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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: “Kimmy Goes To Court!”

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This penultimate episode of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt continues a lot of the great work of “Kimmy Rides A Bike!,” rooting its comedy in darkness and very serious conflict. It’s also one of the more serialized episodes of the season, working a lot of plot points and previously established details back into the narrative and shedding new light on them, which demonstrates how carefully the writers have worked to build the universe and Kimmy’s personal narrative. The rat that reminds her of her resilience in the pilot returns here in the show’s most devastating flashback. We finally learn the purpose of the giant mystery crank: It generated power for the reverend’s private tube (“RPT”). The close relationship between Cyndee and Kimmy also returns and gets further developed, making for an emotionally compelling and heavy episode that somehow still doesn’t lose track of the comedy.

“Kimmy Goes To Court!” uproots Kimmy Schmidt and sends her back to Durnsville for the trial, accompanied by Titus. We get to see Kimmy in a new environment, in the world she used to come from, in the world where her entire life was taken away from her. Kimmy spends a lot of the episode with a look of disbelief and disgust as Marcia Clark and Chris Darden continue to flail and flounder and Reverend Richard Wayne Gary Wayne works his magic. Ellie Kemper embodies the character’s frustration so well, even without speaking.

And then there’s that aforementioned flashback. So far, flashbacks have been used throughout the season to provide context for why Kimmy behaves in certain ways, like her need to help others just as she helped Cyndee in the bunker. “Kimmy Goes To Court!” finally picks apart the notion that Kimmy was always a savior in the bunker. She was unbreakable, for sure, but Kimmy wasn’t just strong on her own. She pulled her strength from the other mole women, and in particular from her loving, sisterly relationship with Cyndee. In a way, the flashback to the time the reverend tells Kimmy he’ll let Cyndee leave the bunker if she wants him to is the first time we’ve ever seen Kimmy break. I have no doubt in my mind that Kimmy would have been willing to risk her own life by leaving, but the second the reverend wagers Cyndee’s life, she’s out. In this moment, Reverend Richard Wayne Gary Wayne is the scariest he has ever been, expertly manipulating Kimmy with psychological abuse. Because Jon Hamm has played up the more comical side of the character in the court, it’s crucial that we’re reminded of the very real, very terrifying stakes of the whole situation in this flashback.

The mole women’s return to the bunker is equally devastating. I do find it very hard to believe that the bunker would just be left exactly as it was when they were rescued and not turned into a crime scene combed for evidence. But I’ll chalk it up to the institutional ineptitude of Durnsville. This is, after all, a town where a psychic pig was better at finding four kidnapped women than actual law enforcement. In any case, Kemper’s acting during the bunker return is excellent. The horrified look on her face says it all. Trying to forget about the bunker has been a recurring challenge for Kimmy throughout the season, and it’s hard to watch her come face-to-face with the very place that haunts her. And the scene forces us to confront the bunker as well. Here, it isn’t just a setting for flashbacks or a piece of the character’s history. It’s a very real place that forces us to feel

Amid all the horrors, the episode’s humor is also on point, especially all the specific digs at Durnsville, which reminisce of a lot of the small-town quirks that made Pawnee one of the best sitcom cities. But as has been the case for a lot of Kimmy Schmidt, some of the more subtle, non-verbal jokes get the biggest laughs. For example, on the bus on the way to Durnsville, Titus reads an issue of Land Mall. And this gem from the final news segment: “Mole Women, Mole Problems.” There’s also a callback to the 1938 musical Daddy’s Boy: One of the related videos in the sidebar of Titus’s viral video is titled “Daddy’s Boy Original Ending NSFW.”

The relationship work between Titus and Kimmy builds on their scenes from “Kimmy Rides A Bike!” Titus’s desires to be famous and the center of attention are on full display, as he makes radio and television appearances to talk about Kimmy and basks in the glory of the Durnsville media spotlight. But even though Titus is very obviously feelin’ himself, his actions are still motivated by his care for Kimmy, who moved to New York specifically to avoid the spotlight. As with last episode, Titus is largely responsible for helping Kimmy rediscover her unbreakability. He reminds her she got the people in their neighborhood to stop shooting guns at the moon. And if she can do that, she can do anything! Even though both characters are often tied up in their own problems, Titus and Kimmy’s friendship is finally starting to feel like it’s grounded in something real.


Stray observations:

  • “Your honor, if it pleases the court, I would like everyone to close their eyes and join me in a flashback.” I almost spat out my coffee this made me laugh so hard.
  • And then I really did spit out my coffee for “Stop the presses. My panini can wait.”
  • Hamm so perfectly delivers “My ponytail is cool. God said so.” I’m such a fan of Jon Hamm’s Comedy Career.
  • Kimmy, to Cyndee: “You don’t decide to be gay.” Cyndee’s response: “I know. You watch Magic Mike during a lightning storm like Brandon did.”
  • In court, the reverend appeals to the jury’s hatred of Ohio, junk mail, and Mondays. For being so out of touch with the world and reality in general, Reverend Richard Wayne Gary Wayne is very tuned into small-town Midwestern minds.
  • Tim Blake Nelson’s Randy isn’t really funny or interesting enough to warrant a reappearance in this episode. He’s technically crucial to how the mole women get back into the bunker, but he didn’t have to be. I would have much rather seen the return of Kiernan Shipka’s Kymmi.