The newly released first half of the final season of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt has it all. Somehow an absurdist comedy about a kidnapping victim living in New York includes a fake Hadid sister, one episode that is literally a faux true crime documentary, a superhero called “The Capist”, and “Houseflix” with its incredibly accurate “Al-Gore-Rhythm”. Also, there’s a puppet.
All the above things plus #timesup, men’s rights activists, privilege, and the weirdness of the tech industry is a lot to cover in roughly two and half hours worth of television. It’s honestly a little like being on a really funny version of twitter. Everybody is talking about something that probably matters and the jokes are very clever, but I can only focus on so much at once. In the end I walk away from my screen maybe laughing, but mostly feeling kind of scattered.
In spite of that, this season has two of the best episodes of the show yet, namely “Party Monster: Scratching the Surface” and “Kimmy Meets an Old Friend”. Both of those episodes succeed by focusing on the two things that have consistently come the closest to breaking Kimmy’s unbreakable spirit: her kidnapper Reverend Gary Wayne and the way the real world doesn’t work quite like Kimmy imagines.
First, “Party Monster: Scratching the Surface” makes us face how often charming predators like Gary Wayne get the benefit of the doubt, the most brutal moment being when the episode shows fake documentary makers calling the kidnapping victims story into question based on them not being pretty enough to be kidnapped. “Party Monster” and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt seem to take place in a weird alternate universe, but what stings about it is that world is not all that different from our own.
Then In “Kimmy Meets an Old Friend” Kimmy comes as close as she has yet to outright killing her imaginative spirit, and giving up on the unbridled optimism that has gotten her through her extremely traumatic life. Without spoiling too much, the scene where Kimmy prepares to mercy kill her dreamy optimistic self is hilarious, sad and maybe even a little poignant.. We don’t want her inner child to die.
And that idea, that our inner child is worth saving has always been one of the best things about Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Kimmy couldn’t survive her trauma, imagine ways to make the world nicer and better, or believe the best of her often crazy friends without that inner child.. And the way this show reminds us the value of that innocence in an increasingly uninnocent world is in the words of Kimmy Schmidt herself is “Fudgin’ awesome.”
Strange Perspective is a unique weekly look into today's pop culture by Progress columnist Rachel Strange.