What I’ve Been Watching Recently… (Netflix Edition)

It’s time to reflect on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Season 2, Orange is the New Black Season 4 and Bojack Horseman Season 3. It’s also time to decide whether I watch too much television (or whether I have unhealthy obsession with Netflix). The answer is almost definitely yes to both.

 

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Season 2

Kimmy Schmidt

I am well aware that the second season of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt came out a few months ago, and for my own sake and dignity, I did watch it as soon as it came out. I have been meaning to write a post about it alone but you know… work/social life etc. Either way, it’s still very much worth discussing, even if it is a few months late.

After the incredible success of the first season of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, we always knew there would be a second season. What was unclear, however, was whether the series had any staying power. The first season was incredibly fresh and funny but many of the jokes relied on Kimmy’s lack of knowledge of the 21st century. With Kimmy getting more and more used to technology, iPhones and googling – would it still be as funny? The answer is a resounding yes. For as much as it is still funny that Kimmy fundamentally lacks understanding of the world today, the second season bought in whole new narratives. Whilst Kimmy was clearly the star of the first season, season two is almost an ensemble cast. We got to watch Lillian become the activist of her youth by protesting gentrification (“the neighbourhood always provides!”), Titus getting into a loving and committed relationship (with the builder who catcalled Kimmy in the first season) and we watch Jacqueline recover from her divorce and become a whole new person.

Both Jacqueline and Titus get more of a narrative arc this season and both characters go through situations that are new to them. Jacqueline breaks out of her rich and privileged lifestyle to become a far more rounded character – realising many things in the process. After her divorce she goes back to visit her parents (which is hysterical in itself, her attempts to live a rural life fall very flat) and eventually meets a man called Russ, back in New York. Russ is… not Jacqueline’s usual type, but Jacqueline comes to realise what it means to truly like someone for who they are, not the amount of money they have. She becomes a likeable and interesting character, but still with a few flaws – which actually makes her more relatable.

Whilst Kimmy retains its quick jokes and easy laughs, it also makes a point to talk about the important issues. Kimmy begins going to therapy in the second half of the season, after taking a job as an Uber driver and meeting Tina Fey’s therapist character, Andrea.  Although it is immediately apparent that Andrea needs help (she’s an alcoholic), it becomes clear that whilst Kimmy says that she is over her experiences in the bunker, she clearly isn’t. Andrea encourages Kimmy to wonder why it is that every time Titus or Jacqueline need her help, she goes running to their rescue. Kimmy has to face up to the fact that her life changed irreparably from her experience within the bunker and that she needs to learn to accept that.

The reunion between Kimmy and her mother (played by Lisa Kudrow, of course) in ‘Kimmy Finds Her Mom!’  is all sorts of sweet and sad. The rollercoaster ride serves as a metaphor for the rollercoaster ride that their relationship has been on. It turns out that, subconsciously Kimmy blames her mother for her abduction because Kimmy got held up tying her shoelaces – her mother had never taught her how to tie them properly. Kimmy’s mother, grief stricken, also left the family home after Kimmy’s abduction to join a travelling rollercoaster appreciation society (or something). Both women are dealing with their grief in separate ways and although the episode is as funny as we expect it to be, it’s also emotional. After screaming their heads off on the rollercoaster (a fantastic release of all the frustration both the women feel), Kimmy realises that being angry with her mum isn’t going to un-kidnap her. It’s a pretty valuable lesson.

Though this season brought to the surface many serious issues that Kimmy is facing, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’s greatest accomplishment is it’s charming ability to be funny and sad at the same time. There’s a great many comedies that have sad and funny moments, but Kimmy manages to invoke both emotions in vast quantities at the very same time.

Orange is the New Black Season 4

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Where do I even begin with Season 4 of Orange is the New Black? Well, I suppose it would be wise to start at the beginning. I was apprehensive about the 4th season, mostly because season 3 ended on such a fantastically high note. The women of Litchfield Penitentiary had their moment of freedom, even if we knew it was going to come to an end. Watching their joy at simply being in the lake was wonderful and probably my favourite season finale I’ve ever seen. Of course, there is the small question of what is going to happen to Alex – but to be honest I’ve never really watched the show for Alex or Piper.

There’s so much to unpack this season. From allusions to police brutality, the black lives matter movement, to white supremacy, racial profiling and just how fundamentally flawed the prison system is – Orange is the New Black seemed to shift its focus from altercations amongst inmates to growing tensions between the inmates and the guards. There are still a fair few plots involving inmates (Piper and Maria’s feud being one of them) but in line with what is happening in the world today, the show seems to want to discuss the injustice of the (ironic) justice system in the US.

We spend time with Caputo, more than we have done previously, as he navigates around the new corporate world of prison funding (with his new gf Linda from Purchasing) whilst simultaneously dodging Sophia’s wife who is desperately trying to get Sofia out of SHU. Caputo is reluctant to do anything which might cost him the respect he has earnt from management, but seems to have enough of a conscience to actually pull through in the end. It doesn’t redeem him completely (and nor should it) and we see the Caputo, despite walking the walk and talking the talk, is actually kind of spineless.

