’ plot she once again acts as his moral compass and convinces him to do the right thing. There is some thin connective tissue here, with Kimmy’s rejection of morality in disgust at his behavior compelling Titus to rethink his actions, but the show never quite draws the parallel. Neither Titus nor Kimmy seem to really learn from the other in any significant way, which makes Kimmy’s opposite roles in the two plots seem more contradictory than they could have.
Despite this nagging complaint though, the episode still works very well for one simple reason: it’s hilarious. Starting with 30 Rock and continuing through Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Tina Fey has perfected a style of total joke saturation. It’s not just that the jokes in her shows are funny, it’s that you are constantly being inundated by joke after joke after joke. Besides making you laugh the whole way through, this also has the benefit of lessening the impact of a joke that bombs; what does it matter if you don’t laugh at a joke when there’s another one coming seconds later? But the episode isn’t simply hilarious through sheer volume. The snappy, witty dialogue and zany situations (from Jacqueline dancing the electric slide to appease the “Corn god” to Lillian singing a duet with a senile old flame in a roller rink) are every bit as sharp as last season, and it does a lot to make the half hour zoom along at an enjoyably fast pace.
It is always refreshing to see a comedy that puts such a premium on being funny above all else, and that’s something we can always count on from Tina Fey. If this first episode is anything to go by, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt will be as hilarious, surprising, and entertaining as the first season was. And if there happens to be a muddled plot or two in there, then what does it matter? A show this consistently funny is still well worth watching.
Rating: 8 out of 10