Saturday, April 23, 2016

REVIEW: 'Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt' - Jacqueline's Gala Doesn't Go as Planned in 'Kimmy Walks Into a Bar!'

Netflix's Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt - Episode 2.07 "Kimmy Walks Into a Bar!"

Jacqueline's gala plans hit a snag when Deirdre Robespierre throws a party the same night. Kimmy stops to pee at a bar and meets a cute Army vet.

How in the world does Jane Krakowski not have an Emmy? Seriously, she's going to be a strong contender for the prize later this year. She has been absolutely fantastic this year. At times last season, the show struggled with how much of Jacqueline to use in the main story. Her various subplots were largely hit-or-miss. But this season has been phenomenal with how it has integrated Jacqueline's personal struggle with the rest of the problems Kimmy and Titus are dealing with. It's all been building to the night that launches her new charity with a gala. After all the buildup, the show does not disappoint at all in "Kimmy Walks Into a Bar!" This episode matches all of the clever wit the series has been known for with some truly heartbreaking moments. This is easily one of the best episodes the show has produced so far. And the good thing is that there is even more to come with this story later on this season.

Jacqueline could easily be seen as a self-centered narcissistic who only does horrible things to the people around her. She can get so caught up in maintaining appearances that she doesn't realize the consequences of her actions on her personal relationships. It's a true testament to the writers and Krakowski's performance that Jacqueline is a sympathetic and really funny character in this universe. Her friendship with Kimmy means something. Yes, Jacqueline comes from a very different world that Kimmy doesn't always understand. But her pursuit for status in this high class community has been a wonderful arc for the character this season. She lost everything in the divorce and is trying to rebuild. Kimmy has been her entire support system. And now, she needs to rely on her more than ever before because the night of her gala has finally arrived.

And yet, it's ultimately up to Jacqueline to turn this party around once things start falling apart. Anna Camp makes her welcome return to the story as Deirdre throws a party on the same night as Jacqueline's to celebrate the start of gala season. The rivalry between Jacqueline and Deirdre is so amusing and hilarious to watch. Deirdre is yet another outrageously funny character the show has created this season. Camp plays her phenomenally well as a former state department employee tasked with managing a party and trying to add some excitement to her life again. She didn't purposefully schedule her event as the same night as Jacqueline's. Mimi just made a massive clerical error in an attempt to be fancy. She wrote out the date the way the English do which causes so much confusion and chaos during the day of the event. Jacqueline has put everything she has into this gala. It's all slowly slipping away from her. Deirdre couldn't be happier. This is the exact kind of excitement she's desperate to have in her life again. She wants Jacqueline to fight back so they can battle it out for domination in this upper class society.

All of this leads to an episode of last minute fixes and cunning manipulation in order to pull off an epic party for Jacqueline. Kimmy quickly gets distracted by a new promise of happiness. So, it's up to Jacqueline to save this party before it completely falls apart. She embraces the person she used to be when she first came to New York as a mistress making a play for the top. Now, she doesn't need a man to succeed in this world. That's a startling change to the people she's appealing to right now. But it's fun to watch as she embraces the dark underbelly of this world in order to pull off a truly phenomenal gala. She wins this battle for attention and wealth against Deirdre because she knows how to use the wealthy white men's mistresses against them. It's just fantastic to watch as Jacqueline puts her plan into action to the amusement and horror of Deirdre. Seriously, Deirdre's reaction to this turn of events is amazing to watch as she's devastated by this lost but excited by being able to play this cunning game of wits with Jacqueline.

