Each week, we're recapping the second season of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt episode by episode. Read it before it's cool.
Last week, we talked about how the juggling of multiple plotlines can cause inconsistency within an episode. Meanwhile, "Kimmy Drives A Car!" demonstrates how a variable production crew can cause inconsistency across a season. We generally refer to Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt as the work of creators Tina Fey and Robert Carlock, and they do exhibit general control over the show as a whole. But this episode was directed by Shawn Levy, the man behind terrible movie after terrible movie from Just Married to the 2006 Pink Panther to The Internship. Maybe that's why we ended up with such a dud this round.
Jacqueline breaks her tooth on a hard piece of bread, but having lost her dental coverage along with her husband, she can't make a dentist appointment in time for her upcoming gala. Kimmy tries to help her with this, but she keeps missing work at the Christmas store and eventually gets fired as a result. The two end up bitter at each other to the point where Kimmy drives off in Jacqueline's car and forces her to take the bus. There, Jacqueline runs into the receptionist from the dentist's office, and seeing her broken heels, offers to trade shoes. Thus she gets her appointment after all, and Kimmy, seizing her newfound driving skills, starts working as an Uber driver.
This works well enough, even if it is a little (forgive the expression) toothless. Jacqueline's moment of empathy and act of charity comes in such a lazy, by-the-numbers form that we basically hear the writers shouting, "See look, Jacqueline can be nice! Please care about Jacqueline!" She's already realigned her goals for this season towards helping her family and tribe, so it would be a lot more powerful for the show to work with this new version of the character, rather than to keep resorting back to the snobby, rich Jacqueline from season one. Regardless, it's good to see Kimmy and Jacqueline let out some legitimate anger toward each other, and this all serves mainly to set up Kimmy's new stint as an Uber driver, which will surely pay off in future episodes.
Meanwhile, Titus rents out the basement on Airbnb to make some extra cash (for capes, of course), but Lillian worries that the incoming residents will contribute to the continued gentrification of their neighborhood. Sure enough, the Austin hipsters who rent out the place plan to open up "an artisanal fair trade sneaker experience" called Sole Food in place of a local soul-food restaurant. When Titus discovers the local pawn shop has been replaced by a vape store, he joins Lillian's side and scares the new couple away by pretending there's already a secret speakeasy in the back of the restaurant.
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Kimmy paints hipsters as pretentious, entitled assholes looking only for the most "authentic," before-it's-cool experiences available. It's not an entirely inaccurate judgment, but it's exactly that: judgmental, overly simplistic, lacking in nuance or honesty. The show portrays the hipster stereotype in strokes just as broad as in its recent takes on social justice warriors and child medication, and the witty biting criticism from season one still hasn't made any sort of appearance this season. But this subplot's also passable on a whole, as the hipsters have their share of entertaining and creative lines ("We have tickets to go see these malfunctioning Chuck E. Cheese characters re-enact an episode of Full House"), and Lillian's continued revolt against gentrification gives her more direction than her character ever had in season one.
What really concerns us about "Kimmy Drives A Car!", though, is the way one bad episode can contribute to the fabric of the show in a legitimately harmful way. Yes, Kimmy had her maturity stunted, but generally this comes out in interesting and complex ways, so seeing her go crazy over a sticky hand toy here just doesn't add up with her character as a whole. And what the hell is with this episode's weird fake recurring Mentos commercials that completely break the tone of the show? And come on, Titus is afraid of books? Maybe we can't fairly point the blame entirely at Levy, but this episode comes with too much that runs contrary to what we love and appreciate about Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and the show and its characters grow weaker as a whole with every weak episode like this.
Biggest Laugh: Kimmy: "Wait, if I find a job in the classifieds, am I allowed to tell anyone?"
Biggest Surprise: Keenan Thompson's brief appearance as Lillian's former lover in a flashback. Fey seems to be calling in a lot of favors from her fellow SNL alums this season.