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Binge Mode: ‘Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’ (Season 4)

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For a series that only lasted 51 episodes, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt burns through an incredible amount of material, both comedic and dramatic. Ostensibly about characters constantly looking back on their past decisions, UKS‘s penchant for barreling through plot development, character explanation, and running gags always made it a comedy constantly at war with itself. Despite that, there was always a strong emotional undercurrent to the ridiculous antics of Kimmy, Titus, and the gang, grounding their outlandish stories and dialogues with a rather powerful portrayal of the difficult struggle to rebuild oneself in the wake of major traumas. At least, that’s what UKS was early on: by the time the twelfth and final episode of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt season four ends with a disappointing whimper, what was once a quirky, willingly off putting comedy has morphed into an unrecognizable monster of wasted potential.

In fact, much of the final run of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt lacks the punch the first two seasons harnessed to wonderful effect: too focused on rehashing old plot lines, the first six episodes can barely find any room to breathe. The high-concept episode, “Party Monster: Scratching the Surface” is an abject disaster, an absolutely pointless Netflix true crime documentary satire that is questionably from frame one, the living epitome of the “what’s up fellow kids?” meme of Steve Buscemi on 30 Rock. Ludicrously staged and pointless, “Party Monster” sums up much of the first half of the final season: though it doesn’t feature a moment of Titus’ endless re-pursuit of Mikey or Lillian’s equally endless hatred of New York’s changing culture, “Party Monster” is a perfect distillation of the miscalculations that make this final season feel so dissonant with the first two seasons of the series.

What was once a quirky, willingly off putting comedy has morphed into an unrecognizable monster of wasted potential.

Even more strange is how inconsequential the first six episodes (which aired in May 2018) are to the final six hours of the series; about the only shared element of the two halves of the final season are their shared desperation to feel relevant. Like so many times in the show’s past, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt ultimately found the fourth wall to be the most unbreakable: while I applaud the show relentlessly shitting on men’s right activists, the alt-right, and the endless parade of misogyny in Hollywood, there’s no indication UKS is telling these stories except for the purpose of self-importance.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Season 4

For fuck’s sake, they bring in Ronan Farrow to play himself at one point, a cameo so utterly pointless it reveals the entire masturbatory nature of the exercise. It’s not surprising: most Tina Fey-led series have historically struggled to engage with real-world politics and social dynamics (remember those godawful North Korea bits on 30 Rock?), but the show’s seeming exploitation of these stories in the final season is wildly disappointing. Did I mention they frame a lot of this story around a rape-y Muppet, while mimicking the same sexual harassment arc seen in BoJack Horseman four years ago? It’s really not good.

The third episode of the final half-season, however, is where the show really begins to fall apart: “Sliding Van Doors” is a remarkably awful hour of television, and a disappointing final chapter to the internal traumas Kimmy’s been slowly dealing with for the life of the series. “Sliding Van Doors” is an hour-long episode into an alternate world, exploring the lives of every character in a reality where Kimmy never becomes a mole woman. What happens during the first 52 minutes is not really all that important (but yes, it takes that long to get there), because the episode ends on the one of the weirdest notes imaginable, underhandedly suggesting that Kimmy and the other Mole Women getting kidnapped for 15 years was actually a good thing, that none of the characters would’ve ever grown and learned their necessary life lessons if the Mole Women hadn’t shit in a Halloween bucket for over a decade.

Once the never-ending head scratch of “Sliding Van Doors” is over, though, UKS enjoys a mini resurgence, if only for the running time of “Kimmy Finds A Liar!”. Kimmy writing a young adult book is a natural progression for her character (if a little on-the-nose), and seeing Lillian and Jacqueline struggle to adapt to their new roles in life is a hit of the good stuff, the times when UKS had a better grip on using comedy to channel tragic, difficult stories about human nature, even briefly revitalizing Titus’s endlessly selfless, Mad Libs-esque pursuit of happiness.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Season 4

It feels like somewhere between writing the end of “Kimmy Finds A Liar!” and the beginning of “Kimmy Is Rich!*” everyone suddenly realized there was only an hour left, because the final two episodes of the series are an absolute shit show. “Kimmy Is Rich!*” suddenly becomes obsessed with being plot driven, after the wandering first ten episodes of the season only had the thin connective tissue of Mikey’s engagement, Titus’s career pursuits, and Kimmy’s time working for a tech start up (once again proving UKS‘s reputation of its uncanny ability to be meta and relevant is wildly overrated). Out of nowhere, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt suddenly slams on the gas, leaving itself no room to give life to a series of lifeless resolutions (not to mention some seriously dated jokes about Cats. Yes, Cats the musical).

