Friday, April 29, 2016

REVIEW: 'Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt' - Kimmy Finally Breaks Down During a TV Wedding in 'Kimmy Meets a Celebrity!'

Netflix's Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt - Episode 2.11 "Kimmy Meets a Celebrity!"

A celebrity psychologist with a TV talk show drives a wedge between Kimmy and her former bunker-mate Cyndee. Titus gives a teenage boy dating advice.

Kimmy Schmidt has been embracing her emotions more than ever before over the last few episodes. She has spent so much time focusing on helping other people with their needs. She sincerely wants to help people but in doing so she is also able to avoid her own feelings over her traumatic past. And now, she's digging deeper into who she is as a person in the hopes of making a better future for herself. It's difficult work. She's coming to realize just how frustrating this process is while also continuing to live her life - with people both from the bunker and not. Her life has changed so much because of the bunker. It's not realistic to think that all of the mole women would cope with that trauma in the same way. But "Kimmy Meets a Celebrity!" offers a very inspired take on that process while also unraveling new emotions with its main character.

Kimmy reveals that not only hasn't she cried after leaving the bunker but she didn't cry at all during her time in the bunker. That's an astonishing fact. Not even when she was alone did she shed a tear about being taken away from her family and being forced to live in this confined space for years. She was able to avoid it because she was always looking after her fellow prisoners. When Can Man breaks up with Cyndee, Kimmy is there to comfort her, move the crank and reenact Titanic for her entertainment. Kimmy is always catering to the needs of others. But that also makes her come across as a robot who can't get in touch with her feelings. It's something Kimmy has really been struggling with as of late. She's thrilled when she learns that Cyndee is in therapy right now as well. But she's seeing a doctor who is very different than Andrea which leads to a fantastic premise for this episode.

"Kimmy Meets a Celebrity" offers a strong and inspired takedown of therapy entertainment on daytime television. Cyndee's therapist is actually Dr. Dave (Jeff Goldblum), who hosts a show that tapes a week's worth of episodes in one day. He has assembled a collection of trauma survivors in order to celebrate their courage while also using their stories to drive big ratings. Dr. Dave is a man solely interested in selling the products of his corporate sponsors and creating moments that can go viral. The show has fun with the type of people who come on his show - including Deborah Wells, who was stuck in a well for three weeks; Thomas Vletchen, who has a disease named after him, Bob and Bub Kittle, formerly conjoined twins; and Holly Krieger, a SeaWorld trainer who was eaten and pooped out by one of the whales. It's horrifying to see the type of stunts Dr. Dave does in order to make an entertaining show. He's less concerned about helping any of these people with their traumas than he is in putting them in uncomfortable and reckless situations. He has someone dress up in a whale costume to scare Holly. He dresses a coconut up as the reverend after Cyndee tells him she loves coconuts.

All of this is a little too much for Kimmy to handle. She knows that Cyndee is going through the same things she is going through right now. And yet, Kimmy just sees Cyndee throwing her life away and ruining it with the fantasy of marrying her gay fiancé and being a professional mole women. She tries to intervene but that only leads to a confrontation between the two friends on Dr. Dave's show. It's exactly what he wanted. He got that #MoleFight he was attempting to create. But the show goes much further with its exploration of trauma and emotions in this episode as well. Kimmy can't expect everyone from the bunker to react the same way that she did. They were different people before the bunker. They will be different after it too. That's something that she has to accept about her life. But unlike Deborah, Kimmy actually has a friend who understands the trauma she went through. That's so invaluable too.

Kimmy finds herself incredibly torn when Cyndee agrees to get married on Dr. Dave's show. She doesn't want to intervene and ruin the happiness that Cyndee wants for her life. Cyndee is making plans for her future that include a family. But Kimmy can't just sit back and do nothing. This friendship means so much to her. She can't just let Cyndee make this huge mistake. This uncertainty over what to do is what ultimately gets Kimmy to cry. It's a big and very satisfying moment as well. She is finally breaking down after years of experiencing so much trauma. She's not the robot that everyone says she is. It's an ugly cry too that Ellie Kemper sells phenomenally well. The tears are what get Cyndee to call off her wedding too. This whole experience meant enough to Kimmy that she was willing to embrace this new emotion and let it out for all to see. It shows that she has made some incredible growth this season. It's that kind of depth with the characters that also makes the comedy land so well in this instance too. It's a celebration that the wedding is cancelled. But it's still a meaningful scene deeply rooted in the friendship of two former mole women.

Titus also finds himself struggling to get noticed as the human being he really is. He has signed up for a drug trial where the scientists basically treat him like a piece of meat - and not in a good way. That's what makes it so rewarding when a teen stops him on the street asking him to pose as his father so he can get into an R-rated movie. It shows that Titus has grown up so much this season that he is now open to experiencing the joy of a family. Mikey is completely missing throughout this episode because Shark Week is now a recognized holiday amongst construction workers. But Titus wonderfully experiences the joys and pains of being a parent. He is able to help Tyler prepare for this big movie date. He's so happy that someone takes his advice seriously. But he's just as defeated when Tyler turns against him once his date doesn't reciprocate his feelings. It's an amusing subplot that becomes great with a later parallel it draws with Lilian.

Lilian can sometimes be a weird character who doesn't fit naturally into the main stories. And yet, her conviction to stop gentrification from changing her neighborhood has been a solid story for her all season long. She's still handcuffed to the construction equipment and it hasn't made an ounce of difference. But it's still powerful when she talks about the neighborhood being her baby. She loves it with every fiber of her being even though it does nothing but disappoint her. She is still willing to give and give in order to make it great. That's the same feeling that Titus enjoyed when he was with Tyler. It was a new experience for him. But it was rewarding nevertheless. And now, Titus is seriously entertaining the idea of becoming a family man. That could be seen as a laughable premise not to be taken very seriously. But here, it absolutely works because of the emotional work the show puts in with the characters.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Kimmy Meets a Celebrity!" was written by Josh Siegal & Dylan Morgan and directed by Tristram Shapeero.
  • This is the third episode in a row without Jacqueline in it. Again, it's a good thing the show isn't finding a way to just force her into the story. But she's an important character in this universe and it's surprising that her character arc this season has just stopped while everyone else's has gotten significantly better and more rewarding.
  • Apparently, Titus has made flashcards for Kimmy that detail how pop culture has changed in the years since she was kidnapped. However, most of them are about Tyrese and not helpful at all.
  • A pizza rat joke does feel like a part of this universe. But it's also made so much better when Lilian claims that she introduced the rat's parents.
  • Random robots haven't always been the best. However, Kimmy high-fiving one right after she is called a robot is pretty great.
  • It's just so amusing that Titus says "Viola Davis" instead of "voila!"
  • Cyndee: "Knock, knock! I always wanted to say that but I was never on the other side of a door from you!"
  • Dr. Dave: "Buzzfeed ranked her tragedy one of the top 10 most disturbing bunker kidnappings of 2015."
  • Dr. Dave: "Delta. We hate this as much as you do."

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.