Welcome to The A.V. Club’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt binge-watch. From Friday, April 15 through Sunday, April 17, Gwen Ihnat will be watching and reviewing every episode of the Netflix sitcom’s second season. You can watch and comment along with her here, or chime in on the individual episode reviews. For those watching the show at a more moderate pace, daily reviews by Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya will start running Monday, April 18.
As Kimmy Schmidt nears the end of its second-season run (I can see the light at the end of this binge-review tunnel! I can see it!), the show takes a sharp and fun departure into the world of horrific daytime TV psychiatrists, like Dr. Phil with fewer scruples. Cyndee Pokorny (“from the kidnapping!”) crashes Kimmy’s me time, with her usual treasure trove of issues, which of course Kimmy takes on like her own.
Jeff Goldblum’s appearance here is inspired, from his multitude of product placements (Delta: “We hate this as much as you do”) to the spot-on video footage of Kimmy and Cyndee’s fight. We all know from these kinds of daytime talk shows that a fight, preferably with chair-throwing, is the highest level these outfits can reach, ideally with as much audience participation as possible. Dr. Dave sends up all sorts of these cliches, especially by torturing the superstars of tragedy with reminders of their past, while the doctor himself is clearly a pharmacy hack obsessed with celebrity, not helping people. (Although even the audience, to its credit, can’t get behind kicking the kid with the syndrome named after him out of the singing competition.)
But, like Titus, and Andrea (“Do you put other people’s needs before yourses?”), even Dr. Dave gets that Kimmy’s taking on too much by absorbing Cyndee’s problems when she already has so much to deal with. We’ve seen how she tried to make everything better for everyone in the bunker: pretending to be a Reverend stand-in for the other women to pummel, acting out all of Titanic so that Cyndee can get over her breakup with Can Man, leaving very little opportunity for her to deal with her own feelings. The need this serves for Kimmy is two-fold: She gets satisfaction from helping other people, and she gets to avoid her own issues indefinitely.
Titus’ short interlude with dating advice for Tyler brings him the alpha and omega of parenting: that moment when they think you’re a genius and hang on every word you say, and the moment when they get mad and blame you for everything. Even Lillian, whose kid is the neighborhood, gets that parenting is basically a one-way street of giving and giving and giving, even if you may not get anything in return. Titus may be on board despite all that, which leads to the perhaps the truest words ever spoken on this show: “The world could use more Tituses.”
Kimmy’s continuing efforts to help her former bunker-mates also resemble parenting, because she’s constantly giving to Cyndee and Gretchen without getting much in return. She continues to protest Cyndee’s marriage to a gay guy, even though it may wreck their friendship forever. Again, Kimmy’s therapy has helped her get more in touch with these feelings (unlike the robot that Cyndee says she is), so in a truly affecting moment, Kimmy’s frustration over Cyndee’s wedding leads to her first tears since before the bunker. The most fascinating part of this Kimmy Schmidt season has been watching how Kimmy is finally letting those feelings unfold, even when it’s just thanks to an alcoholic therapist, or a TV psychiatrist like Dr. Dave. The show has set this up so carefully over the season, when Kimmy’s formerly cooped-up feelings like anger and grief finally spill over, it feels like a naturally progression—even if it’s a devastating one.
Grade: A-. I legit choked up when Kimmy did.
- Kimmy high-fives the random-appearing robot right after she’s called a robot.
- Another Gwyneth Paltrow slam: Dr. Dave calls Billy Joel “William,” just like Paltrow does.
- Cyndee doesn’t get it: Brandon keeps planning bachelor parties with random guys he meets on the Internet.
- Kimmy non-swears: “What the Helvetica Bold did I just watch?” Also, “Sun on a beach! What the fudge?”
- Unbreakable guest spot: Jeff Goldblum as the TV psychiatrist with many sponsors, Dr. Dave.
- Blink-and-you’ll-miss-it pop-culture references: Most of Tyrus’ flash cards for Kimmy are about Tyrese. Also, we should all say “Viola Davis!” instead of “Voila!”
- Spot-on signage: The captive women on the Human Centipede 5: Feel The Pede movie poster resembling the women in the bunker.
- Kimmy cartoon-character outfit: Giant purple cat T-shirt with orange polka-dot pants and red hoodie.