Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy vs the Reverend (Netflix, 2020)
Dir: Claire Scanlon
Until just a few weeks ago my home cinema system ran on a Microsoft Windows-based HTPC and when I sat down to watch this, the Netflix app wouldn’t let me watch this interactive special episode at all, it insisted I had to watch on a device that allowed me to make selections. So I did, somewhat reluctantly on the considerably smaller screen of my phone.
In this multichoice adventure, Kimmy (the ever-wonderful Ellie Kemper) is preparing to marry her fiancee, Prince Frederick (Daniel Radcliffe, you know, ‘Harry Potter’ and a few other things that I don’t need to list because you know exactly who he is now I’ve told you he was Harry Potter) a member of the British royal family, but first, she needs to confront her captor (Jon Hamm) once and for all.
So many of the choices were soon followed by a scene (at times funny) that was essentially a big nope, you made the wrong choice. It then goes back to make me pick one of the others, or make that selection for me if it’s the only remaining one, so as the Vulture article more aptly describes them, these are not choices that branch the story off in a myriad of possible combinations, they’re endings. Apparently, a few of the early choices also influence which version of the final scene you get, though in my case, it was still inferred that I’d made the ‘wrong’ choice right at the start.
Why are there wrong choices? Certainly, there are choices that wouldn’t serve the character well, odd selections to make, but if they’re not going to lead anywhere for more than a minute, why even bother giving me a choice I have to make?
For example, do I think Kimmy would kill Richard Wayne Gary Wayne? No, that would be somewhat out of character. However, is it unthinkable that a woman with severe PTSD from being locked in a bunker for 15 years might shoot her abuser when she sees him evading justice? Not at all, that is completely plausible. If the episode were to follow that ‘choice’ with even just one scene of Kimmy defending her actions in court, possibly acquitted as has occurred in real life with similar situations, that would be some incredibly brave television, finally plumbing the depths of the story in a way that was only ever surface-skimmed before. Of all the things that could have happened after selecting one of the ‘choices’ presented, that would’ve been, as the show theme says ‘a fascinating transition’ yet one that was based on reason and reality.
If my choices ultimately lead to nothing, and would, as the tutorial introduction explains eventually be made for me if I didn’t tap in time, why is there not the option to just watch a writers ‘preferred’ storyline? Surely I’m getting that anyway, just with a handful of cut scenes. I’d have preferred sitting back and watching one well-written feature-length final episode of this show than having to watch on my phone with occasional interruptions of almost pointless input.
In its entirety, it has all the elements of this show that could make it a great finale episode, well-directed by someone who’d already done a handful of episodes of the series. Almost all beloved and obscure characters make a reappearance, a few story threads are tied up, though as I’ve said maybe not as well as they could have been, and we see Kimmy happily coupled up with her beau played in a perfectly paired way by Daniel Radcliffe.
What I really wanted was to watch a great conclusion to a show about a woman finally dealing with the captor who robbed her of her adolescence, telling her to crank a wheel or the world would end, which was in reality a meaningless task that was only to impose his control. Instead, I was forced to do near-futile tasks that really didn’t have the world-changing outcome I was led to believe they would.
Harvey Dent once said, “You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” Well, ‘Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’ maybe this faux-choose-your-own-adventure was a step too far even for you, one that’s soured what should’ve easily been a chance for the show to go out on a high note and finally delve into the deeper aspects of the premise.
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