Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Season Four Part One Review
As Season 3 drew to a close, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt felt like it was overstaying its welcome. After all, there are a limit to the number of jokes one can make about a woman in New York City who thinks it’s still the '90s because she’s been held captive in an underground bunker for fifteen years. It began to get a bit tiresome, or at least predictable; every time Kimmy misunderstood some new slang term, made a social media faux pas or didn’t understand the term googling (to be fair, that was pretty funny).
With all that in mind, Season four would need to seriously break some new ground to get Kimmy out of the rut of nostalgia and snappy (yet tired) social commentary. The premise of the latest season is (as the opening titles confirm) Little Girl, Big City - a similar, yet slightly different premise to Bunker-Girl-With-11-Year-Old-Mental-age, Big City. In addition to this, Season four has is being released in two parts, so only episodes one to six are currently streaming on Netflix. Though it does seem we’ll be waiting some time for the rest of the season to drop - Netflix recently confirmed their release date to be 25th January 2019.
Tina Fey and Robert Carlock waste no time getting stuck straight in with episode one dealing with sexual harassment in the workplace, and the twist is that Kimmy’s the perpretator. Unwittingly, with her overly keen attitude and desire to hug everyone, Kimmy has crossed boundaries without even realising. A smart take on the very current topic of workplace sexual harassment, Fey and Carlock actually find a way to inject humour into what is otherwise a sobering topic.
Already heralded as a stand-out episode is Party Monster - Scratching the Surface, which features our Kimmy in newsreel archive footage only. The episode is a one-off, a cutting and hilarious satire of the recently popularised true crime genre and plays out as a documentary created by DJ Fingerblast who is on the hunt for his childhood hero - DJ Slizzard. What does this have to do with Kimmy? Well, Kimmy and Titus end up on a fairly relatable FlixNet binge and it turns out that the subject of Party Monster is none other than the Reverend himself, aka DJ Slizzard. Yes, when not working hard to keep women locked in bunkers, the Reverend was an ameteur DJ badly playing at wedding receptions. At least we know the Baha Men had a second hit now, though.
Party Monster manages to neatly package up Men’s Rights Activists, sexism, and the Trump administration whilst also accurately ripping off Making a Murderer, Catfish, Serial and the countless other documentaries that have tried to ride the true-crime popularity wave in the past year. Whilst being hilariously funny, Party Monster also drives home a really important point about abusers and those who continue to support them. A big part of the #MeToo campaign has been about unmasking men who have been respected and revered within Hollywood and other communities. Just because someone is your inspiration, or even your friend, doesn’t mean that they aren’t capable of doing horrendous things. Maintaining their innocence only allows them to get away with it, and somehow Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt manages to explain this eloquently whilst also cracking some incredible one liners.
Of course, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt wouldn’t be the show we know without Tina Fey’s scathing social commentary propping up almost every single scene. There are some absolute zingers this season; from Xan’s pregnancy scare - ‘as a privileged white women you have many options’, to new company policies regarding sexual harassment - ‘‘executives are 30% less likely to commit sex crimes when their own children are present’. There are plenty of laugh out loud moments, proving that Carlock and Fey have not lost the soul of the show just yet. Most of these moments come from Titus and Jacqueline (I, for one, am happy to start the petition for the Jacqueline & Titus Agency Highjinx Spin-off) but Lillian also pack a hell of a punch this season. Her storyline with Arty’s daughter is genuinely funny, as was her entire presence at the Tech Expo.
The ensemble cast, and the fact that each of them are trying to move on with their lives, is what make Season four work. Yes, it was funny that Titus spends his time lying around the apartment not working and that Jacqueline’s aim in life is to get a man rich enough so she doesn’t have to get a job but after three seasons of the same, it was beginning to feel like groundhog day. Thankfully Titus, Jacqueline and Kimmy are starting to grow up and in season four all of them had a good go at kick-starting their careers. It was wonderful to see Titus and Jacqueline in a different environment, and for Lillian to become more involved in both of their lives as well.
A big part of the first six episodes is Kimmy learning to be an adult and to let go of the things holding her back. Sometimes this works well (Kimmy Meets An Old Friend) but equally it also feels that the writers tend to chop in Kimmy and the Reverend’s marriage as and when it suits the narrative rather than it being an actual issue for Kimmy to work through. When the subject does arise and cause Kimmy anguish, it results in it all feeling a little inauthentic - which is problematic because if there is one thing Kimmy herself is, is authentic.
Overall though, Season four is off to a very promising start. If the rest of the season can match up to these six episodes, then it will be a bitter-sweet goodbye to Kimmy as Netflix has confirmed that Season four will her last. Let’s hope they make it count.