Kimmy vs. the Reverend is the break from reality that we need

You’re writing about Netflix’s new interactive Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt special, Kimmy vs. The Reverend.

Are you:

  1. Happy to have these colourful idiots back in any way, shape or form
  2. A little disappointed the form they chose was Netflix’s gimmicky “choose your own adventure” format
  3. Going to drop this hacky joke structure that every other bit of coverage is probably doing as well
  4. All of the above

Let’s get this out of the way – Netflix, get your act together. If your own desktop app can’t play your interactive media, then just what are we doing here? You want me to use Chrome? At 720p? Am I watching The Lego Movie, because it’s blocky as hell.

On to the special itself, which takes place after season four’s grand finale. Titus is starring in a movie, Lilian is throwing cinderblocks onto the highway, and Kimmy is getting married to a prince, played by an unbelievably committed Daniel Radcliffe. The happily-ever-afters are interrupted by a discovery that Kimmy has unfinished business with her one-time captor, the Reverend Richard Wayne Gary Wayne (God bless you, Jon Hamm, and how much fun you have with this role). So begins a cross-country journey of revenge, bachelorette parties, and songs about giving away free birds.

Kimmy vs. The Reverend succeeds both because of, and in spite of, its format. For the most part, the choices feel nowhere near as impactful or divergent as in Netflix’s previous interactive TV experiment, Bandersnatch. Where the choices there could also be superfluous or led to uninteresting or unsatisfying paths, almost every choice in Kimmy is in service of The Mighty Joke. I started hunting down every dead end, not out of the sadism that fuelled my Bandersnatch watch, but because the “game over” screens have many of the biggest laughs. Kimmy, and 30 Rock before it, relied on machine-gun joke delivery, rapidly tossing out punchlines so that by the time you noticed one wasn’t that great, you’d already been blindsided by six more. But even the awkward pauses as you make your decisions – my biggest concern about the pacing – are filled with A-class vamping from Jane Krakowski.

Are there bum notes? Sure. The bad ending I received for one sub-plot aimed to skewer a grim topic with the series’ typical manic hyperbole but left a sour taste, and weaker material only stuck out more when I had to replay through it. But none of that detracts from the dumb joy I get from hanging out with these characters again, in their world of talking backpacks, alcoholic robots, and cult leader DJs.

PS. I once said that Netflix’s “skip intro” button should just call the police on anyone who pressed it while watching Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, but trust me, you’re going to want to do it, just this once.

[Kimmy vs. The Reverend is not yet available on Netflix in South Africa. Boo. – Ed.]
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