When Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt premiered in 2015, I binged all 13 episodes in roughly 36 hours. And then, sad that I had consumed it so quickly, I re-watched it all again. I loved the concept: A woman freed after being forcibly kept in an underground bunker for 15 years by an unhinged cult leader doesn't seem like fodder for comedy at first glance. And yet, that dark underbelly was the perfect way to anchor a fresh, relevant comedy. But I can't champion Kimmy anymore. Because somewhere along the way, the show got boring.
I followed along as Kimmy (Ellie Kemper) got her first job, as a nanny/dog masseuse for Manhattan socialite Jaqueline (Jane Krakowski). I cheered as she kissed her first man-boy and then proceeded to completely misinterpret his signals, because same. I admired her bravery for powering through what was clearly intense trauma, even if her unwavering optimism and penchant for bright colours made my head spin. And obviously, I clapped in glee every time Titus (Tituss Burgess) came on screen.
I rooted for Kimmy through season 2, too, which delved deeper into her interpersonal relationships, and troubled intimacy. It was slower than the first season, and also doubled down on some of the problematic story lines, but fine. I could deal with all of that for drunk therapist Tina Fey.
But Kimmy's naïveté and eternal state of wonder at everyone and everything just feels grating by this point. You've lived in the real world for a while now; Google should not be mind-blowing. That is my main problem with this season of Kimmy Schmidt: Everything feels either overdone, or stale. Season 3 finds Kimmy celebrating her new GED. The next step? College! Except, in Kimmy world, nothing is that simple. After an aptitude test suggests that she should be a crossing guard, she embarks on a college tour of New York that includes such gems as Famous Ray’s Original College and Roy Cohn Community College. During one visit, she meets a potential love interest, a philosophy student Perry (Daveed Diggs) who's about to transfer to Columbia. Is that the best school in New York? Well, then Kimmy must go there. Through a series of fortuitous and implausible events, she gets a full ride to the Ivy League institution, a fact she loudly proclaims to poor Perry, who is working three jobs to pay tuition. She also tries to befriend and party with Xanthippe Voorhees (Dylan Gelula), Jaqueline's former stepdaughter, which leads to an astounding number of jokes about millennials — groundbreaking.
Even Titus — who could keep me entertained if he was in a coma — and Jacqueline, whom I loved previously, fall flat this season. After washing up in New York harbor several months before he's expected back from his turn in a cruise production of Mahogany, Titus spends several episodes juggling half-hearted heartbreak and a deep, dark secret that turns out to be underwhelming. His parody of Lemonade, heavily touted in the trailer, is kind of fun, but nothing more. Points for effort, but how many of these have we seen already? Same goes for all the Trump jokes — a "basket of deplorables" reference just doesn't have any bite six months after the election. On Jaqueline's end, things are pretty much the same. Krakowski is still perfect, and her scenes are by far the best. But her fight to have the Redskins change their name is overly drawn out, and really — a husband in a coma? (Although, I would 100% watch her Real Housewives spin-off season. Andy Cohen, let's make it happen!) And don't even get me started on Lillian. Carol Kane's talents are grossly underused, and her constant objection to any form of gentrification has reached levels beyond parody.
The series also does itself a disservice by teasing meaningful threads and then not exploring them fully. In perhaps the most promising — and truly delightful, more Jon Hamm please! — plotline of the season, Kimmy has to deal with incessant calls from the reverend, who wants a divorce so he can marry his new lady love, Wendy (Laura Dern). When Wendy travels to Manhattan to try to reason with Kimmy and Titus, the reverend's girlfriend describes the experience as being straight out of a Noel Coward play. Kimmy shoots back: "If Noel Coward really was a coward who rapes everybody."
This is the first time Kimmy has used the word rape to describe what happened to her in the bunker, and that's why it's so baffling when that story thread abruptly ends about three episodes in. As viewers, we've waited over two seasons for Kimmy to come to terms with the sexual and emotional abuse she endured while in the bunker. To have that trauma swept under the rug again, just as Kimmy is starting to deal with it, is extremely unsatisfying and feels like a missed opportunity.
Overall, this season of Kimmy Schmidt isn't terrible. It has its moments (Maya Rudolph as Dionne Warwick, for example) and it's perfectly adequate background noise for when you're cleaning your apartment, or cooking. But the twisted trauma that made the comedy feel so urgent has faded, leaving only seemingly random gags in its wake. (Did we really need an entire episode devoted to Titus' quest to use the gas station bathroom for free?) In this age of peak TV, I need more than that. Quit while you're ahead, Kimmy.