Did Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt have the ending it deserved?
As Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt comes to an end, part two of season four takes a minute to look over the events of the past four seasons and beyond, whilst maintaining the wickedly funny situational gags that show has become known for.
Part two continues Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt‘s exploration into #MeToo – though it feels more dated now than it did when part one came out in 2018. Kimmy is in Love Square sees Titus deciding whether to go on record about Weinstein-esque puppet’s sexual harassment. Perhaps the funniest joke of that episode is ‘Ronan Farrow’, and whilst Titus’ decision about going on record is handled sensitively – comedy has now done #MeToo to death. It’s possibly the only element of the show which may have gone down better if the entire season had been released back in May 2018.
Otherwise, the rapid fire gag style doesn’t let up for even a second as season four challenges the existing joke per minute ratio that the previous seasons set the bar with. That’s the thing about Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt – it’s so funny. Sometimes, it’s almost too funny. There are moments when you feel the need to pause and rewind because you were too busy laughing at Titus’ quip to even hear Lillian’s even funnier comeback. Binge-watching culture actually brings out the best in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, like many other comedies nowadays, because it allows us to retain information that is so often referenced and referred back to in the form of jokes.
Season four, part two relies particularly heavily on these self-referential jokes. Fey and Carlock are focusing on wrapping everyone’s stories up and not leaving any loose ends. This is never more explicit than in Sliding Van Doors, an hour long episode which explores what may have become of Kimmy, Titus, Jacequeline and Lillian had each of them had a sliding doors moment. Though the winner of best joke in that episode may have to be given to the unseen Sliding Doors film (‘hold that sliding door!’), the crossover of all of their lives reminisce over the events of the last four seasons.
As funny as Sliding Van Doors is, it also felt like a necessary exploration for the audience and Kimmy to experience. The entire show has, from day one, been about Kimmy dealing with her trauma in different ways, but there hasn’t been an explicit conversation about what Kimmy’s life would have looked like if she hadn’t got in the Reverend’s van that day. It turns out that life would have been very different, but Kimmy still would have found reasons and excuses not to live her dreams. The final message is loud and clear – you are in charge of your own destiny. Only you can make your life what you want it to be. Of course, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt isn’t comparing having a cheating husband and not getting to go to London to being kidnapped for nine years (although being in a coma isn’t great either), but it is saying that the grass isn’t always that much greener. Only you can make it green in the first place. Though the Cosmotology story-line is too good to have only been imagined – Gretchen as David Miscavige? Yes please!
Carlock and Fey created a comedy, but it’s the heart and soul of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt that became the most surprising and gratifying element of the show. They may have initially started as stereotypes but Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt‘s ensemble cast have all become real, tangible characters that the audience care deeply about. As selfish as Titus and Jacqueline can be and as nonsensical as Lillian and Kimmy can be, the four of them extend their hands to one another time and time again, reminding us that this is really what Kimmy Schmidt is about.
Nothing makes this clearer than Donna Maria shows up in Kimmy Fights a Fire Monster. Donna Maria, now owner of a string of restaurants, is not interested in continuing any kind of relationship with Kimmy – she wants to ignore her time in the bunker and move on with her life. However, Donna Maria’s own unprocessed trauma rears it’s head when her and Kimmy both beat up the restaurant mascot mistaking it for the Reverand’s ‘fire monster’. Realising that Kimmy is one of the only people in the world who understands what it’s like to have this kind of PTSD, Donna Maria resolves to call her next time she is in New York.
So much of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt has focused on Kimmy learning and re-learning that the bunker will be with her for life. For a comedy, it has so much to say about group trauma, learning to live with it and how to move on with ones life. It’s one of the things that makes Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt stand head and shoulders above other sitcoms.
It’s undeniably a good thing that Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt has ended on a high note. Far too many series live on long past their sell-by date, but this is not the case for our friends Kimmy, Titus, Lillian and Jacqueline. With 13 episodes per season, there was never time for it to jump the shark. It’s also the only show that can get away with showing the audience a ‘four years later’ segment’ – we need to know that everyone is going to be okay. Titus got his Broadway debut (both with conspiracy-riddled Cats and then with his dream role in The Lion King), Jacqueline becomes a successful agent, Lillian becomes the voice of the MTA (though I also think being a ghost haunting a gentrified neighbourhood would have been just as good) and Kimmy got her book out into the world, with a theme park to match. Having Lisa Kudrow turn up as Kimmy’s mother right at the end was a nice touch – if only to show that Kimmy no longer needs Lori-Anne’s to be a mother to her because she’s on track to her own personal happiness.
Though it’s sad to wave goodbye, it’s better to end with a smile than to become tired of a show you once loved so much. Farewell Kimmy, you’ve made us all better people.