I could go through each and every plot of those final two episodes and why they feel so dissonant with the rest of the series, but they all suffer from the exact same problem: after a series of pushing characters to really, really search for the good in the shit piles life hands us, everyone is handed their lives on a golden platter. Kimmy gets rich and opens an amusement park, Jacqueline falls into success and starts fucking her rival (Zachary Quinto, in a role that is both mind numbingly unfunny and needlessly ignorant), and Titus turns Mikey into a self-serving, dramatic asshole like himself (I mean, who hires their ex-boyfriend to sing at their fucking wedding? Really, Mikey?).

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Season 4

In the last five minutes of the series, very single character sells the fuck out: Kimmy makes the grand gesture to get her mom to love her she always avoided (the final scene with her mother is just upsetting), Lillian sells out to become a branded NYC attraction (the new voice of the MTA), and Jacqueline… well, it’s pretty clear UKS has had no idea what to do with her character since Kimmy stopped working for her halfway through the series (even Jane Krakowski isn’t good enough to cover that up). For a series always putting its brash humor and big, optimistic heart on its sleeve, it’s strange how quiet and thoroughly inert “Kimmy Says Bye!” is. There isn’t even mention or appearance of any other Mole Women in the final episode (or most of the final half-season, save for the whole “maybe it was a good thing” subplot): to say the final half hour betrays the series before it is an understatement.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt ends with a whisper of a whimper, in one of the strangest final half-seasons I can remember in recent memory. Part a byproduct of becoming The Titus Show 20 episodes into the series, and part a puzzling regression into two-dimensional storytelling in its final hours, it’s amazing what a warped, nonsensical show the final six episodes are, save for most of “Kimmy Finds A Liar!” (the return of Xanthippe in the final episode is a nice moment, too, really the only time the show taps into any of the early potential it once held). Instead of trying to change the world, everyone on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt instead just shrugged its shoulders and embraced things they way they were, a surprisingly empty, passive commentary on life for a show that was once so colorful and vibrant, it felt like a blast of fresh air to the single-camera comedy genre.

For me, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt was always about laughing through tragedy, being resilient through change, and the struggle to find peace: most importantly, it was primarily framed around the stories of women, and their inherent, unspoken ability to withstand the bullshit of the universe. In the end, UKS just says to embrace the bullshit the way it is, and it will all work out for the best – an existential simplification that is just unforgivable, and one that forever taints the beautifully frustrating series that preceded it.

 

Other thoughts/observations:

  • one highlight: Busy Phillips as the entitled daughter of Lillian’s dead boyfriend.
  • There’s a whole side story about Titus pretending to date a straight dude, which just feels like a rehash of the Asian sex pillow episode of 30 Rock. I would’ve rather seen a lot more of him flirting with Jon Bernthal’s Ilan, whose character isn’t around nearly long enough.
  • Bobby Moynihan’s alt-right character swings wildly between savage satire and toothless, late era-SNL political humor. On the whole, it’s not great, Bob!
  • Am I the only one who thinks Anthony Atamanuik’s Donald Trump impression sucks? It sucks.
  • Take out the “Sliding Van Doors” episode and replace it with a half hour following around C.H.E.R.Y./L.
  • Can anyone explain the point of Tripp and Eli? At all?
  • Greg Kinnear plays himself for a couple episodes, because why the hell not?
  • There are aspects of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt I’ll undoubtedly miss, but none I don’t think could’ve been served better on different, more consistent shows.

A TV critic since the pre-Peak TV days of 2011, Randy is a critic and editor formerly of Sound on Sight, Processed Media, TVOvermind, Pop Optiq, and many, many others.

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Wrestling

Greatest Royal Rumble Matches: Diesel vs. Bret Hart

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Royal Rumble Diesel vs. Bret Hart

Royal Rumble 1995

“Big Daddy Cool” Diesel vs. Bret “Hitman” Hart

World Wrestling Federation Championship

The 1995 Royal Rumble was the eighth installment of the annual pay-per-view. It took place on January 22, in the USF Sun Dome located in Tampa, Florida and is remembered most for two things: Pamela Anderson’s one and only appearance in the WWE ring and Shawn Michaels becoming the first wrestler to win the Royal Rumble after entering first. But aside from that the iconic, game-changing ending in which Shawn Michaels dangled on the ropes, barely hanging on, before pulling himself over and eliminating the British Bulldog— there was another great match that is often overlooked.

It was the first WWE Championship defense of Diesel and it came against the face of the company, Bret ‘Hitman’ Hart.

