Sunday, April 17, 2016

REVIEW: 'Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt' - Kimmy Keeps Titus From Running Away from His Problems in 'Kimmy Goes Roller Skating!'

Netflix's Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt - Episode 2.01 "Kimmy Goes Roller Skating!"

Titus' ex-wife sues him for spousal support. Kimmy still has feelings for Dong. Jacqueline's Sioux family gets fed up with her.

After Kimmy and her fellow mole women's rousing success in court against Reverend Richard Wayne Gary Wayne, the first season of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt ended on two marriage-focused cliffhangers. Titus has a wife from his hometown in Mississippi who has finally tracked him down while Dong has married Sonia from the GED class in order to stay in the country. Both of these reveals promised to bring a lot of hilarity to the show in its second season. "Kimmy Goes Roller Skating!" doesn't disappoint either - though it is apparent that the show addresses these two concerns before moving forward with any other storyline. This is going to be yet another crazy and fun season for the show. This is a strong premiere that does have a few problematic moments. But it's still so light and easy to digest that it all still works.

The first season was all about Kimmy navigating her life after leaving the bunker for the first time in 15 years. She was trying to move on after this horrifying experience that had defined half of her life. She was able to start over by making a new friend in Titus, getting a new job with Jacqueline and finding new love with Dong. All of these things were hopeful signs that her life was about to get better even though the world still wants to define her as a "mole woman." The season-concluding trial helped provide closure to her for that part of her life. That is now over. The Reverend has been sentenced to jail and she can start living her life freely again. This first episode back really isn't strong on Kimmy taking charge of her life. It instead focuses on her helping Titus through this personal crisis while worrying that he's going to leave her and obsessing over Dong and whether or not she would feel good if she had an affair with him. Other people are still defining her life. That's certainly a way to start the season. However, it's not a very active start for Kimmy.

Fortunately, this premiere also indicates that things are only going to get more complicated for these characters in the future. The season actually starts with a flash-forward to Christmas where Kimmy is celebrating all the changes in her life while hoping the new year won't have the same problems as the last one. That's a short-lived dream because the party is soon crashed by a number of people. This premiere doesn't build to this event. It's just a very effective tease of what's to come this season. Kimmy is still going to be a part of Dong's life - which could have major complications the way Sonia comes through the window in the future. Titus gets a boyfriend and seems very happy about it. Mimi is somehow back and more important in these characters' lives than she was last season - though she doesn't seem too excited about that. Plus, Jacqueline is upset about something involving Jews and a painting. It's a crazy time for these characters that shows that their lives are only going to get more funny as they continue to embrace this world together.

The world is full of potential right now. But the premiere largely sticks with the characters having to deal with the actions of their pasts in the hopes of making things better for the future. It was such a surprising reveal at the end of last season that Titus was married to a woman, Vonda. He has always been very confident in New York. But this look into his past shows that he wasn't always that way. In fact, leaving Vonda on their wedding night is exactly what changed him into Titus Andromedon. He ran away to a life that was better. But he did so while completely forgetting about how strong that friendship once was. These two have changed since they last saw each other. Titus now fully embraces who he is - though he's still prone to run whenever faced with his fears. Meanwhile, Vonda had him legally declared dead in order to collect money from him. It's a fraught situation where both have benefitted from the pain each other put them through. And yet, at the heart of this dynamic is a sweet friendship of true understanding and acceptance. Titus wants to completely forget about that which forces Kimmy to bring it out of him.

It is amusing that Titus apparently has many different personalities within him just waiting to come out at a moment's notice. That skill could come in handy as a performer later on this season. But right now, Kimmy needs to talk to Ronald Wilkerson, the man who married Vonda and fled before the first dance. He's still a shy young man worried about what his actions mean to the people around him. He didn't want to hurt Vonda but did so in order to build a better life for himself in New York. Meanwhile, Vonda only declared him dead in order to help support her life. All she wants from him is an apology for what he put her through while completely disregarding their friendship. It's a rather moving story that builds to Titus running to be with her at a train station and do the dance they didn't get to do at their wedding. It's sweet and Kimmy is very happy for them.

Of course, it's difficult for Kimmy to be happy right now because she is faced with her own moral dilemma. She's struggling dating because she is still hung up on Dong. Everywhere she looks, there he is. One time though, he actually is there. They are able to reconnect while out roller skating. And yet, he's still married. Kimmy is holding onto her Midwestern values of respect what that ceremony truly means. She can't just listen to Lillian's advice and be a "moral relative." That's difficult for her to do. However, she still crashes his brunch with the immigration agent in order to admit her true feelings to him. It's a dynamic that is real and genuine between them. And yet, Dong's priority right now is becoming an American citizen. He can't let anything compromise that. Him acting on his feelings towards Kimmy could send him back home. He doesn't want that. So ultimately, he pushes Kimmy away. It's devastating. She has to embrace this sad and uncertain life while also watching Titus and Vonda be happy together for the first time in years. It's a scene filled with mixed emotions while love is all around her. Hopefully, she gets some happiness and love this year too.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Kimmy Goes Roller Skating!" was written by Tina Fey and directed by Tristram Shapeero.
  • Jacqueline's story with her Sioux family was very awkwardly used last season. She left after the trial to return home and find herself. But now, her family can't get rid of her fast enough because she has embraced white culture much more so. It's a clunky story that still manages some solid physical humor.
  • All of the jokes about the Kardashian family really work throughout the episode. It's amusing that Dong is using that show in order to learn English - a welcome development this season. But it's also very insightful about people not seeking out that entertainment at all and still knowing what's going on with that crazy family.
  • Gotta love that Kimmy thinks Dong and Sonia's brunch is "Frasier fancy." But she also has a pretty big mess-up when she thinks an animal rights 5K is so animals can legally marry each other.
  • Kimmy: "Fudge that sugar! Fudge it to heck! Where a demon with a thousand wee-wees fudges it forever." Even though this season was produced fully by Netflix, it's admirable that the show isn't deciding to swear. It would just seem weird for Kimmy to use those words.
  • This show knows how to use blink-and-you-miss-it visual jokes so well. In this episode, the best is at the train station where a poster is copying Titus and Vonda as they say "I'd like that."
  • Also, really enjoyed the humor of Amtrak always being two hours delayed because they are the station for love. It's a joke the show fully commits to and works wonderfully well.
  • Fred Armisen playing Robert Durst - Lillian's first love and new boyfriend - could be a joke that gets old pretty fast. The show would be wise not to overuse it throughout the season. And yet, Bobby and Lillian signing "Under the Manhattan Moon" is a pretty sweet but twisted moment to end on.

As noted in previous reviews from this series, every episodic review was written without having seen any succeeding episodes. Similarly, it would be much appreciated if in the comments, the conversation would only revolve around the show up to this point in its run.