If Season 1 of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt was all about the tenacity it takes to emerge from years of trauma with the same unflinching optimism and love of humanity as an early-aughts Disney Channel heroine, Season 2 shows what happens when that good-natured doggedness finally begins to combust.
(This review includes minor spoilers.)
The second season of Netflix’s sitcom, which follows a young woman restarting her life in New York City after finally being freed from a bunker where she’d been kept hostage by a doomsday reverend for 15 years, picks up with Kimmy (Ellie Kemper) hitting the reset button on her life yet again: Not only is she unemployed after her boss Jacqueline (Jane Krakowski) leaves town for her own journey of self-discovery, she’s also once again single now that her love interest Dong has married another woman to avoid deportation.
Because it’s her nature, Kimmy keeps going. She takes a job at a Christmas store and continues to devote her spare time to helping those around her, even when it’s not in her own best interest. Selflessness is an admirable quality, but—as Kimmy will learn—it’s also a destructive one. By choosing to focus on others instead of reckoning with the terrible things that happened to her, Kimmy has imprisoned herself in a bunker of her own making—one she has to bust out of eventually because, ultimately, her traumas are (forgive me) iiiiiiiiinescapable.
Try as she might to be “normal,” Kimmy still panics when things start to get intimate with a man she wants to have sex with. At another point in the season, she’s approached by a soldier in a bar who asks her where she’s served because she’s “kinda got that look... like you’ve seen some stuff.” Later, it emerges that both she and the soldier are still suffering from extreme PTSD. Anything from the sound of velcro to an expected kiss can throw her into bunker mode.
During a confrontation with her bunker-mate Cyndee (Sara Chase), it’s revealed that Kimmy has never let herself feel sad or scared—not even when she was first kidnapped. “I don’t let other people tell me how I feel. That’s why I never cried in the bunker,” she snaps, though she’ll soon discover that her feelings will come out eventually and there’s nothing she can do about it, unbreakable though she is.
That the show’s creators have been able to create a show that deals with such heavy content while remaining relatively light-hearted and often laugh-out-loud funny is a true testament to their work. It doesn’t always pan out—a story arc about Kimmy getting therapy from an alcoholic shrink (played by executive producer Tina Fey) somewhat drags down the latter half of the season, although rarely does an episode fail to be buoyed by the delightful comedy of Titus (Tituss Burgess) and Lillian (Carol Kane).
If anything, Season 2 of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt confronts not only what “unbreakable” means, but also whether or not being unbreakable is even good for you. “Sometimes it feels good to feel feelings, Kimmy,” Cyndee says—and she’s right. Feelings—even the ones that make you less than optimistic or gracious or strong—are an important part of living a full and healthy life. Owning up to that won’t make Kimmy a less remarkable heroine. Females—with feelings—are still strong as hell.
Image via Netflix.