Tuesday, April 26, 2016

REVIEW: 'Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt' - Kimmy and Dong Spend a Fun Night Together in 'Kimmy Goes to a Hotel!'

Netflix's Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt - Episode 2.08 "Kimmy Goes to a Hotel!"

On Fake Christmas, Kimmy and Dong take a trip to the Poconos, and a Jewish family claims that Jacqueline's prized Mondrian is rightfully theirs.

Kimmy left Jacqueline's gala without being there for her friend in her time of need in order to throw a Fake Christmas celebration for herself. She did so in order to prove to her date, Keith, that she wasn't still traumatized by her past in the bunker. The opening of "Kimmy Goes to a Hotel!" is the same as the opening of the season premiere. All of Kimmy's friends come together for this holiday celebration. But it's not as real or genuine as it initially seemed. Kimmy is desperate to say goodbye to all of her problems from yesteryear. She's hoping this fake holiday that she has just made up will allow her to do so. And yet, she quickly abandons it in order to once again pursue a hopeful and happy future with Dong. It continues to showcase that she is still in denial about many of her problems from her past. But this episode instead opts to feature Kimmy's relationship with Dong finally getting some proper closure. It's an amusing concept. It just feels slightly out of place given the emotional state Kimmy was in at the end of the previous episode.

The first time Kimmy's Fake Christmas party was seen. It was an optimistic peek into the future that showed that these characters' lives were going to change in major ways and still be packed full of hilarious complications. But now, there's a new edge to the proceedings because it's Kimmy trying to prove a point with a fake holiday. Some people are more willing to accept it than others. Mikey enjoys wearing the Santa costume, Mimi likes being passed out on the couch for the entire day, and even Titus likes that he got the day off for this celebration. But life is still moving on elsewhere in this world. Jacqueline's dealing with a Jewish family trying to take away the one possession she has left to her name. And then, Sonia comes crawling through the window to accuse Kimmy of having an affair with Dong. That's what takes the focus during this celebration. Kimmy has to prove to Sonia that there is nothing currently going on between her and Dong.

Kimmy and Dong's relationship has been very interesting as an ongoing plot thread. It's been fantastic for representation reasons. Sure, Dong's characterizations haven't always been great but it has been significant that Kimmy is in love with an Asian man. That gave their coupling more edge, intrigue and purpose. But it was a bond made complicated by Dong's immigration status. He married Sonia in order to stay in America. He will do anything to avoid being sent back home to Vietnam. That's why he pushed Kimmy away in the first place. He didn't want her to jeopardize his chances of staying in this country. So, it's a little surprising to see him fall back in love with Kimmy so easily here. All she has to do is pretend in front of an "invisible" Sonia that she was the one trying to break the marriage apart for him to trust and love her again. It's a fantastic scene because Kimmy and Dong are just putting on a show for Sonia despite their true feelings. But it's enough to reignite the passion between the two of them. That's all it takes - which is surprising.

Despite that minor problematic detail, it's just so much fun to see Kimmy and Dong all alone together in an abandoned hotel in the Poconos. It's a fantastic set up for an episode. It shows off their chemistry in the strongest way yet. Sure, it's time together that is building to a sexual moment. But it's just so amusing to see the two of them running all over this hotel and having a ton of fun. It's truly infectious. The place is in disarray but Kimmy and Dong don't let that destroy their happiness together. This time together strengthens their bond and feelings. But it's still building to a very devastating final act. Once again, Kimmy is using this whole experience to keep from dealing with her traumatized emotional state. She doesn't want to believe anything is wrong with her. And yet, her issues get in the way of being with Dong in bed. Every time something starts to happen, she knocks him in the head with a phone. It's funny but also dark and tragic. Sure, it's not what ultimately ruins this night together. Dong's latex allergy does that as soon as he tries to put on a condom. That gets them arrested for trespassing in this building - which could very likely send Dong back to Vietnam. But the two of them no longer really care about that because being handcuffed in the back of a police car is finally the moment where they can be together in a sexual way. It's a weird moment that somewhat disregards Dong's feelings about his citizenship. But it's also sweet that Kimmy was able to get this happiness for however brief a moment.

This episode also struggles with its two subplots being significantly underdeveloped. Titus' story is the only one that has any serious connection to the Fake Christmas of it all. He is called back into work in order to replace someone as manager. He is given so much more power and responsibility in the restaurant. Something that he uses to his benefit a little bit. But he's mostly devastated that he no longer has his big showcase solo during the performance number. That's all that he cares about. So, he decides to quit instead of succumbing to the inevitability of age and irrelevance. And now, both Titus and Kimmy are unemployed. Kimmy still has the flexibility of being an Uber driver. But Titus' lifestyle was upheld based on a two income household - even then it's not really enough. And yet, no one seems to care about this potential issue. Titus is just happy to be surrounded by his fake family during Fake Christmas. He and Kimmy then get to sing a really sweet song in the end. But it's still a rather thin plot that largely happens to get Titus out of his current job for no reason whatsoever.

Elsewhere, Jacqueline has hit another devastating low following the failure of her gala. She's been defeated and doesn't know what to do with her life now. And now, a Jewish family is making a claim on the painting she spent the majority of her fortune on at the start of the season. So, she is really losing everything. This story does allow Jacqueline and Lilian to team up for the first time since their road trip last season. But it's a very brief pairing. Lilian knows ways to manipulate this situation to Jacqueline's benefit. And yet, Jacqueline is largely just spiraling and blaming Kimmy for everything that has gone wrong with her life as of late. It's a moment that doesn't really land well because Kimmy's not there to deal with the consequences. Instead, it's largely just a story that introduces David Cross' lawyer character, Russ, as a new potential love interest for Jacqueline as she attempts to return to her old life as a trophy wife again. 

Some more thoughts:
  • "Kimmy Goes to a Hotel!" was written by Tina Fey & Sam Means and directed by Steve Buscemi.
  • That Joshua Jackson cameo as Pervus, a convenience store clerk who complains to Kimmy and Dong about how the Joey-Dawson-Pacey love triangle played out on Dawson's Creek, was incredible. That was easily the comedic highlight of the episode.
  • A close second for outrageous laughs was Mimi just popping up from the couch at random times to say something and then go immediately back to sleep. Amy Sedaris is really killing it this season.
  • The way that Ellie Kemper delivered the simple line of "Condoms!" also earned another big laugh.
  • Kimmy makes yet another reference to her mother and how she didn't help her understand the mechanics of sex. The show is clearly establishing that the reverend isn't the only trauma in Kimmy's past she has to deal with.
  • Lilian attempts to recreate the painting for Jacqueline to give to the Jewish family. Her attempt wasn't close to the real thing at all but it was pretty impressive nevertheless.
  • Titus to Mikey: "Where was all this acting commitment when I asked you to say it was my birthday at Baskin Robbins?"
  • Mimi: "Jacqueline took the old lady to the movies and the black man is dead.
  • Titus: "There are numbers on these pages! Numbers! The most boring of all the shapes!"
  • Kimmy: "Did you know God won't let penguins fly because they're gay?"

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.