Describe the premise of “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” to any passerby, and you might get some weird looks. It’s not quite like any other comedy out there, balancing precariously on a line between innocent and offensive, but the second season of the show, which was recently released on Netflix, is at its best when it manages to walk that line.
The second season picks up shortly after the first, with Kimmy’s kidnapper and former cult leader now behind bars thanks to her testimony. Her close friend and love interest, Dong Nguyen, has entered into a green card marriage, however, and Kimmy herself is still struggling to adapt to everyday life in New York City.
Her former employer, Mrs. Vorhees, has divorced her rich husband and seeks to carve out a life of her own. This is a backdrop for a series of innocent yet deep adventures that will entertain the audience, but also deliver a few more meaningful lessons than they expected.
The very first episode of the new series is pretty dark on its face. Kimmy’s roommate, the proudly effeminate Titus Andromedon, played by Tituss Burgess, is being sued by his ex-wife, whom he abandoned at the altar. The focus of the episode is on jokes made by or about Kimmy, such as when she proposes to resolve the situation by sitting down with Titus’ ex-wife over ice cream, but there are emotionally engaging personal stories in the background of almost every episode.
Part of what makes Kimmy, played by Ellie Kemper, such a unique character is that her obliviousness is matched with a simple, straightforward mindset. Other characters can act out these personal dramas around her without it ever feeling weird that Kimmy is still making jokes. This allows for a rare combination of both a string of hilarious jokes, with only a handful that fell flat throughout the entire season, and a compelling story.
The second season actually focused a little less on Kimmy, at least compared to the colorful cast of characters that surround her. Titus, Kimmy’s borderline-psychotic landlady Lillian Kaushtupper and Mrs. Vorhees all get significant screen time, and frequently spend entire scenes on their own or with one another.
These characters, outlandish though they may seem, are still sympathetic as they go through journeys of self-discovery or deal with serious personal issues in a way that actually manages to periodically pull at your heartstrings.
One scene basically encapsulates this, as a gay man who recently came out of the closet implores Titus to help him “learn to be gay.” A brief fashion montage, complete with the appropriate music and jokes at Kimmy’s expense, doesn’t completely cover up the fact that the show addresses a very serious topic, namely sexuality and gay culture, and does so in a way that feels harmless and entertaining, which reflects well on the show’s writers.
Nearly every single joke works on some level. Although there was never a joke that reduced me to tears, there were also very few jokes that fell completely flat or felt out of place. Even then, the pace of the show is so quick that any jokes that don’t work are quickly forgotten about.
There’s nothing on television quite like “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” in that no series manages to blend such innocent humor with adult topics and ideas. It’s the story of a young woman growing up in New York City, but it’s so much more than that. There are some great, enriching stories to be found here, but the comedy is what will keep viewers coming back.
Edward Pankowski is life editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.