The storyline behind the WWF World Heavyweight Championship match began in 1994, when Bob Backlund with the help of Owen Hart, beat Bret Hart for the championship at Survivor Series. Three days later, Bob Backlund was scheduled to defend the title against Bret Hart at Madison Square Garden only on the eleventh-hour, Hart was replaced by Diesel. Despite spending most of the evening protesting the last-minute change in the card, Backlund was forced to square off against Big Daddy Cool who defeated Backlund in a nine-second match to win the World Title.

With Bret Hart looking to recapture the title, a match with Diesel was then scheduled at the Royal Rumble. It was a rare instance of two babyfaces assigned to compete against each other with the audience having to choose sides.

Unfortunately, the match ended in controversial fashion, but not without its share of drama and plenty of highlights.

Royal Rumble Diesel vs. Bret Hart

Diesel’s match with Bret Hart was a pivotal moment in his career. Not only was it the first time he had to defend the WWE Title on a PPV, but for someone who was often criticized as being over-rated, this match proved that with the right competition, Diesel could put on a great match while also telling a great story.  

It was a face vs. face, but Hart played the de facto heel for much of the match, going so far as slamming a chair on Diesel’s back and taking advantage of his injured knee by applying the figure-four leglock twice. The match itself lasted a good 28 minutes with plenty of finishers including Diesel’s Jackknife powerbomb and of course, Bret Hart’s signature Sharpshooter. It was physical; it was exciting, and it was an example of great storytelling thanks to the ongoing interference.

First, Shawn Michaels came out and attacked Diesel. After being thrown out of the ring, fans anticipated the referee would disqualify Bret Hart and end the match — only instead, the ref ordered it to continue. After a back and forth brawl, Hart hit the Sharpshooter on Diesel’s injured leg but before Big Daddy Cool could tap out, Owen Hart ran in and attacked Bret from behind. And just like before, the referee cleared Owen out of the ring and ordered that the match continue, causing the fans in the arena to explode in cheers.

Royal Rumble Diesel vs. Bret Hart

While the match isn’t as notable as the Survivor Series fight between Diesel and Bret Hart, it’s still a genuine classic and one of the best matches of Kevin Nash’s career. With the help of Bret Hart, Kevin Nash had risen again and delivered a performance for the ages.

The match, however, would end in disappointing fashion. After the referee was knocked unconscious, Shawn Michaels, Jeff Jarrett, The Roadie, Owen Hart and Bob Backlund all came out to attack Bret Hart and Diesel. Realizing he had lost full control of the match and could no longer officiate due to the constant interference; the referee officially ended the match and rang the bell. In the end, it was ruled a draw and Diesel retained his championship.

Royal Rumble Diesel vs. Bret Hart

Despite the interference, the match itself lasted a good half hour and featured two stellar performances by Bret Hart and yes, Kevin Nash. It was just another example of how with the right opponent, Kevin Nash could really work the ring and whatever mistakes and turmoil led Kevin Nash to the WCW, whatever demons that plagued him – you can’t forget that at one point in time, the man was at the top of the WWE.

All in all, the Championship match was well choreographed; perfectly scripted and packed with non-stop action from beginning to end.

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Arrow Season 8 Episode 9 Review: “Green Arrow and the Canaries”

Arrow looks to the future in an intriguing, clumsy penultimate episode/backdoor pilot.

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Green Arrow and the Canaries

It’s not often the penultimate episode of a long-running series is constructed as a backdoor pilot to a spin-off. But even rarer is a show heading into its final two hours with its titular character already enjoying a hard fought, well earned dirt nap after casually saving the universe – a fate both hero and viewers alike were aware of well over a year ago. It is under those strange, post-Crisis on Infinite Earths circumstances that “Green Arrow and the Canaries” exists, a backdoor pilot trying to leap frog off a near-decade of world and character building, to continue building the next generation of Arrowverse heroes alongside shows like Supergirl and Batwoman.

It is tough to strike a balance to find between carrying the torch of an iconic series, while still finding room for its own identity; that is the challenge facing both Mia and Arrow, as the Arrowverse looks to its next generation of storytelling.

As Arrow – and inevitably, The Flash – ride off into the sunset, The CW’s grasped the opportunity to diversify its starting lineup, on full display during the five-part Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover. No longer is the Arrowverse just led by Oliver Queen, Barry Allen, and Rip Hunter: with characters like Jefferson Pierce, Sara Lance, and now Mia Queen-Smoak, the Arrowverse is heading into the next decade with a refreshed starting lineup, a creative re-invigoration that reverberates through “Green Arrow and the Canaries” in some really interesting, if limited, ways.

