Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Season 3 Review: Kimmy Can Still Clear the Clouds

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To start, it’s important to note that we need shows like Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt right now, much like the characters start to realize they need Kimmy in the show’s third season. Warm and sunny, Tina Fey and Robert Carlock’s comedy is a necessary diversion from our ever-darkening world, all while acknowledging its own reflective darkness with everything from one-liners to over-arching feminist themes. This series is a chance to relax and let the jokes hit you as fast as you can absorb them (and here’s hoping your humor metabolism is quick) while stepping out of our world, yet not escaping it entirely.

That said, season three is the weakest yet, after season two already signified a notable dip in quality. The problem, sadly, might be Kimmy herself.

Ellie Kemper still delivers an undeniably committed performance, even if it borders on aggressive in spots, but season three really tries to move away from Kimmy’s disturbing background, to the point where it becomes part of her seasonal arc midway through. Now with a high school degree, Kimmy, like all of us, tryies to figure out what to do next. Her journey brings her everywhere from crossing guard school to Columbia University, but all this time spent with Kimmy takes time away from the show’s rich, and superior, supporting cast. In the third season, Kimmy is best used as a tool to connect Titus, Jacqueline, and Lillian together, three previously terrible people that Kimmy shined a light on and improved with her unflinchingly positive demeanor. At this point in its creative ebb and flow, the show is best when its supporting players are involving Kimmy, or each other, in their own shenanigans. The problem the writers run into this season when spending so much time with Kimmy alone is that she still feels so detached from humanity that the she doesn’t tend to connect, a fact the writers try to make up for with Buzzfeed-friendly pop culture references every other sentence. That’s not to say that the supporting players aren’t also ridiculous—they absolutely are—but that Kimmy is so far out that, no matter how justifiable they make her oddities, she becomes difficult to engage with.

And yet, Kimmy is essential to the difficult balance the show mostly still succeeds in pulling off. Without this beaming ray of sunshine in their lives, Titus, Jacqueline, and Lillian have nothing to improve for. A rare moment of tenderness, in the strong bottle episode “Kimmy Does a Puzzle!,” between Titus and Lillian reminds them what Kimmy entering their lives has done for them.

Still, their respective storylines, with varying degrees of Kimmy involvement, are the best bits of the season. Titus must overcome his supposedly dark deeds on his cruise ship (which get a hilarious mid-season reveal) and acclimate himself back into his life, this time without Mike, who he breaks up with in the season’s second episode (which mostly acts as the best Lemonade parody you’re likely ever to see). But what Titus finds is his own selfishness, which keeps getting in the way of his dreams. Alongside this deep dive into the show’s breakout character, Jacqueline cements her mission to change the name of the Washington Redskins, a journey she’ll have to take by herself after Russ (returning guest star David Cross) severely injures himself early in the season. In season three, Jacqueline is untethered, with the show removing any attachment to being a mother she had previously. It’s a questionable creative decision, but one that ultimately pays off thanks to the degree of humor that Jacqueline is responsible for this season. And that leaves Lillian, who finds herself in a sweeping romance amidst the local politics of her gentrifying neighborhood. Simple and reliably funny, Lillian’s storyline this season acts as the anchor that centers the show’s more bombastic story threads.

But as a whole, when focus is put on these three, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt still does great things. Kimmy’s double-edged sword quality, difficult to connect with yet essential to the unique tone struck, is a problem the writers will hopefully find a better balance of in season 4. After all, in a year, our need for Kimmy’s positive outlook will likely still exist. Grade: B

By Matt Dougherty

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