Entertainment

How to Get the Most Out of Netflix's Interactive 'Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt' Special

The more you do it, the funnier it is.

kimmy schmidt
Netflix

"Joke density" is a term that gets thrown around a lot when talking about the sitcom work of Tina Fey and Robert Carlock. Whereas other TV comedies rely on plot to drive humor, Fey and Carlock's shows just bust out punchline after punchline after punchline. 30 Rock created this model; Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt followed it. Because of the duo's habit of just writing an insane amount of jokes, they relished bringing their work to Netflix where they weren't limited by any network time constraints. And now the streaming service has allowed them to do something both crazy and unprecedented. Using the interactive technology implemented for Black Mirror: Bandersnatch and a few kids' titles, Fey and Carlock have created a Choose Your Own Adventure-style Kimmy Schmidt special where audience decisions unlock -- what else? -- more jokes. 

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy vs. The Reverend works much better than Bandersnatch mainly because of how fun it is. Whereas with Black Mirror episode utilized the technology to make some sort of grand point about free will, Kimmy vs. The Reverend is only about packing as many gags as it possibly can into a single story. 

And what is that story? Well, our optimistic, formerly kidnapped Kimmy (Ellie Kemper) is about to get married to Frederick (Daniel Radcliffe), a royal who has lived almost as sheltered a life as she has, when she finds a mysterious book hiding in her beloved backpack Jan. The Choose Your Own Adventure novel (lol), checked out from a Louis Gossett Jr. Junior High School (lol), seemingly indicates that the evil Reverend Richard Wayne Gary Wayne (Jon Hamm) is hiding another bunker of women somewhere, so Kimmy sets out to find them.

Will she succeed? Well, that's up to you. But Kimmy vs. The Reverend is not so much about the destination as it is about the journey. It's about Titus (Tituss Burgess) singing "Free Bird," and Lillian (Carol Kane) raising hell. While watching it once is funny, watching it multiple times is even funnier. Here are some of the joys you'll find within. 

kimmy schmidt josh groban
Netflix

It changes the more you go through it 

I'm calling this the Josh Groban effect. The first time I went through Kimmy vs. The Reverend, I didn't get Josh Groban. The second time, I did! He plays himself with a funny voice in a flashback that implies he and Kimmy dated briefly. But, silly me, I forgot what led me to this little detour. When I started the special for a third time, I was pretty sure it came when I told Kimmy to call fellow mole woman Donna Maria for advice, and I know I got a scene featuring actress Sol Miranda. But when I chose "call Donna Maria" again, I didn't get Donna Maria herself. I got her food company's answering service, which leads to three more options all of which are just standalone jokes based on whichever number you decide to press. 

sandy parcell
Netflix

There is proof 30 Rock and Kimmy Schmidt exist in the same universe 

If you're watching this, chances are you also love Fey and Carlock's masterpiece, 30 Rock. Well, they've hidden clues that, yes, Kimmy Schmidt and Liz Lemon exist in the same universe. When I got Donna Maria's answering machine, I learned that her company is a division of the Sheinhardt Wig Corporation, which counts GE and NBC as subsidiaries in 30 Rock. If you stick through to the end credits, you'll also learn that Jack McBrayer's Indiana prison guard character is Sandy Parcell; therefore, he must be a relative (twin, even?) of Jack McBrayer's NBC page Kenneth Parcell.  

Skip the theme song at your own risk 

The first time through this, you definitely want to listen to the extremely catchy theme song. But the second time? You may be tempted to "skip intro." Click at your own risk. Let's just say that you will not be able to skip the intro. 

kimmy schmidt radcliffe
Netflix

Remember: Kimmy is a good soul 

If you want to "win" the special -- though, really, what's the fun in that? -- make choices that affirm Kimmy's goodness. You may think running after the reverend is the right decision after getting info on his whereabouts in a gas station even though Johnny Knoxville just left a baby unattended. But Kimmy Schmidt wouldn't just abandon a child! It's another thing to keep in mind during the final confrontation with Richard Wayne Gary Wayne. You have a lot of options. You can shoot him! You can stomp him! You can 'splode him! Or, of course, you can spare him. The violent moves are fun, but Kimmy wouldn't resort to such things. That said, you should definitely click some of the more outrageous choices because they lead to very amusing alternate endings featuring Lillian, Xanthippe, and a fucked up Kimmy clone. 

Embrace Daniel Radcliffe's silly Britishness

Fey and Carlock find Britain very silly. Throughout the years they've found ways to make fun of fancy Englishmen through Michael Sheen's Wesley Snipes on 30 Rock, Adam Campbell's Logan on Kimmy Schmidt, and Greg on Great News. Now a new adorable but emotionally stunted guy from across the pond has won Kimmy's heart: Frederick, a member of the royal family played by Daniel Radcliffe. Frederick has tons of hilarious tidbits about life as a lonely rich boy in Britain like how his people say "eeny meeny miny moe." It begins "jumpy bumpy…"

jacqueline kimmy schmidt
Netflix

Jacqueline's choices matter more than you think

Jane Krakowski's Jacqueline definitely gets the B-plot here. (Spoiler/tip: If you enlist her to go along on Kimmy's adventure, they'll die in a plane crash and Fred Armisen as Robert Durst will tell you that you "killed them all.") But don't think her storyline should be disregarded. I highly recommend having her blame Titus' absence on his problems with the script, because then you'll get this masterful run from Zak Orth's screenwriter about the "37 types of stories," including "smart shark" and "reverse Esther." But choose to complain about the wardrobe and you'll watch Jacqueline undo all the progress Time's Up has made. 

Carol Kane is MVP

Kimmy vs. The Reverend is a showcase for everyone involved, but I probably got the most joy out of the unhinged performance of Carol Kane as Kimmy's friend/former landlord, Lillian. She gets to sing a sexy rendition of "We Have No Bananas" and play her character's doppelgänger: Frederick's Mary Poppins-esque nanny/best friend Fiona. 

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Esther Zuckerman is a senior entertainment writer at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @ezwrites.