|'Kimmy, instead of driving a central plot, anchors that which is happening to all of the supplementary characters. Titus isn't just a source of throwaway comedy anymore. Prepare to care whether he and Mikey make it.'|
In Season Two, Tina Fey and Robert Carlock's Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt locks in both the things it wants to talk about and the plot threads it wants to follow whilst it is making you laugh.
Titus (Tituss Burgess), a highlight of season one, has a new boyfriend in the shape of Mikey (Mike Carlsen). Can flamboyant Titus and manly Mikey survive their pairing? Lilian (Carol Kane) is on the warpath against the gentrification of New York. Can the old city survive amongst the new? Jacqueline (Jane Krakowski) returns from her Lakota Sioux family, intent on promoting their interests and values. Can the writers make the show's 'playing with race' elements any more palatable this time, rather than the failure they were in the first series?
Whilst those questions are being answered, Kimmy (Ellie Kemper) noticeably becomes a protagonist in the wind. In early episodes she's concerned with Jacqueline's return, before moving back to the Dong (Ki Hong Lee) plot thread and finally to late-series revelations involving her mother, driven on by new character: alcoholic therapist Andrea (Fay). It's a notable change from the first series. Kimmy, instead of driving a central plot, anchors that which is happening to all of the supplementary characters. Titus isn't just a source of throwaway comedy anymore. Prepare to care whether he and Mikey make it.
Whilst that change is welcome - and the series retains its rapid fire scripting; unmatched anywhere else - this is still a show with problems and in this season a new one arises: there's a notable lack of sharp snark. Wherein the first series Jacqueline and her daughter Xanthippe (Dylan Gelula) provided it, here one is consciously trying to change her image and the other has departed. It leaves the show feeling soft-tongued. Kimmy's saccharine sweetness needs balance and Fey and Carlock lose some of the sources of that balance in the first season without ever finding suitable alternatives. Suggested sources include Andrea, Lilian and Titus but all have warm hearts underneath and Fey even allows Andrea a pretty direct feminist lecture.
Meanwhile, Fey and Carlock are still grappling with the last of the opening questions. The first season's defining characteristic was its tone deaf 'jocular' treatment of Vietnamese character Dong. Perhaps wisely, that element is marginalised here and the jokes around him are mainly derived from the innocence of Kimmy. However, there's a new racial element for Fey and Carlock to play with in the shape of Jacqueline's parentage and, again, the writers manage to make what could have been light pillorying of societal attitudes turn into ham-fisted awkwardness. Jacqueline becomes the worst character in a hurry and her twee finale suggests there's more in store. It is possible to have this sort of Comedy conversation around race but in two seasons Kimmy Schmidt's writers have show that they have no idea how to pitch it, time it or sell it.
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt was playing on Netflix.