Let’s be clear about one thing right away: “Kimmy vs. The Reverend” is way better than “Bandersnatch.”
The 400-Word Review - Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy vs the Reverend
By Sean Collier
May 16, 2020
Netflix developed an ambitious, impressive new platform for interactive storytelling for its 2018 “Black Mirror” special. It is undoubtedly a marvel and an engaging new tool for dedicated filmmakers. The surprising thing about “Bandersnatch,” though, was that the interactive format wasn’t especially well suited to “Black Mirror.” The speculative fiction show relies on surprising, carefully crafted narratives; with the viewer at the helm, the story was reduced to a somewhat unfocused ramble about free will.
If you would’ve asked me, then, to choose a Netflix property that is well suited to the interactive format, I probably wouldn’t have landed on “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.” And yet: “Kimmy vs. The Reverend” is delightful.
That could be because the show itself was so darn good in the first place — and this is a lovely check-in with the characters. Kimmy (Ellie Kemper) is successful and engaged to Frederick (Daniel Radcliffe), a very minor royal whose sheltered upbringing makes him a fine match for Kimmy’s clueless enthusiasm. Mere days before the wedding, however, Kimmy makes a shocking discovery. Her former captor, the Rev. Richard Wayne Gary Wayne (Jon Hamm), had a second bunker full of prisoners — and they need rescuing.
The playful nature of the interactive format is endlessly entertaining. When the viewer makes a hare-brained choice — like, say, having Titus (Titus Burgess) fail to accurately sing “Freebird” to a bar full of West Virginians — the story will pivot into a hilarious dead end and a minor character will provide a gentle corrective. (The best of these probably occurs when the viewer fails to watch the opening theme song.) A few options lead toward deeply hidden content (I’m proud to say I found the robot uprising on my first viewing) and all lead to sparkling writing from a quartet including series creators Tina Fey and Robert Carlock.
Series regulars including Carol Kane and Jane Krakowski reprise their roles alongside guest stars such as Chris Parnell and Heidi Gardner, which puts “Kimmy vs. The Reverend” very comfortably in the show’s reliable spot: very smart comedy. Moreover, the playfulness of the interactive elements provides a road map for how this technology should be used in the future. Interactive storytelling is, to put it very simply, fun. It should be deployed on shows that know how to play.
My Rating: 8/10
“Kimmy vs. The Reverend” is now streaming on Netflix.1