Season four of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt has been on Netflix for over a month now and we must face facts- it was let down by its own premise. Kimmy herself was a one-season arc, two at an absolute push.
Kimmy Schmidt is a woman whose childhood has been cruelly snatched away, having spent 15 years trapped in an underground bunker with three other women and a reverend who told them the world had ended. Once out in a world that is not on fire, Kimmy decides to settle in New York with aspiring actor Titus Andromedon in an apartment inside an upturned tugboat.
The idea of a woman who has been stuck in perpetual childhood and being thrust into a different world to the one she left, in a city that never sleeps, is a solid plot for a comedy or a drama. However, you’d expect there to be significant character development over the course of four seasons. Kimmy never actually grew up once outside of the bunker, despite the situations which called for adulthood. Instead, characters around her developed because of her influence. Her influence was childish, yet they still matured.
Things just happen to Kimmy with seemingly no impact on her once they are over. It’s a sad state of affairs when someone’s incessant chirpy optimism is grating but it does need to be in moderation, or at least moderated with something resembling another emotion for more than two minutes. Her character impacts the comedy because we know how she’ll react.
Another issue with her character is that she should not be as childish as she is. Kimmy acts as though she is around six-years-old, despite having been kidnapped in her teens. But her personality is neither a young child or a teenager. Children throw temper tantrums and teenagers are sullen. Sure, she has childlike wonder, but it’s mostly colourful clothes and high fives. If her character arc post-season one was hitting teenage years hard and turning emo, it would still be an improvement over running in place.
At the start of the series, everyone was immature and perhaps this helped. Titus couldn’t commit to relationships and was childish in many other aspects of his life, Kimmy’s employer-turned-friend Jacqueline White could not look after herself and only wanted to be a kept woman and landlord Lillian Kaushtupper was mostly there just to say stupid things. Over the series, they grew. They found a little more self-worth or were at least written a little better. The world would not change for them, they had to do. Kimmy is not rewarded this way. Any time she gets close to growth, the writing brings her back like she’s on elastic. Now she just says stupid things.
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is like a lesson to music fans who decry bands whose sound evolves. When things don’t change enough, they get boring to the point of being irritating. You may be saying that I’m overthinking a comedy way too much, and that’s fair, but it’s a comedy that was once funny and memorable. It had a formula that worked and stuck with it when what really needed to happen was steps forward. Steps forward through life stages.