Film and TV

Gretchen Goes Full-Circle Cult in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Episode 4

Each week, we're recapping the second season of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt episode by episode. Watch out for porns.

After episode three's lackluster fare, we were worried that the rest of season two of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt would become a drag to watch. Instead, "Kimmy Kidnaps Gretchen" is a likely front-runner for the high point of the season. On Kimmy's end, we get a fascinating exploration of a rarely seen character that adds depth to the central themes of the show, while Titus moves his story forward with his most emotional and authentic character work perhaps to date. Not to mention we couldn't stop laughing the whole way through.

Kimmy finds out Gretchen, one of her former fellow prisoners in the bunker, has joined a new cult that blends makeup with tenets reminiscent of Scientology and calls itself the Church of Cosmetology. Kimmy drags her away and tries to get Gretchen to start making decisions for herself rather than blindly following every self-proclaimed prophet in sight. But it turns out Gretchen is really, really bad at making decisions — within the span of a night, she adopts an adult pitbull, steals a policeman's gun, does cocaine with a stranger in an Elmo suit, and gets a chest tattoo. Eventually, Kimmy figures out the one way that Gretchen can safely make decisions for herself: by starting a cult of her own.

As Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt explores the effects of cultism and imprisonment through the events in the bunker, Kimmy always remains steadfast and confident, coping with her PTSD or simply ignoring it's there. But this is our most extended exposure yet to her logical counterpoint, Gretchen, so gleefully willing to follow anyone who will lead her that she starts tearing off her shirt when a car passes blaring "Put 'Em On The Glass." If the show largely chronicles Kimmy learning how to live a life entirely for herself, Gretchen represents what happens when someone never learns that. Given her departure at the end of "Kimmy Kidnaps Gretchen!", we likely won't see much more of her for a while, but that's a shame given how her extreme personality can transpire in such interesting (and hilarious) ways.

Meanwhile, Titus and Mikey go on their first date, but Mikey drags everything down with his inexperience with homosexuality. He doesn't know how to dress, he can't get into any clubs, and the two of them can't find any common ground to discuss. It isn't until they land on The Lion King that the two start to connect; Mikey relates himself to Pumbaa and Titus to Timon, and the comparison actually works really well. Yet Titus can't bear the idea of actually starting a serious relationship and potentially getting hurt, so he calls Mikey and tells him to lose his number.

This is an especially vulnerable episode for Titus, who admits that even his one-night stands held special meaning to him, and that the cost of building a relationship with Mikey only to lose him sounds too great to bear. He confronts these fears when Mikey returns for the multitool he left in the basement, which shocks Titus — his past flings had left passports, insulin, and fake limbs in the basement, but none of them ever came back. This leads to a frank, honest conversation between the two of them about their personal flaws and their expectations for a relationship. Even though Titus and Mikey both have such generally ridiculous personalities, this scene beautifully establishes what they can do best for each other and why we should care about them as a couple moving forward.

If that scene isn't the best in the episode, it's only because the writers included so many other fantastic comedic vignettes. Some examples: Kimmy and Cindy talking about the internet given their 1990s-era experience with it, using phrases like "Watch out for porns" and "Time to surf"; Gretchen describing the Apple Store the way she might describe any cult ("I gave the Geniuses all my money in exchange for this magic watch!"); Kimmy trying to convince Mikey from the other room that she's one of Titus' conquests, yelling "Get in here, Titus, my butt's getting cold!" Kimmy has always flourished largely in its ability to make its small comedic moments as unique and memorable as its larger storytelling points, and this episode featured both at their best.

Biggest Laugh: Titus: "I knew Mikey was new, but that boy's a baby. This is going to be like Beethoven making love to a baby."

Biggest Surprise: Two men! Kissing! On "television!" This probably shouldn't be as surprising as it is, but it remains a rare sighting and a fitting boundary for Kimmy to push.
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