Kimmy Schmidt continues to delight in Season 2 (review)

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There are plenty of shows on TV that mine humor from cynicism and a bleak outlook on humankind. And to quote a show that reveled in such pessimism, not that there’s anything wrong with that. But as great as shows such as Veep or Arrested Development are at generating comedy from shallowness and superficiality, there’s something to be said for feeling just plain happy as you are laughing. And in this arena, there is no show on television (and Netflix) better than Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.

Following in the footsteps of its breakout freshman season, this breezy sitcom (streaming on Netflix) continues to explore the life of Indiana Mole Woman, Kimmy Schmidt (Ellie Kemper), as she learns more about life in the real world after spending the last 15 years trapped in a bunker as part of a doomsday cult. Although there are definitely still moments of “living under a rock” realizations (Lance Bass and Ricky Martin are gay?!?  GASP!!!), season 2 takes a markedly more serious tone, addressing Kimmy’s maladjusted psyche, both due to her time in the bunker, as well as the feelings of abandonment stemming from poor parenting by her barely there mother (Lisa Kudrow). Kimmy’s psychological issues are brought to light by her new therapist, Andrea (Tina Fey), who has more than a few problems of her own.

Meanwhile, Kimmy’s supporting cast all take on distinctive story arcs of their own. Titus (Tituss Burgess) finds a new love interest that won’t leave before the next day’s sunrise in the sensitive yet manly construction worker Mikey (Mike Carlsen). Jacqueline (Jane Krakowski) must somehow manage to live off of “just” $12 million after her recent divorce. And landlord Lillian (Carol Kane) continues her fight against the gentrification of her colorful neighborhood. One distinctive note of this second season is that each of these supporting characters has their own storylines and subplots that don’t necessarily involve Kimmy. Jacqueline faces off against a new nemesis in socialite mother, Deirdre Robespierre (the always charming Anna Camp), in a battle for Queen Bee supremacy. And Titus struggles with his growing feelings for Mikey, conflicting with his desire to not expose himself to hurt. Whereas season one very much revolved around Kimmy and how her friends helped her make it in the real world, season two spins off these colorful characters into their own orbits with their own distinct struggles.

That being said, the star of this show very much remains the ineffable Kemper and her equal parts adorable and frightening Kimmy. Her effortless charm remains in full display as she shifts from holding down ex-soldiers in leg locks to singing a theme song for a show about a bunny and a kitty. It’s her ability to shift gears from determined go-getter to childlike wonder that creates so much of the show’s genuine humor. Kimmy’s earnestness will disarm all but the most hard-hearted of viewers, and we can’t help but root for her to succeed, even if some of her plans are a bit misguided.

The strength of the cast is a huge boon to the show, but ultimately, a comedy still needs to deliver on its humor. And it’s here that the Tina Fey/Robert Carlock brainchild really shines through. Much like its illustrious predecessor, 30 Rock, Kimmy Schimidt uses absurd situations and characters to serve up hilarious sight gags, blink and you’ll miss it one-liners, and multi-episode running jokes. One recurring joke about biscotti is a particular delight.

Some might dismiss Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt as being too “light” simply because it doesn’t touch upon deep or topical themes. But those who do completely miss the point of this show. Humor doesn’t have to come from pain, suffering, or sarcastic one liners. Sometimes, humor can come from the simple act of watching someone try to make sense of a world that, quite frankly, doesn’t make sense. Kimmy the character, and Kimmy Schmidt the show, will never lose that sense of whimsy that makes both so indelible. And I will be delighted if that is always the case.

Rating: 4.5/5 Atoms

NR 4_5 Atoms - A-

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