‘Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’ once again bizarre, empowering

Season three playing it safe but charming as ever

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Season three of "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" repeats earlier themes but is still enjoyable.

Courtesy Netflix

Few television shows can combine extravagant song parodies and electrically charged banter with a sharply painful story arc and still remain watchable, but “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” has managed to pull it off well so far. The third season, released on Netflix last week, is no different.

The show centers on Kimmy (Ellie Kemper), who was kidnapped by a deranged cult leader, spends 15 years trapped in an underground bunker and upon rescue decides to spend the next chapter of her life in New York City. Because of her unfamiliarity with pop culture, modern technology and standard social cues, Kimmy’s venture into the real world is confusing and her encounters often produce disastrous results. However, Kimmy consistently displays exuberance and confidence while refusing to let her victim status define her — no catastrophe can shake her stubborn positivity and determination to find her place in the world.

The third season continues Kimmy’s journey after passing her GED exam, and she immediately sets her sights on the next educational stepping stone — college. Per usual in this series, events play out in the most unlikely of ways, and a string of wacky antics lands Kimmy a scholarship at Columbia University, despite her blatant lack of qualifications. Now, Kimmy must navigate life amidst her school’s largely privileged youth and confusing codes of conduct while still attempting to honor her own unconventionality and sense of identity.

Kemper is once again delightfully charismatic as Kimmy, but many of the show’s standout performances are delivered by the superb supporting cast. Kimmy’s roommate Titus (Tituss Burgess) is as outrageous as ever, spontaneously breaking into song and flinging memorable one-liners left and right. Their eccentric landlady, Lillian (Carol Kane), wages war against her neighborhood’s gentrification with characteristic petulance and zeal. Jane Krakowski displays her excellent comedic timing in her role of self-absorbed socialite Jacqueline, Kimmy’s former employer and current friend.

The character arcs are fulfilling, whether it be Titus’ quest to become a better person after letting his boyfriend go, Jacqueline’s realization that she doesn’t need society’s stamp of approval or a man to feel validated or Kimmy’s conclusion that she must first take care of herself in order to perform daily acts of self-sacrifice. The characters do not stray far from the familiar in the third season, but their interactions are hilarious and often heartwarming, appealing to the show’s fan base.

The newest season is not necessarily groundbreaking, but it works. The same absurd sense of humor is employed in full force, evidenced in running gags like Titus’ vague yet panicked allusions to an unsettling event which occurred during his brief stint as a cruise ship headliner or the subplot of a pharmaceutical company stealing his voice to animate a sassy cartoon bladder in a commercial. The show’s writers also continue to satirize various groups such as millennials and the out-of-touch upper class. A bit of pathos is added between laughs as Kimmy struggles with her traumatic past affecting her daily life and relationships with others. This unlikely blend of poignancy and ridiculousness creates the same feel which made the show’s first season such a hit.

The jokes fly at an exhilarating pace and the character storylines are not only amusing but inspiring — overall making the new season an uplifting and empowering Netflix binge. 

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