Sunday, January 27, 2019

REVIEW: 'Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt' - Kimmy and Titus Imagine Different Lives for Themselves in 'Sliding Van Doors'

Netflix's Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt - Episode 4.09 "Sliding Van Doors"

What would life be like if Kimmy never got in the Reverend's van and Titus missed his audition for "The Lion King"?

In 2018, there were 495 scripted shows airing amongst the linear channels and streaming services. The way people are consuming content now is so different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, there is less necessity to provide ample coverage of each specific episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site is making the move to shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. Premieres and finales may feature longer reviews. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the next episode of Netflix's Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.

"Sliding Van Doors" was written by Robert Carlock, Sam Means & Azie Dungey and directed by Michael Engler

The comedy is so blatantly obvious that this story takes inspiration from the classic film Sliding Doors - as opposed to all of the other stories where the main character learns a valuable lesson about accepting their life while imaging a different choice they could have made. And yet, it's so absolutely fun to see all the ways in which the characters could have been different had Kimmy never been kidnapped and held in the bunker for fifteen years. Sure, the show has to come up with an excuse as to why Titus, Lillian and Jacqueline's lives would have been changed because of this. They could have been the exact same versions of themselves when they first met Kimmy back in the first season. However, it's all tied together because Titus mentions that he drove through Indiana at the exact same time when he first decided to move to New York to audition for "The Lion King." As such, this episode presents a fundamentally different look at how his life could have turned out as well. It's such a fascinating concept because on the surface it seems like things are more successful for Kimmy and Titus. Kimmy has a career as a journalist and is married to her college sweetheart. Meanwhile, Titus has a starring role in a major film that is getting awards attention. However, these successes only mask the true horrors of their new lives. It proves that they really are living the best versions of their reality in the actual present day. That's what they have to accept too. They need to believe that everything that has happened to them happened for a reason. They understand that sometimes bad things just happen. It's ultimately a person's responsibility to have the right reaction to whatever trauma that may be. So, it may be absolutely delightful to see Titus and Kimmy interacting in a movie theater in 1998 being able to see Sliding Doors. However, it also represents them seeming more aware and astute of the world at a young age only for it to cost them in the long run. That means that Kimmy spends a year in a coma and trapped in this life in Indiana. Meanwhile, Titus seeks refuge in the Church of Cosmetology - a very obvious stand-in for Scientology - and has to work as a stunt double for Tom Cruise. All of this is building to their deaths as well. Their lives are stunted in some ways that make it impossible for them to share any kind of meaningful growth. The characters are who they are four seasons into a television show because of the impact they have had on each other based on the various life experiences they have lived through together. So even though they are interacting with new dynamics here, it's mostly toxic and proves that these characters are better with each other in their lives. That's the silver lining that comes out of this traumatic thing that has centered so much of Kimmy's life. She no longer wishes to be defined by it. And yet, it's still a part of her - just like her friendship is vital to Titus, Jacqueline and Lillian at the moment.

Of course, it's also just a lot of fun to watch as the writers put these characters in some ridiculous situations for the sole sake of maintaining this premise. Kimmy being abducted by the Reverend is apparently the only reason why he stopped with only four mole women in the bunker. If it wasn't for her, even more women would have been traumatized. Sure, Donna Maria and Gretchen would have been out in the world as well. But they too would have had their difficulties. Donna Maria would be Kimmy's maid who was engaging in an affair with her husband. And Gretchen would be Titus' friend in the cult who would eventually become its leader. But that still leaves over 20 women who were incapable of overpowering the Reverend in the bunker. They would eventually be rescued just like the original mole women were. This time Kimmy is the one reporting on the story. However, that just happens to be the night that ruins her career because she learns of her husband's affair. This version of Kimmy is a cruel and bitchy person who doesn't care about anyone but herself. She blames the world for her problems even though she is proud to take all of the credit when something goes right for her. She blames Indiana and the people there for holding her back from her dream of going to London. Even when she commits to that plan, it's knocked off course by what's going on in New York with Jacqueline and Lillian. Lillian is recruited into a gang because she doesn't meet Titus and rents him the apartment. She eventually becomes the leader who needs to strike fear into everyone or she'll simply kill them. That's the threat she issues to Jacqueline and Mikey, who eventually become the tenants of the apartment. That's such a random and outrageous coupling. But it's also tragic because of the lengths Titus and Mikey have to go in this universe to remain closeted. They aren't happy here for obvious reasons. And yet, Jacqueline is trying to make the best of a lousy situation. Of course, that's such a farcical journey because it includes a moment where she has an affair with Donald Trump on an airplane at Kimmy's urging only to send him into cardiac arrest as a result. That's very insane and out-there. But it still presents as a solution to Jacqueline's problems. She just finds herself in Indiana with a family in witness protection instead of living her own dreams in the city. That's tragic in its own way as well. And finally, this whirlwind adventure ends with Titus and Kimmy becoming a romantic couple out of professional obligations. It's a life that seems very extravagant. And yet, both are also cursed to keep portions of their lives completely secret from each other. It's because of that inability to communicate that gets both of them killed in the end. That's sad. It also proves that Kimmy and Titus are living their best lives right now even if it doesn't always feel like it.