Thursday, April 28, 2016

REVIEW: 'Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt' - Kimmy Embraces Her Anger and Mikey Comes Out in 'Kimmy Goes to Her Happy Place!'

Netflix's Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt - Episode 2.10 "Kimmy Goes to Her Happy Place!"

Kimmy has her first therapy session with Andrea, but it's Lilian who helps her get in touch with her anger. Mikey comes out to his family.

"Kimmy Goes to Her Happy Place!" largely centers around all of the characters trying to get the people around them to see them for who they truly are. That's to be expected considering Kimmy has her first days of therapy with Andrea in this episode. But the show furthers that character growth by also centering on Mikey coming out to his family and Lilian fighting for the neighborhood to see her as a crazy threat instead of the sweet, cooky old lady. All of these stories are building to the characters accepting new things about themselves and their relationships to others. At times, it's a bit too formulaic and straight-forward. But then, the episode offers a solid moment of comedy and heart to bring everything together in the end.

Kimmy understands that she needs to be in therapy in order to make herself better. She is done denying that she has a problem. She has spent a lifetime living a certain way. She's still implementing a lot of the coping mechanisms from the bunker in her regular life. It's to the point where she doesn't realize just how problematic these quirks really are to her emotional well-being. She just wants to retreat to her animated happy place whenever she gets angry. It's a very amusing concept to see Kimmy in animated form living in a happy universe filled with singing animals and magical fairies. Nothing bad happens to her. It has been a way for her to detach from reality and her own feelings. That's something that she needs to address in her therapy sessions though. She's hoping to go into Andrea's office and get a quick fix to all of her problems. She wants a breakthrough to come early that will fix all of her problems in an instant. But the situation is a lot more nuanced and complicated than that.

Andrea wants Kimmy to feel these emotions again. She can't just be relentlessly happy all of the time. Sure, Andrea's therapy tactics are largely the same as how she treats children. Kimmy is rewarded for very little work by being given stickers. That's what makes her so upset in the first place. She sees herself as an adult - even though her time in the bunker did put a stint in her emotional development and maturity. But it's also important that Kimmy wants to focus all of her efforts on what her time in the bunker did to her. That hasn't been the only traumatic thing she has experienced in life. But it's the event she is fixated on because it defined the majority of her life. This episode showcases how the reverend first took her as well. She was just walking down the street with two girls wearing matching outfits to her nearby. The reverend could have taken any one of them. Sure, Kimmy was naive in just getting into a white van with this man. But it's still a situation that could have gone any number of ways. Andrea wants Kimmy to dig deeper into her past than just the reverend. The answers and clarity she finds out aren't that surprising but they do provide some valuable teases of what's to come for the final few episodes of the season.

Kimmy's attempt not to bury her anger leads to her spending a day with Lilian - who easily gets frustrated by the changes in the community while Kimmy can't find anything to be upset about. But when it finally happens, Kimmy just explodes. She directs all of that angry to Lilian who is just the latest figure in her life to disappoint her. Kimmy lashes out at a deli for no reason whatsoever. That destruction forces her to question everything she is doing with Andrea. Of course, Lilian only learns that she needs to be more creative with her endeavors to challenge gentrification. But with Kimmy, all of this corrupts her animated happy place. It's a fantastic visual in this episode to see the darkness and brutality coming for that world after Kimmy can't keep pushing the anger down any further. Yes, the reverend kidnapped her. But she also feels abandoned by her mother who did nothing to protect her from that man, didn't cared enough to search for her, and hasn't reached out since Kimmy has emerged from the bunker. It's a simplification of therapy to always place the blame on the parents. But it's a compelling story thread nevertheless.

Meanwhile, Titus and Mikey's venture out to Mikey's family for an event strengthens their bond as a couple. This gives Titus his first opportunity to be at the center of a contentious family gathering where someone comes out as gay. He wants to make a whole theatrical spectacle of this event. But the show never loses sight of the deep personal bonds and significance of this story. It provides an engaging twist to the familiar story of a man coming out to a deeply religious and opinionated family as well. Mikey's nervousness about it keeps him from eating which causes a big stir amongst his parents that he was trying to avoid. But when he finally comes out, it's a pretty easy revelation to handle. His parents are used to seeing the world from a certain perspective. But the world has been changing around them which has made them question their prior beliefs. The Pope says they should be more open to gay people which ultimately makes them very accepting of Mikey.

Of course, Titus does take some of the spotlight away from Mikey during this crucial moment. Seeing his family like this makes Titus realize that he wasn't able to have this experience with his own family. For years, he has thought about what he wanted to do and say. And he still hasn't been able to do it. He wanted to with Mikey. He wanted his big speech and performance about acceptance to wow Mikey's family into understanding their relationship. It wasn't necessary. But Mikey understands what that performance means for Titus. So, he allows him to do it anyway. Sure, the circumstance that allows for Titus to break out into this big declaration of acceptance is a little sketchy and forced. But it's still a very rousing and sweet moment to end the story on. It signifies just how important this relationship is for the season. Titus is really growing as a person this year. He's accepting new things about himself at the same time Kimmy is struggling with that. It's a fantastic way to connect the two characters' journeys despite being largely separated from one another during this episode.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Kimmy Goes to Her Happy Place!" was written by Emily Altman & Robert Carlock and directed by John Riggi.
  • It's weird how Jacqueline's story has just been dropped completely over the last two episodes. Her story peaked with the gala. And now, the show is taking a breather with her until it needs to tell a story with her again.
  • I've never thought about the ending of Tangled in that way before. But Andrea has a point in her disdain with the princess' hair turning brown taking away its magical powers. Why is blonde so great in the first place?
  • It's pretty hilarious that all of Kimmy's childhood crushes turned out to be gay - Lance Bass, Ricky Martin and Niles from Frasier.
  • Mikey's grandmother being a puppet was a joke that was way too random and didn't really have a point at all.
  • Lilian handcuffs herself to construction equipment in order to protest the building of new condos in the neighborhood. Yeah, that's going to be a complication that will need to be dealt with in the next episode as she tries to be taken more seriously.
  • There's some fantastic voice work in that animated sequence. Jon Hamm returns as the reverend for a brief moment, Scott Adsit from 30 Rock voices the happy snake, and Lisa Kudrow is the Fairy Godmother who is a stand-in for Kimmy's mother. Is that the biggest sign yet of who's ultimately going to play that crucial role?
  • Kimmy: "I was born on a roller coaster during a tornado alert."
  • Kimmy: "I don't get pissed off. I get pissed 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.