After the huge success of last year’s release of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, the show’s second season was made available on Netflix early in April. The show follows the titular Kimmy Schmidt, a woman who spent her formative years locked in an underground bunker with three other women and the cultmaster who had kidnapped them, as she finds herself and adjusts to the modern world in New York City. Season two starts not with a bang, but with an “Eh…” The premiere episode, “Kimmy Goes Roller Skating”, feels less like a season premiere than a continuation of the first season. Undoubtedly Netflix had binge watchers in mind during production, assuming that as the show continues, viewers will be watching these seasons in quick succession. However, the premiere fell short for those of us seeing season two for the first time, and I personally questioned whether it was worth continuing.
Season two shows Kimmy’s continued relationship with Jacqueline Voorhes (Jane Krakowski), as she adjusts to her divorce, her subsequent lack of income, and reassesses her relationship to her Native American heritage. The reveal of Jacqueline’s Sioux background in season one has been widely criticized. Many have critiqued the show’s use of a white actress to play a Native American character as well as the insensitive treatment of her parents (although they are, at least, played by actual Native American actors). Unfortunately this trend continues in season 2, although attempts are made to offset it by openly critiquing the Washington Redskins’ continued appropriation of Native American imagery.
It truly becomes apparent that Tina Fey and her writing team learned all the wrong lessons from the critiques of season one with the episode “Kimmy Goes to a Play”. In the episode, Kimmy’s roommate Titus creates a one-man-show about his “former life” as a geisha. His play is protested by Asian Americans, who are understandably offended by his blatant yellowface. The other characters see the protesters as overreacting, and being offended over nothing. And, of course, as soon as they hear Titus sing, the protesters decide everything is fine and all is forgiven. While this episode had some great one-liners and a lot of Friends references, it was incredibly self-congratulatory and a struggle to get through.
The highlight of season two was the budding relationship between Titus and Mikey, the construction worker who comes out and hits on Titus at the end of season one. Mikey’s real, down to Earth personality is a breath of fresh air next to Kimmy’s endless enthusiasm, Titus’ flamboyance, and Lillian’s eccentricity. We get to see him struggle through his first date with a man, coming out to his parents, and Titus’ insecurities about commitment. Mikey was easily the best thing about the entire season.
As a whole, season two failed to live up to its predecessor. While the jokes that landed easily bested season one’s humor, there were far more jokes that seemed out of place or just didn’t work. The entire season also seemed pretty full of itself. Between Titus’ victory over the Asian protestors and Tina Fey’s portrayal of Andrea, the alcoholic therapist who is somehow the only person who can truly help Kimmy, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt has become incredibly self-congratulatory. The show has some great qualities–including its lack of straight, white, male characters–but the writers need to focus on fixing their casual racism rather than telling its fanbase they’re wrong for critiquing it. Hopefully season three sees more Mikey and less prejudice.
Rating: 6.5 out of 8 slices
Goes well with a side of: 30 Rock
Reminds me of a slice of: Hawaiian pizza from a shop that says wearing leis is cultural appropriation