Like most of the CW’s attempts to introduce new characters and worlds, “Green Arrow and the Canaries” is an awkward mash of ideas and tones, establishing a new Star City in 2040 post-Crisis, with all the inconceivably ridiculous machinations it takes to get there. Frankly, it does not do a great job of catching anyone up who is new to the Arrowverse, or is checking in with the final few episodes of Arrow to see what’s next: anytime it tries to explain how Mia lost her memories of 2020 (and how Dinah Drake ended up in 2040 Star City), “Green Arrow and the Canaries” strains credulity with its own premise.

Though, there is something to say for the episode’s very Legends of Tomorrow-esque approach to not really giving a fuck: we get cool shots of Dinah singing in a bar she owns (under her apartment, which looks like it is in the original clock tower Sara used as a hideout? Please don’t quote me on this if I am wrong), and it never lingers too long on trying to justify its existence. After all, how do you logically explain how the Earth-2 version of Laurel Lance, a Dinah who hasn’t aged in 20 years, and Oliver Queen’s adult daughter end up working on the same case (trying to find a kidnapped granddaughter of the Bertonelli family)? Smartly, “Green Arrow and the Canaries” only makes a few flimsy attempts before saying fuck it, and running with its narrative.

It makes for a fairly engaging experiment; with Mia Queen at the center, “Green Arrow and the Canaries” basically hits the reset button on Arrow‘s story of legacy, with Oliver as the deceased patriarch of the family, and Mia facing a world without either of her parents around (they do not mention Felicity at all, which is… very weird). How does someone follow in the footsteps of the man who saved the entire universe? “Green Arrow and the Canaries” doesn’t directly attack this issue, but the pressure of reputation, and the echoes of the trauma of losing him, provide this potential spin-off with an interesting emotional framework.

Green Arrow and the Canaries

It also features Black Siren, as the Kate Cassidy redemption tour continues; after years being stuck in a laughably thin character (and equally limited performance), the integration of Earth-2’s badass, morally ambiguous Laurel Lance was a boon for Arrow‘s late season resurgence – a renaissance that welcomely continues into this new series, channeling Laurel-2’s goth bitchiness into a powerful, driven portrayal of a rich supporting character.

“Green Arrow and the Canaries” is not without its limitations, though: despite the inherent pleasure of seeing these three characters team up together (and the simple fact it is vastly superior to the languid, mediocre Batwoman), the actual dramatic arc of the episode is cookie cutter material, formulaic in the way any experienced Arrow or The Flash viewer will recognize. There’s plenty of intriguing notes there (like the maybe-return of Deathstroke 3.0, as Mia’s now-estranged fiancee), but unlike Legends of Tomorrow or Black Lightning, “Green Arrow and the Canaries” doesn’t really introduce any wrinkles to a well-worn storytelling style, which could quickly lead any spin-off down a disappointing road of dwindling returns.

Green Arrow and the Canaries

The Arrowverse as a whole is in a strange place; as The Flash winds down (or at least, appears to be), Legends of Tomorrow continues to fucking rule, and shows like Supergirl and Black Lightning cement their place in The CW’s lineup, the massive universe Berlanti and company have built (and with Crisis, completely integrated) is both in a great place, and at a critical crossroads.

If “Green Arrow and the Canaries” becomes Green Arrow and the Canaries, it must be careful not to follow in the footsteps of the disappointing Batwoman (which suffers from the unwieldy combination of poor plotting and dismal performances). Following the series that started it all is a challenging affair, and one that comes with the high stakes of tainting what came before it (after all, it wasn’t long ago that Mia Queen-Smoak was one of Arrow‘s weakest points, through most of season seven’s flashbacks).

But there’s a lot of potential here; if Green Arrow and the Canaries harnesses the energy of its central trio, it could be so much more than a carbon copy of its hallowed predecessor – which, at its worst moments, briefly turning Dinah into Felicity and Mia into proto-season one Oliver, it comes dangerously close to being. It is tough to strike a balance between carrying the torch of an iconic series, while still finding room for its own identity; that is the challenge facing both Mia and Arrow, as the Arrowverse looks to its next generation of storytelling, and a question that “Green Arrow and the Canaries” ultimately only provides a partial answer to.

