The final season of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt was a mixed bag, split in half, literally. The first six episodes were hilarious and absurd and every bit as funny as the show’s best seasons, while the last six episodes were mostly a disappointment, slowly letting the wind out of the sails of a once great series as it signed off.
The first half of the season, which came out way back in the spring of 2018, saw Kimmy on a quest to teach boys to be better men, and is inspired to write a children’s book in her usual, fantastical, Kimmy way. Infused with the spirit of the MeToo movement, the show responded to the zeitgeist with jokes referencing Harvey Weinstein and accidentally putting Kimmy in the role of sexual harasser at work, while Titus faced his own terrifying encounter with Mr. Krumpus, the orange puppet producer who demands sexual favors at auditions (I could seriously not stop laughing at the sight gag of this). Kimmy Schmidt has always been a show about trauma at its core, dealt with in an outrageous, cartoonish, absurdist fashion, but still dealt with and confronted head on. One episode was an hour long Netflix spoof documentary in the “true crime” style glorifying the crimes of Jon Hamm’s evil Richard Wayne Gary Wayne, enraging Kimmy and inspiring her confrontation with a militant men’s rights activist (Bobby Moynihan). The experimental episode was offbeat, but I thought it worked, deliberately dealing with the entitlement of white men and toxic attitudes toward women that is so much a part of the culture and at the heart of the show’s premise (which was probably ahead of the curve somewhat).
Jane Krakowski’s Jacqueline gets a bit shortchanged in this first half of the season, but she does get one moving episode, finally cementing a motherly bond with Xan and helping her fight off her own entitled white boy at college. And Kimmy’s and Titus’s adventures are so funny (especially Titus’s tyrannical rule over an elementary school as a drama coach and Kimmy’s surreal and homicidal interaction with a backpack come to life as a cartoon character) that it more than makes up for any subpar material for Jacqueline and Lillian (Carol Kane). But then the second half comes around and whatever steam it had going for it in the last season is all let out, as the last six episodes are comprised of a series of mostly one offs that don’t feel anything like a show that’s about to be ending. Kimmy dates a guy at work and falls in love with his parents in an episode, Titus continues to try to win back Mikey (a subplot that went on way too long), and Zachary Quinto shows up as a rival talent agent/love interest for Jacqueline in the last two episodes that feels like the writers’ attempt to throw her character a bone while knowing they stopped using her a long time ago. There’s one more extended episode that asks what if Kimmy had never got in the Reverend’s van, but this time the experiment is unsuccessful, as the alternate lives of the characters feel meaningless and Tina Fey misses her chance to make a final point about Kimmy’s experiences in the bunker. The last episode wraps everything up really fast for our foursome with an uncharacteristically happy ending (everyone gets rich and famous? Really?) and sends us off on what it thinks is a high note, but feels suspiciously rushed and not at all in line with the Kimmy we’ve come to know, at least in my view.
I still love the show overall, and I suppose it was time for it to end (especially if this last batch of episodes is an indication that they were simply out of ideas), but given the darkly absurdist humor they’ve managed over the years, I’m bummed that it didn’t go out with a more powerful, subversive punch. It had it in there, as it’s shown in the past- to not go for it in the last season is a real shame.