However, getting the necessary people to Jacqueline's gala isn't the biggest hurdle that she has to deal with. She actually has to get these people to take her charity seriously. This season has been very vague about what she hopes to do with First Americans for Turtle Island. It's a cryptic name that could mean nothing. And yet, she's passionately fighting for the rights and better treatment of the Native American culture. It's a cause she is excited about because it allows her to blend her two worlds together. Sure, her family isn't quite sure how to react to this big event. But this is her doing her part for the cause. That's meaningful and respectful of her heritage in a genuine way that it has never really been before. However, Jacqueline has surrounded herself with people who couldn't care less about what she is trying to do. All they care about is causes that personally affect them. They are all wealthy white men. They don't care about the mistreatment of minorities. So, that essentially turns this gala into a joke to them. But that is so personally devastating for Jacqueline. It's a dark moment to end on with her. She worked so hard for this and it still failed. All she can do is huddle in a corner unsure of what to do next. It's heartbreaking to see her like that.

While this episode largely belongs to Jacqueline, Kimmy has a very significant story as well that continues to push her into some dark and interesting territories with her emotional state. She's very into helping Jacqueline with this gala. But she also quickly finds herself distracted by a new guy she happens to meet while stoping at a bar to pee. It's a hilarious meet cute story. She believes she has to abide by the rule that anyone who uses the bathroom has to order something. But that leads to her forming a genuine connection with this Army vet, Keith. He realizes that she has seen some horrible things in her life. It allows both of them to talk to someone about what they went through with no judgment or false pleasantries. They are allowed to be open about the deep psychological trauma that they are still dealing with from these events in their pasts. But that opens a new story possibility in Kimmy that is much darker than anything she has ever experienced before.

Kimmy is still very traumatized by her time in the bunker. As Keith notes, she may be out of that traumatic experience but the trauma isn't out of her yet. He believes that she still has PTSD from this event. He does as well. But the difference is that he accepts that about himself while she is in complete denial. She got the reverend sent to jail. That was all the closure she believes she needs from that trauma. It's not. Deep down inside, she knows that too. That's why she keeps burping whenever she talks about that time in her life. But it's also significant that she is spiraling out of control just to prove that the trauma isn't still affecting her. She essentially abandons Jacqueline in her time of need just in order to catch up on all she missed during her time away from this life. Kimmy wants to believe that she's okay because she has built this new and better life for herself. But she's just in denial and won't be able to make meaningful change for herself until she accepts how damaged she still is about her past. Again, it's another dark character-based moment to end on. But the show also promises to explore just how problematic these psychological issues are over the next few episodes. And that's a very exciting prospect

Some more thoughts:
  • "Kimmy Walks Into a Bar!" was written by Leila Starchan and directed by Maggie Carey.
  • Titus has a very minor subplot about his new relationship with Mikey. He's struggling with just how much time he should spend listening to Mikey when he couldn't care less about what's he talking about. It's a really sweet story. It again builds to the two having a genuine conversation about the subject and becoming closer because of that honesty.
  • Mimi is the height of the show's outrageousness right now. It works so immensely well too. This crazy person is all Jacqueline has to rely on at her party. It adds to the isolating feeling Jacqueline feels in the end. But it also continues to produce solid jokes and physical comedy for Mimi as well.
  • Jon Hamm puts in a brief cameo to showcase how Kimmy learned to listen in the bunker by just imagining people's faces were upside down. It's all too brief but it continues to showcase just how manipulative the reverend always was. Here, he tries to pass off movie ideas as his own.
  • Kimmy thought the garment bag holding Jacqueline's dress was actually the dress - with a bonus dress on the inside. That joke didn't really work so well. But it didn't detract too much from the overall episode.
  • Even though they buried a robot together, Jacqueline still has no idea who Titus is except Kimmy's gay friend. She also hopes he's good at flower arranging. But he's not at all - mostly because he's upset about his personal life.
  • Kimmy leaves the gala to go throw a fake Christmas party for herself. So, it seems the show is about to catch up to the flash-forward that started the season.
  • More awesome signage at the bar: "In dog beers, I've only had one."
  • Kimmy: "Is that why you're shouting so much in the bathroom?" Titus: "No, that's because of cheese."
  • Mimi: "Don't answer it! It's an ostrich!"

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.