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Greatest Royal Rumble Matches: Shawn Michaels vs. Undertaker Casket Match

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Greatest Royal Rumble Matches Casket Match

Royal Rumble 1998

WWF World Heavyweight Championship

The 1998 Royal Rumble was the eleventh entry in the annual pay-per-view event. It took place on January 18, 1998, at the San Jose Arena and is remembered best for two things: Stone Cold Steve Austin winning his second Royal Rumble by eliminating The Rock– and the thrilling Casket Match between Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker for the WWF World Heavyweight Championship.

Unfortunately, it is also remembered as the match that temporarily ended the career of Shawn Michaels.

It was ‘The Last Outlaw’ Undertaker versus Mr. WrestleMania a.k.a. The Main Event a.k.a. The Heartbreak Kid a.k.a. The Showstopper. After costing him the Championship in a match against Bret ‘The Hitman’ Hart at Summerslam 1997, The Undertaker was out for revenge.

Shawn Michaels was the champion heading into the match, and he was also the favourite thanks to ample support from his fellow Degeneration X members Triple H and Chyna standing ringside.

Undertaker and Michaels had previously met in an outstanding match at Ground Zero: In Your House before going on to star in the first Hell in a Cell where Undertaker beat the hell out of Shawn, only to lose in the end no thanks to Kane interfering. This time around, however, Kane and Undertaker were now on good terms— or so we thought.

Needless to say, expectations were high for this one!

Shawn Michaels vs. Undertaker Casket Match

Despite his age, Shawn Michaels was in the prime of his career, and every one of his matches with The Undertaker during this era became legendary. Unlike many other rivalries in WWE history, every time these two men went toe-to-toe in the center of the squared circle; fans knew they were in for something special.

The match itself isn’t necessarily their best work but it’s arguably the best Casket Match ever and it culminated with a truly unforgettable ending that had many fans glued to their seats.

The Undertaker controlled most of the match despite the constant interference from Triple H and Chyna, which in retrospect makes sense since early in the match, Shawn Michaels herniated two disks in his back and completely crushed another after receiving a back body drop on the side of the casket. Being the champ that he was, Michaels continued to wrestle, and Undertaker eventually began to lose his dominance as things moved outside of the ring with Michaels delivering a piledriver on top of the steel steps. Following a high-flying elbow drop and Sweet Chin Music, Shawn Michaels seemed to have the match finally in his control but as all good heels do, he blew the opportunity to seal the deal and instead chose to taunt his opponent, giving Taker enough time to recuperate.

Shawn Michaels vs. Undertaker Casket Match

The rest of the match saw the two men go back and forth, rolling in and out of the casket and delivering their respected finishers. Eventually, the two men made it back to the ring where Undertaker gave Shawn Michaels a chokeslam before dragging him to the edge of the ring and hitting a jumping tombstone piledriver into the casket. The match looked to be over but before Undertaker could close it, the New Age Outlaws and Los Boricuas ran in and collectively pummeled Undertaker until the lights went out in the arena. Kane’s music played and the Big Red Machine made his way to the ring to save the day.

Only he didn’t…

Kane instead turned on Undertaker, and choke slammed his own flesh and blood into the casket thus allowing Triple H and Chyna to shut the lid, and end the match.

Royal Rumble 1998 Casket Match HBK Undertaker

As mentioned above, the match itself isn’t the best match we would see from HBK and The Phenom but in my eyes, they are two of the ten greatest superstars in WWE history and even their worst match is still far better than 90% of the other matches the WWE offers. But what really made the night memorable was the ending!

With the Undertaker trapped inside, Paul Bearer came to the ringside carrying giant padlocks and with the help of Kane, they locked the Undertaker inside the casket and proceeded to roll it to the top of the entrance ramp where Kane took an axe and began to dispatch the coffin before dousing it with gasoline and setting it on fire. And the entire time, Undertaker was supposedly inside.

If you were a young fan watching at the time, the ending of this match might have given you nightmares. It was like something straight out of a horror movie and it was an ending everyone was talking about for months.

As we watched various emergency officials extinguish the fire, Commissioner Slaughter and others desperately tried to break open the casket to free Undertaker. And when the casket was finally wedged opened, Undertaker was nowhere to be seen.

Shawn Michaels vs. Undertaker Casket Match

The match itself is historically significant for many reasons. It was the match that forced Michaels to take an extended hiatus due to a legitimate back injury and it also marked the last time Undertaker wrestled Shawn Michaels before their historic WrestleMania XIV match. Meanwhile, Kane’s interference set up an ongoing rivalry between the brothers of destruction. In the end, the 1998 Royal Rumble Championship Match delivered a great story complete with stellar performances from everyone involved.

  • Ricky D

Editor’s Note: This article is part of an ongoing series. Click here to see every entry.

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