Tuesday, May 10, 2016

TV Review: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmitt, Season 2

It's just over a year ago that I wrote up the first season of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmitt, which I liked so much I ended playing a character based on her in a superhero role-playing game. The accelerated pace of watching shows on Netflix doesn't translate to the other side of the camera, however, so we still had to wait pretty much a full year for it's second season to arrive. The show was originally commissioned for US network TV, but then moved to Netflix, and the second season shows the hallmarks of that change - slightly longer run-times, a more serialised structure - but at heart it's the same Kimmy that anyone who watched it came to love last year. 

The neat trick that Unbreakable Kimmy Schmitt manages in it's second year is that it is simultaneously dafter, and darker, than before. The cast rebalances, losing Xanthippe (sadly) apart from a breif cameo, but gaining a lot more Lillian and a recurring love interest for Titus, construction worker Mikey. We also get a proper recurring role for writer/producer Tina Fey that is miles better than the slightly one-note act we got at the Reverand's trial last year, and a better showcase for her talent. At the heart of it all, Kimmy finally has to see just how unbreakable she is, and confront her past - and her mother. 

On the surface, UKS is daffier than ever. A huge part of this is musical - the score for the show is outstanding, including a variety of spoof songs from musicals and Kimmy's precious cassette "Now That Sounds Like Music 3".  The show moves incredibly lightly on it's feet, driven by the sparkling central performances and a punchy script that chucks jokes around with abandon. But underneath all of this, the characters are all on serious journeys into serious places. In between the jokes, this is a show about a woman who has experienced a terrible trauma, and now she's settled in New York, she can no longer run away from it. 

The pressure for Kimmy builds slowly over the series, leaking out in sporadic bursts along the way as Kimmy runs around helping out, well, mostly Jacqueline, who is on her own journey. Doubling down on the plot around Jacqueline's heritage, she heads back to New York to build a life as a newly divorced socialite, gains and outstandingly fun rival in Anna Camp, and falls in love - shockingly, for reals. Titus meanwhile finds love with the newly out and startlingly well adjusted Mikey, forcing him to deal with some of his own demons that may be holding him back. This plot gives Titus - a character that sits on the edge of charicature - a lot of new depth and humanity, which still letting him be as fantasically waspish as we'd come to expect. 

But in the end it's Kimmy's journey that makes the best running. From the sessons with both versions of Andrea (its complicated) to the final cathartic rollercoaster ride with her mum (great casting, by the way, which I'll leave a surprise), it's Kimmys gradual awakening to the fact she's not alright that carried the dramatic heart of the season. In the end, this series leaves everyone poised to move forward to new and interesting places - with an exciting cliffhanger I have to wait a year for! Dammit!