When a show comes along that walks the thin line between absurdity and bitingly true, honest satire, it’s a good guess to assume the involvement of Tina Fey in the creative team. Fey’s latest endeavor with Robert Carlock, with whom she worked on “30 Rock,” is the second season of the Netflix hit, “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.” The first season premiered last spring and, like most of her work, tackles more than just the challenge of providing entertaining and laughter-inducing material. It also deals with provoking issues such as extremist religious cults and coping with past baggage rather than smiling through it.
The show continues to follow the life of the 28 year old Kimmy Schmidt (Ellie Kemper), as she adjusts to life in New York after being rescued from a cult that held her captive underground since middle school.
This season sees the return of the wacky, screwball characters the audience came to love, including Kimmy’s best friend and roommate Titus, played by Titus Burgess, and her rich, socialite former boss Jacqueline Voorhes, played by “30 Rock” alum Jane Krakowski. Carol Kane also reappears as Lillian, Kimmy’s landlord, who spends her time trying to fight gentrification in her upper Manhattan neighborhood in dramatic ways to varying degrees of success.
The show aims to tackle very complex social justice issues with bubbly and ridiculous characters in humorous situations that take what could be dark and depressing story lines and instead make them light and digestible for the audience — much like how Kimmy deals with her past.
The title character spends the season on a journey, with the aide of her alcoholic therapist, played by Fey, to come to terms with the fact that the smile on her face doesn’t always have to be so bright. Kimmy discovers that life won’t be as fulfilling if she doesn’t give in to her full range of emotions, from anger to happiness. Kemper pulls off with character with the frustration, comedic timing and innocence the role demands.
The recently divorced Jacqueline who tries to balance her desire to regain her place in the world of socialite women as well as to finally stand up for, rather than shy away from, her Native American heritage makes for many laughs as she blunders through life on the reservation with her parents, who eventually insist she go back to the city. Yet, when she arrives back in New York she finds herself falling back into her old social circles. A moment of absolute genius and hilarity ensues when her benefit event for Native Americans finally comes together because she gets all the rich businessmen’s mistresses to attend her event over her nemesis’.
With the premise being so dark, it is impossible for the story to avoid serious issues and the show does so effectively using brilliant satirical approach to comedic writing and the ever optimistic title character that Kemper pulls off with enough sunshine to fill in the New York winter’s lack thereof.
Season two of “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” is currently streaming on Netflix.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday April 18 print edition. Email Anubhuti Kumar at [email protected]