Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Season 2 Review: Faster and Sometimes Funnier, But With Less Holding it Together

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Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt juggles a lot in its second season. Kimmy realizes she’s not totally okay from her childhood and the bunker. Titus has to actually start trying in his career and love life. Jacqueline struggles to adjust to a life without wealth. Lillian fights back against her neighborhood gentrifying as best as she can. But in the writer’s room, season two also sets a more heightened tone, firing jokes faster than 30 Rock ever could. The show is more confident this season, but that doesn’t mean better.

Don’t get me wrong, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is still a weird little charmer with some great gags, one-liners, and longer bits, but Kimmy herself is more acclimated with the world now, robbing the show of the structure it leaned on to get started in season one. Things start to come together a bit more around episode nine, but the first two thirds of the season are much more about co-creators Tina Fey and Robert Carlock making funny, almost plotless episodes of television. That’s not a bad thing per se, but there are a few too many jokes that don’t land that’ll leave you thinking “wait, why is this even happening?” The fact is, when you’re firing off a new joke every 20 seconds, not each one is going to hit, which is why you need a narrative to fall back on. Bad jokes without a purpose leads to bad comedy. This series is nowhere near that happening, and the ship gets righted for the last third of the season, but there are some slow episodes.

Then again, as with 30 Rock, this show tends to benefit from repeat viewings. With jokes fired off as quickly as they are, you’ll miss some gems while laughing at the last one. Not all comedies can boast rewatchability, further separating the show from other comedies on TV right now.

As for the character arcs, the first half of the season leans heavily on Jacqueline, who then all but disappears when the writers start working on Kimmy and Titus in the second half. While more Jane Krakowski is never a bad thing, Titus is downright unlikeable in the early episodes, while Kimmy occasionally borders on irritating. These are dangerous paths to go down, but they both end up being necessary for where they end up at the end of the season. But Titus’ selfish nature is super heightened in the first three episodes or so, and it’s really off-putting.

But once Kimmy realizes she needs to acknowledge the bad things that have happened to her, the season really starts to click. The best character work done on her is when the writers delve into her difficult childhood before the bunker. Kimmy was messed up before she got kidnapped, but no one wants to talk about that, which frustrates her. The end result in the finale is incredibly satisfying and as on-the-nose as this show should be.

So looking on to season three, I do hope the writers find a larger overarching story to tell over the 13 episodes. These characters still work really well, but demonstrated this season that they can get annoying when their path isn’t clear. The show is still funny, warm, and overall enjoyable throughout, but makes a few mistakes season one avoided. But they’re relatively small ones, so the show could hardly be damaged as it moves into more seasons. Grade: B+

Some Other More Spoiler-y Notes:

  • Lisa Kudrow is perfect as Kimmy’s mom in the finale. Here’s to a lot more of her in future seasons.
  • So there has to be a storyline down the road where season one Marcia Clarke Tina Fey meets season two alcoholic therapist Tina Fey.
  • Jacqueline’s stepdaughter has almost nothing to do with season two, and that’s a great thing.
  • The way the show handled the claims of racism in season one was a bit off-putting, though definitely necessary.
  • There’s something so sweet and innocent about Kimmy and Dong’s relationship that I hope it’s not over after this season, even if Ki Hong Lee is busy on Maze Runner sequels.
  • The best guest star of the season was obviously Jeff Goldblum as the host of a Jerry Springer-type show.
  • There wasn’t really a “Pinot Noir” moment this season that’ll transcend just the weekend of release.

By Matt Dougherty

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