Watching the last three episodes of Kimmy Schmidt’s debut season, I couldn’t help but think that Tina Fey and Robert Carlock hedged their bets a bit. Outside of Dong’s marriage to another woman out of desperation, everything in the series got wrapped up pretty nicely.
The Reverend Richard Wayne Gary Wayne got sent to prison at long last. Titus made some serious, though awkward, strides towards stardom. And Jacqueline appeared ready to embrace her Native American roots and become her own woman. Considering NBC’s treatment of the show, is it any wonder that Fey and Carlock thought this was their one shot to tell this ridiculous story?
Unlike most series, this might actually work to Kimmy Schmidt’s advantage. The series has been given a new lease on life, much laxer rules regarding language and nudity, and an almost completely clean slate from which to work. The show can go absolutely anywhere now. I can’t wait to see where they take it.
The show sure gave us plenty of reasons to hope for a second season with these last few episodes. The writers pulled out all the stops in bringing the story of Kimmy and her fellow Mole Women to a head, not least of which was the perfect casting of Jon Hamm as the evil Reverend. The veteran actor used much of the same charm that he brings to an ad pitch in Mad Men, winning over the courtroom and the jury as he deflects all the allegations thrown his way while barely masking his contempt for the people he is manipulating. It’s a masterful comic performance.
Equally as good are Tina Fey and Jerry Minor who appear as bumbling prosecuting attorneys with the same outfits and demeanor of Marcia Clark and Christopher Darden. If that was some sneaky commentary about how those two real-life lawyers bungled the rather open-and-shut OJ Simpson murder trial, that alone was worth the horror of Fey in that frightwig. More than likely though it was merely a chance for the two to play completely clueless, and they relished every last second of it.
These last three episodes really gave us a chance to see the many shades that Ellie Kemper could bring to a character as seemingly one-dimensional as Kimmy Schmidt. The rage and fear and relief and joy that she exuded through the long arc that sent her back to Indiana, back to the bunker, and then into the courtroom to face off against her captor were, at times, a little startling. Nothing this young actress has done to date prepared us for what she brought to this series. She rose to the occasion of her first starring role with aplomb and kept us laughing every step of the way. Don’t be surprised if she gets showered with some awards for her work here.
Watching the world react to Kimmy Schmidt has been fascinating. Most folks have been busy praising the show and wondering what NBC didn’t see in it. This was the natural successor to the comedic voice that Fey and Carlock found within 30 Rock and would have been a breath of much-needed fresh air into a mostly-stale comedy lineup on the network. Some writers and critics though seemed dead set on finding some kind of flaw to pounce on with the show, zeroing in on how the minority characters are represented.
I know I’m generalizing here, but I think this was a natural reaction to one of the most overtly feminist sitcoms ever produced. Just look at how certain segments of the world lashed out at Anita Sarkeesian because she dared question the status quo of the videogame world. The suits at NBC and these online critics aren’t nearly that extreme, but Kimmy Schmidt is most certainly upsetting the natural order of your typical network sitcom. The show’s titular character is defining her life on her own terms and by her own standards. For some reason that still freaks some people out so they dismiss it or find some way to poke holes in the vehicle for that idea.
That, again, is what makes the prospect of a second season so exciting. Just as the show can go in a myriad of different directions, so too can Kimmy Schmidt. Now that she has put the awful time in the bunker to bed, she can face a new day with that infectious smile, bubbly attitude, and enthusiastic embrace of life experience. Sorry nitpickers and network executives; Kimmy Schmidt is going to make it after all.
Robert Ham is a Portland-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.