There’s a moment in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Season 3’s finale, in which Titus (Tituss Burgess) tells Jacqueline (Jane Krakowski) that she has been a part of his own personal journey. She retorts that he, in fact, is in her story. The peppy Netflix show from co-creators Tina Fey and Robert Carlock is far from stagnating in its third outing. Its characters may be as clueless as ever but they are learning and evolving, and these developments never come at the expense of the show’s sharp signature humour.
Throughout the first two seasons, Kimmy (Ellie Kemper) did what she could to get closure from her traumatic past, putting the reverend in prison at the end of Season 1 and confronting her distant mother in Season 2, among other things. In Season 3, this closure manifests itself in the form of fewer bunker flashbacks. Nevertheless, it becomes clear that no matter how hard Kimmy tries to move on, her past keeps on dragging her back.
During the first half of the new season, she has to deal with divorce papers from the reverend (Jon Hamm) and an impromptu visit from the deluded woman who wants to marry him (a terrific guest appearance from Laura Dern), as well as a request to help the police arrest Gretchen (Lauren Adams), who has now made the transition from cult follower to leader. After getting some high school qualifications last season, college proves to be the natural next step for Kimmy, even if she did originally think it was something “just for rich kids and only the very best clowns”. But her past catches up with her once again, as she is horrified to find that anyone can learn she was a ‘mole woman’ through the magic of the internet.
Kimmy may be the one with her name in the title, but there’s no denying that Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is now just as much about its supporting characters – Titus, Jacqueline, and in this season Lillian (Carol Kane) too. The opening episode sees Titus wash up ashore and return home to New York, unwilling to discuss why he’s no longer in his cruise ship job. This mystery is explained later on and it bizarrely involves sweetcorn, Jacuzzi water and the singer Dionne Warwick, played by the always hilarious Maya Rudolph.
Titus actually does a bit of growing up this time around, as he assesses his relationships with both Kimmy and Mikey (Mike Carlson). But make no mistake, he’s still at his pouting, diva-ish best, coming out with lines such as “All white guys look the same to me, which is why I have no clue why the movie Twins is so funny”. One of the season’s comedic highlights involves Titus auditioning for Sesame Street, even though it means he must betray his principles and “pretend to like children and endorse sharing”. Another is a plot wherein Jacqueline enlists him to pose as her “gay best friend… Flouncy Magoo”, which quickly backfires and results in him having to pretend to be straight instead.
Three episodes out of the 13 seem to be lacking a certain something, and they are: it’s Jacqueline. Jane Krakowski continues to be on scene-stealing form, as the shallow trophy wife turned philanthropist, who’s unexpectedly landed in the first happy relationship of her life. The uber-rich world that she inhabits is an endless source of laughs, and her quest to change the name of the Washington Redskins soccer team means that she must fraternise with the worst of the worst – Orson Snyder (Harris Yulin), an old man with “the organs of a 35-year-old Guatemalan gardener”, who says of his disappointing son: “This is what I get for having children with a woman – he’s half girl.”
Jacqueline undergoes the biggest transformation of the season, as she cares less and less about impressing the people whose approval she used to crave, while still providing comedy gems such as “I don’t really eat cake, although I did sit on one once for Richard Branson”.
Of the four main character arcs, Lillian’s, in which she runs to be a city councillor and falls in love, proves to be the most hit-and-miss. Although the writers deserve some credit for trying to deepen a rather one-note character, her story just isn’t as engaging as the others. Carole Kane does her best with the material and Lillian is humanised to some extent by Peter Riegert as her likeable love interest, but her stubborn, baseless grudge against gentrification, and therefore his business empire, makes you wonder what on Earth he sees in her.
Speaking of guest stars, Season 3 includes very welcome returns from Jacqueline’s rival Deirdre Robespierre (Anna Camp) and friend Mimi Kanasis (Amy Sedaris). One of the season’s best lines comes from Mimi, who excitedly responds to Kimmy saying she’s getting a divorce from “you know who” with “I know that means Voldemort, and now I know he’s single”. Musical theatre fans will enjoy seeing James Monroe Iglehart back as Titus’ nemesis, Coriolanus, as well as Daveed Diggs of Hamilton fame joining the cast in a recurring role. There are also a significant number of 30 Rock cameos (we won’t spoil them for you here – see how many you can spot), along with the suggestion that Kimmy might exist in the same universe as fellow Netflix series Orange Is the New Black.
Fans of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’s rapid-fire humour will be pleased to know that the new season is just as densely packed with jokes as before. Some may occasionally fall flat, such as references to the election that don’t really say anything and digs at Millennials that come across a bit more patronising than necessary – but the dialogue is all so zippily paced that if you don’t like something, it’s no problem because something else will be along a few seconds later. Kimmy Schmidt continues to be one of the smartest comedies out there, chock-full of pop culture references and gags about everything from religion and sexism to wealth and beauty. In what other show could the line “I didn’t steal her boyfriend – he was made of cans and I had the magnet” be hilarious yet also make total sense?
All episodes of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Season 3 are available to watch on Netflix UK from Friday 15th April, as part of a £7.49 monthly subscription.