I have an on-off relationship with this show, and I think I only enjoyed the latest season because I was off my face on painkillers at the time.
The story revolves around the titular Kimmy Schmidt, who was kidnapped as a girl and spent fifteen years of her life locked up in an underground bunker as part of a post-apocalyptic cult. When she’s finally released, she decides to move to New York and begin a new life for herself… but understandably that’s not without its challenges.
Obviously this has several parallels to my own life: I’ve never lived in an underground bunker (there’s an interesting game of Never Have I Ever…), but I did spend about the same amount of time as Kimmy in a cult that believed the end of the world was coming, like, now.
By their very nature, cults are insular and isolating even if you’re not physically trapped in a room with the other cult members all the time. Mine required five meetings per week, at least two hours of study prep for each meeting, seventy hours of proselytising per month, and strict adherence to a draconian set of rules. All this had to somehow fit around school (and, in my case, work too), and that leaves a person exhausted and makes it very difficult to break free.
Difficult doesn’t mean impossible, of course, and I finally did break free when I left home aged seventeen and moved to London, a city I’d never previously been to, by myself. I left everyone I’d known and loved, and started completely anew in a world that isn’t set up for people who have no idea how most things work.
Luckily it didn’t take me too long to work out how to navigate the world outside the cult, but for years its effects still pervaded much of my life. There are so many beliefs we all hold that were embedded in us as children, and if there’s no reason to challenge them, few of us bother to try. When you turn your whole world inside-out, though, that kind of happens naturally.
So I guess I like and dislike Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt because I kinda relate to it and kinda don’t. Bits of it had me laughing hysterically because it was so true to real life: the day-to-day puzzlement you feel when you’re finally in the Real World takes ages to wear off. Sometimes it felt a bit too much like they were milking Kimmy’s background for laughs, which made me feel uncomfortable; then again, it’s a comedy show, so I can’t really complain about that.
The latest season was my least favourite, because the characters at this point have grown into caricatures of themselves. I feel like TV shows tend to go one of two ways: either the characters mature and become more well-rounded with the seasons, or they get flatter and less interesting. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt unfortunately seems to be doing the latter, and I probably won’t bother to watch the next season. However, if you haven’t seen any of them, I recommend the first couple of seasons.