As streaming giant Netflix gears up to face growing competition from other platforms, it has tightened up its original programming. The service has abruptly ended several acclaimed shows, notably Marvel Studios’ Daredevil and Luke Cage.
The latest victim of the Netflix cancellation frenzy is the campy comedy Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. While its final episodes’ storylines are inconsistent at best, the show’s snappy performances and subtly insightful one-liners remain impactful.
Though varied in popularity, Kimmy Schmidt has earned a solid following and equally positive critical reception in its five-year run. The series was created by Tina Fey in an attempt to give Ellie Kemper (who plays the titular character) a world that could most compellingly manifest the naive, idealistic characters she portrayed in The Office and Bridesmaids.
The show revolves around the misadventures of Schmidt, a 29-year-old who has escaped a bunker in which she was held captive for 15 years. After moving to New York City, where she moves in with failing actor Titus Andromedon (Tituss Burgess) and landlord Lillian Kaushtupper (Carol Kane), Schmidt seeks to rebuild her life.
Throughout its run, the series has used Kimmy’s wishful attitude to critique the modern world. It often hilariously satirizes politics, corporations and millennial trends. The series was strongest in its first few seasons, but declined in quality and popularity as the storylines skated too far into campiness and lacked the biting social commentary that made its initial offerings resonant.
The second half of the fourth and final season, released Jan. 25, acts as an attempt to correct the series’ missteps and conclude it on a high note.
The writers are mostly successful, nodding to the corruption of Hollywood, the ridiculous nature of modern politics and the social movements that drive popular culture narratives today. In “Kimmy Fights a Fire Monster!” Titus speaks up about a sexual assault scandal in a tasteful yet humorous way. In “Kimmy is Rich,” Kimmy’s friend and former employer Jacqueline White, portrayed by the scene-stealing Jane Krawoski, deals with another talent agent who shares her narcissism and cutthroat attitude. Though wholly underused within these episodes, Krawoski remains the show’s standout.
The most ambitious of the final episodes is the supersized “Sliding Van Doors,” in which the storyline considers an alternate reality where Kimmy had never been held in captivity. Despite a few funny and insightful moments about life and career ambitions, the episode is largely forgettable in its bloated state. Though it aims to bolster the final season, it falls flat in an attempt to broaden the scope of the show.
In fact, the final few episodes largely fail to give the supporting cast much story to work with at all. In wrapping up the show, it is only Titus and Kimmy who are given conclusive arcs. With Titus reuniting with his will-they-won’t-they boyfriend Mickey and Kimmy finally making an impact with the feminist children’s book she wrote, there is little room left to focus on Jacqueline and Lillian. This is a mistake, because the two are at their comedic best in this season. Kane’s and Krawoski’s talents are undermined in the episode, with neither getting the proper screen time she deserves.
Fey and co-creator Robert Carlock end the series as it began, with the quirky protagonist attempting to make sense of and effect change in the world around her. Though the audience of this series was small, those who stayed for the wit and camp will surely miss this flawed, yet uniquely wacky series.