The fourth and final season of Tina Fey’s whip-smart follow-up to 30 Rock tied up the story of Ellie Kemper’s cheerful heroine with a bright purple bow. The daffy yet frequently dark sitcom ended with Kimmy heading to London as a successful children’s author, while her makeshift New York family found their various happy endings.
So, when Netflix announced a one-off return for Kimmy Schmidt with an interactive element, some scepticism could be forgiven. Not only did a reboot feel unnecessary less than 18 months since we said goodbye, but Fey’s bunker-survivor comedy also felt like a weird choice to receive the choose-your-own-adventure treatment, with a multiple choice narrative perhaps better suited to more narrative-led titles like Black Mirror.
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is a show that owned its strengths however, and much like 30 Rock, thrived on an eye watering joke-per-minute count and characters you grew to love in spite of their countless flaws. As long as all that remained intact, this could at least be a pleasant revival for those curious to see what these furiously entertaining oddballs were up to in the present day.
Luckily, the show’s return is as good as we’d hoped (if not better). For example, the series always ensured that Kimmy’s past trauma played a major part in her story, and in Kimmy vs. the Reverend it’s front and centre again. Back in New York and due to marry English prince Freddie (Daniel Radcliffe, who has proven to be an exceptional comedic presence post-Potter), Kimmy’s wedding plan is put on hold when the Reverend (Jon Hamm) reveals a second bunker hidden in West Virginia. Assembling the core gang for (potentially) one last mission, Kimmy sets off to find the other group of mole women (who’ve been kidnapped and forced to live underground by the Reverend) under your direction.
The multiple choice questions start off fun and light – will Titus (Titus Burgess) actually go to the gym or lie and go home to nap? – before moving into more significant narrative decisions. The fact that the show’s writing has always been so self-aware works in favour of the multi-choice model with more bombastic characters like Titus and Jacqueline (Jane Krakowski) literally vying for your attention at one juncture (that you have to choose who joins Kimmy on her quest feels criminal).
It also adapts well to the interactive element – some plotlines intentionally end on a bum note to encourage second viewings, while the narrative feels more rewarding when you lean into your knowledge of the characters and their habits. On the flip side, those who haven’t followed the story thus far will struggle to embrace the special as a standalone episode; no precursor for the plot is provided, jumping feet first into the immediate days before the wedding.
For those who have kept up however, Kimmy vs. the Reverend preserves the show’s rambunctious, ridiculous sense of fun while handling murkier themes of control and consent with a sensitive touch that never makes victims the butt of the joke. That you get to bring your own voice to that world is a fleeting yet thoroughly entertaining delight.