Arts and Entertainment

Take Control: The New Kimmy Schmidt Interactive Special

Immerse yourself in the newest piece of interactive entertainment from Netflix, where one wrong choice could render you dead, unemployed, or beat up in a rural West Virginian bar.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

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By Fariha Mabud

Make Out—Plan Wedding—Read Book

This is one of the first choices that the user is given in Netflix’s new original special “Kimmy vs. the Reverend,” which hit the streaming service on May 12. Taking place in the “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” television universe, this unique entertainment event utilizes the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure style of storytelling seen in other Netflix specials like “Black Mirror: and Bandersnatch” but with a distinctive comedic flare.

In “Kimmy vs. the Reverend,” Kimmy (Ellie Kemper) is forced to travel across the country to find a bunker full of girls who were kidnapped by the same reverend (Jon Hamm) who took her when she was a girl. With her wedding in three days and the reverend hot on her tail, it is up to the reader to guide Kimmy to her special day.

After four seasons and 18 Emmy nominations, the Netflix comedy “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” came to a close in early 2019, leaving many dedicated fans wanting more. After a long day of final-season-filming on the Netflix lot, however, Tina Fey was approached by Netflix with a concept: Choose-Your-Own-Adventure. The production crew and original cast got right to work developing the complex and intricate storyline for this unique piece of entertainment, and their immense efforts are easy to see. Jam-packed with jokes, B-stories, visual gags, and guest stars like Daniel Radcliffe, “Kimmy vs. the Reverend” pushes the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure genre to the brink of its capabilities, and it does so in a spectacular fashion.

While “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” has always been about the life of the titular character at its core, the side characters always end up stealing the show. Tituss Burgess shines as Kimmy’s best friend and former roommate Titus Andromedon, tapping into his classic over-the-top acting style, with fresh jokes and genius writing to back up his dynamic performance: “Titus Andromedon is not supposed to die on a mountain like a bored white person. He’s supposed to be choked to death at the Met Gala!” Whether it be taking a wacky drug trip from an accidentally consumed forest mushroom or preparing for an ill-conceived role in an action movie, Andromedon is able to sing, act, and quip his way through any number of bizarre situations. And Jane Krakowski fully delivers as Jaqueline White, the self-assured talent agent and New York elite who offsets Kimmy’s can-do positive attitude with a healthy dose of snarky and self-obsessed one-liners. The side characters add a sense of completion and realism to the fever-dream positive visuals and plotlines.

Besides the stellar planning and home-run cast, what further separates “Kimmy vs. the Reverend” from the run-of-the-mill Netflix special is evident in the ability of the viewer to be immersed and completely invested in the story unique to this Choose-Your-Own-Adventure format. With the fates of various TV characters resting in the hands of the viewer, the show forces full attention and adds stakes to the experience. One wrong move and a television favorite is rendered dead, unemployed, or taking the sole blame for the end of the #MeToo movement. Phoning the wrong number, choosing the wrong afternoon activity, leaving a baby abandoned in a gas station, or thinking you know the lyrics to a song can all lead to disastrous results, many ending up in a do-over, in which they are forced to go back to the decision they just made and pick again. Most choices, however, are permanent and affect the course of the story for the rest of the special. Pick the “fancy dress” at the wedding fitting in the very first scene, and Kimmy is wearing a fancy dress in the very last. Little details are what make “Kimmy vs. the Reverend” a special and unforgettable viewing experience.

Packed with an all-star cast, over-the-top visual gags, expert writing, and nearly flawless execution, “Kimmy vs. the Reverend” is a television event to remember, one many shows will inevitably attempt to replicate. While series like “Boss Baby” already have similar specials in development, it will be nearly impossible for another franchise to encapsulate the complexity and humor of this landmark Netflix special.