The other newest additions in this series was the introduction of the ex-veteran guards, drafted in after the walkout of the prison guards at the end of the last season. Headed up by Piscatella, the new guards are brutish and come across as just evil. Ironically, despite the waves of violence and torture inflicted on the inmates quite deliberately by the guards, it is an accidental move by Bayley which results in the death of Poussey. It’s a bold move, to kill of such a beloved character and I am unsure exactly what the statement was that the writers were trying to make. It wasn’t the brutish, thuggish, power hungry guards who ended up killing a black inmate. Instead it was a young, naive guard – compliant in the violence against the inmates, but not a perpetrator. What are we saying here? That good guards make mistakes? That we should feel sorry for Bayley too? It just didn’t fly with me. It’s almost #notallguards, except yes all guards because all of them were incompetent at protecting the people they are being paid to be responsible for. That includes Caputo. 

Maybe it’s a comment on police brutality, maybe it’s a comment on the power structures that exist within the prison system. I appreciated the stance that the writers are trying to take on the Black Lives Matter movement and the racial profiling that goes on, inside and outside of the prison system. It’s just that – by painting the guards as wholly evil and not exploring the reasons why they behave in this way means that we can’t have a dialogue about it. The only reason given for the way in which the ex-vet guards behave towards the inmates (flies/baby mouse etc, table etc) is that they like to abuse their power because they are bad people. This is counter productive – we can’t examine the institutional racism, misogyny or power structures in society if we just brand everyone who propagates it as simply bad people. They are more, and less than that.

For example – Lolly and Healy’s ‘friendship’ allows us an insight into why Healy treats the women in the prison in the way that he does. speaking with Lolly, and finding out about his childhood with his mother, we realise that he isn’t a ‘bad guy’ – he’s just as fucked up as everyone else. This is what initially made OITNB a standout series. No-one is all good, or all bad.

Overall, I enjoyed season 4. I don’t think that OITNB has lost it’s touch quite yet and there’s still plenty more to explore. The revelation of Susanne’s crime was absolutely heartbreaking and watching Piper get branded was definitely one of the more satisfying moments in the entire series. Watch this space.

Bojack Horseman Season 3

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Oh Bojack. I can’t decide if I hate you or love you. As a character, that is – the show is still very firmly at the top of my ‘show’s I can’t live without’ list. The thing about Bojack Horseman, the character, is that he is equal parts relatable and equal parts repulsive. Which actually make him more relatable, because who among us are not repulsed (even slightly) by the thought of ourselves?

The third season follows Bojack’s futile attempts to reach Academy Awards status and gain a nomination for Secretariat. This is despite the fact that Bojack doesn’t actually appear in the film, rather they digitally reproduced his image through CGI. Ah Hollywoo – it’s just like the movies. Bojack’s publicist/friend with benefits, tries to secure the nomination for him and although the movie is well received, Bojack (inevitably) is not nominated for an Oscar. In his usual style of self sabotage, Bojack manages to destroy his friendship with Todd, destroy his friendship and working career with Princess Carolyn and at the end of the series he also manages to destroy the life of the young girl he tried to sleep with at the end of the third season.

There is one point where Princess Carolyn accuses Bojack of fetishizing his own sadness, and I think there is a really valid point in that. We know that Bojack is depressed, and that he lives in a vicious cycle of day to day self destruction because he can’t face up to his fears, his loneliness and ultimately his life. However, Bojack does wallow in his own self pity and becomes a truly dreadful person to his ‘friends’, yet excuses himself of these actions by blaming it on his depression (or his inability to feel anything).

This season we also got more of a much needed backstory for Princess Carolyn and her history with Bojack. From starting as an assistant, to building her own company – we understand Princess Carolyn’s frustrations at Bojack leaving her agency as she’ll certainly struggle to make ends meet with his star power. Princess Carolyn’s relationship to Bojack, his dependence on her is symptomatic of his relationships with almost everyone he is friends with. He is under the impression that all the people in his life are relying on him (Todd living on his sofa, Princess Carolyn for her agency, Diane for her book) but it is Bojack who left alone and friendless when he realises that he has pissed off anyone who ever cared about him. It turns out he was as dependent on them, if not more.

The standout episode of the series is clearly ‘Fish out of Water’ – an almost completely silent episode where Bojack visits the Pacific Ocean Film Festival, which is located… you guessed it. At the bottom of the ocean. Bojack doesn’t speak the language, and his speech is also muffled by the oxygen bowl around his head. He can’t smoke cigarettes, or even drink beer. He is completely out of his comfort zone, but more than that, he is isolated from the world around him. When he spots Kelsey Jannings at the festival, he tries all attempts to get a ‘sorry’ note across to her. When he finally thinks he has succeeded, she looks puzzled at him and throws the note back at him. The water has smudge the ink, and Bojack’s heartfelt message is gone.

Ironically, Bojack being in this unfamiliar situation actually means for once, he doesn’t fuck anything up like he usually does. Sure, the taffy factory is destroyed, but he returns the baby seahorse to it’s father and essentially saves the day. Instead of talking all the time or acting like a complete idiot because he is drunk, Bojack focuses on the task in hand and succeeds. It’s more than this though. Bojack has the time to evaluate himself, to realise how hard he finds it to connect to other people. The lack of communication, wanting to express feelings and opinions but not being able to, is brought to life in this episode.

On a quick final note, I also appreciated the taxi franchise which Todd and Mr Peanutbutter developed this season. As always, the show’s writers never hold back on politically charged discussions and this was no different. Tying the whole saga in with the orca-strippers was also some stellar narrative arc. Once again, Bojack Horseman does not disappoint on the social issues front.

 


So there you have it, the last couple of months in television! Let me know what you guys made of OITNB, Kimmy and Bojack this year – I am especially keen to hear what you thought of OITNB, it seemed to spark a lot of anger among fans. 

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