Wednesday, April 27, 2016

REVIEW: 'Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt' - Tina Fey Shows Up to Help Kimmy with Her Problems in 'Kimmy Meets a Drunk Lady!'

Netflix's Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt - Episode 2.09 "Kimmy Meets a Drunk Lady!"

A drunk Uber passenger convinces Kimmy to stop repressing her emotions. Meanwhile, a broken R. Kelly cassette tape pushes Titus over the edge.

"Kimmy Meets a Drunk Lady!" is such a pivotal episode for Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt this season. For the entire series so far, Kimmy has been in denial about the lasting psychological problems she has from her time in the bunker. She survived that ordeal. Because it didn't break her, she believes she doesn't need to address what that experience did to her. She got all of the closure she needed when she and her fellow mole woman got the reverend sent to prison. And yet, this entire season has showcased that Kimmy is still struggling with a number of physical and psychological issues from her past. She's insisted that nothing is wrong as she continues to forge ahead with new relationships in New York. And yet, her need to help others above her own needs hasn't always been for the best. She has consistently been there for Titus, Jacqueline and Dong. But their lives aren't significantly better than when Kimmy first met them. Titus is still a struggling actor who doesn't commit to anything longterm. Jacqueline has gotten divorced, lost all her money and is still looking for a man to satisfy her lifestyle. Meanwhile, Dong is being sent back to Vietnam because of something that Kimmy did. Right now, things aren't looking so good in Kimmy's universe. But she still insists that everything is fine.

This episode is truly about Kimmy accepting that she still has problems and that she needs to address them in order to find happiness in her life. It's a journey that takes her quite a bit to believe. She's still waking up early in the morning and being as relentlessly optimistic as possible. She's happy with the new job she has as an Uber driver. The people who get in her car provide her with all the interesting and funny stories she needs. But at the root of all of this, there is darkness that Kimmy's upbeat personality is trying to shy away from. It's completely ridiculous that she can't use the shower in her apartment because Titus is storing all of his newly stylized Barbie dolls there. Even her traditional moments of happiness are being corrupted by outside influences. She just simply allows them to happen to her. She has no problem going out to her job without taking a shower. But that's really only the start of Kimmy's exploration of her issues throughout this episode.

That exploration is only made possible by the wonderful return of Tina Fey playing a completely different character this year. She was great as Marcia, the main prosecutor in the reverend's trial last season. But it's not surprising at all that she finds a new way to integrate herself into her show once again in a very pivotal role. Plus, this new character, Andrea, is a ton of fun immediately. She's a trained therapist who has a ton of problems herself. She believes she's not suffering from her compartmentalizing issues because she knows the words to describe the condition. And yet, there's a big difference from Day Andrea (a put-together and respected therapist) and Night Andrea (the drunk lady referenced in the episode's title). Fey almost plays them as two completely different characters who absolutely hate each other. It's a true delight to watch in both forms. With Night Andrea, it's just wonderful to watch Fey embrace so much amusing physical comedy. And yet, Night Andrea is able to provide enough therapist advice to get Kimmy started on this whole journey. Meanwhile, Day Andrea respects personal and professional boundaries. She doesn't believe she can act objectively as Kimmy's therapist because of how much Kimmy has seen of Night Andrea.

It's an amusing concept to explore throughout this episode. Frankly, it's just a lot of fun to watch Fey and Ellie Kemper play off of one another as Andrea and Kimmy only get further entranced by each other. Kimmy is amused by the drunk antics of Night Andrea. But she still finds herself helping her despite her better judgment. Andrea keeps calling for a ride and Kimmy always shows up. Not only that but they break into a house together for no reason whatsoever because Andrea is still upset about her boyfriend, Trent, breaking up with her. Meanwhile, Night Andrea enjoys being around Kimmy because she sees just how damaged she really is. She is still able to recognize that Kimmy needs a ton of help despite her inebriated state. And yet, her advice isn't always a good thing. Kimmy listens to it and gets into a huge fight with Titus over his lack of commitment to things. It's a conflict that happens in order for the characters to make progress. It just doesn't completely feel good in the moment.

And yet, Kimmy has to listen to the advice that Andrea is giving her. Even though Night Andrea gets her into some outlandish situations, Kimmy really needs to address these underlying issues she's suffering from. She can't continue denying it. She is no longer given that ability after she completely blacks out for an entire night and wakes up on a roller coaster on Coney Island. It's a fantastic transition shot that builds on Kimmy's lie burps. It's the moment where she realizes she needs the help that Andrea is offering. But getting Andrea to take her on as a patient is just as problematic because of their personal bond from their night adventures. Despite the personality differences though, both Day and Night Andrea are the same person. Night Andrea knows every secret about her daytime counterpart that could ruin her career and her own happiness. She's willing to use that just to get her professional self to help Kimmy. Kimmy makes an impact on Andrea at night. And now that she reluctantly agrees to help Kimmy with her issues, Kimmy can affect Andrea during the day as well. It's a truly fantastic main story throughout this episode that only promises to get better as the season reaches its final episodes.

It's also fairly significant that Kimmy, Titus and Andrea are the only important characters on display throughout this episode. The main story works so well because the show gives it the time to truly develop into something special, funny and meaningful. While Kimmy is doing all of this hard work on herself, Titus finds himself at a crossroads as well and needs to dig into the past for answers. However, Kimmy's journey is completely psychological while Titus' contrasts that with a physical journey. His story about needing to find a new cassette tape rack could be seen as incredibly trivial and pointless. And yet, it parallels Kimmy's story nicely while also offering a ton of great comedy. It's humorous watching him choosing not to give up on this endeavor - even though he is given many opportunities to do so. He sticks to it to prove a point to Kimmy. But that ultimately takes him to the dump where he needs to dig through the past in order to find his salvation. It's a comical story that builds to the moment of catharsis where Kimmy and Titus are once again friendly to each other in the end - while a parody of R. Kelly's "I Believe I Can Fly" entitled "I'm Convinced I Can Swim" from the soundtrack to the movie Earth Jelly plays in the background.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Kimmy Meets a Drunk Lady!" was written by Meredith Scardino and directed by Claire Scanlon.
  • The musical elements this season have been really spectacular. But music director and Tina Fey's real-life husband Jeff Richmond's contributions in this episode are incredible. The show gets so much fantastic mileage out of the Now That Sounds Like Music! tape - with Kartuna and the Wigs' "Hiking On Sunrise," Shanson's "Yumbip," Dusk Mountie's "Brother Baptist" and The Error Car Man's "I'm Freaking Out."
  • The running joke about whether Cate Blanchett is a good actress or just tall is so amusing. Of course, Titus and Billy Eichner would ask that question. Plus, it's great seeing Kimmy being an awkward and violent guest on Eichner's Billy on the Street here.
  • There have been so many almost kisses this season - Kimmy & Jacqueline, Jacqueline & Mimi, and now Kimmy & Andrea. Is it all building to some really unexpected kiss in the future? Or is it just a fun running joke this year?
  • The best pieces of physical comedy from Fey as Night Andrea include her trying to throw a water bottle out of a closed window, her crawling on the floor like a baby, and her playing with that vase that wasn't Trent's.
  • Titus: "Where'd you learn that? Have you been reading Chipotle bags again?"
  • Kimmy: "You up. Question mark. Eggplant cartoon. Eggplant cartoon. Where is that? SoHo?"
  • Kimmy describing her latest fight with Titus: "Even worse than the time where I didn't know who or what Idris Elbow is."
  • Andrea: "Dolphins are rapists. Look it up."
  • Andrea: "Couch pulls out. So I can't get pregnant."

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.