So it’s remarkable that, in Kimmy Schmidt’s second season, the primary villain, from Kimmy’s perspective, is not a person, but rather her own defining quality: niceness itself. Niceness, now, is no longer nice; it is instead downright pathological. It keeps Kimmy from coping, and by extension from fully living. While women, in particular, may be conditioned to see “niceness” as putting the needs of others before their own, Kimmy Schmidt—albeit with its characteristic cartoonishness—is challenging that assumption. It is glorifying feminine selfishness. You can’t do you, after all, if you think only of others.
And so, while Kimmy season one built up to the trial of the reverend who kidnapped her, Kimmy season two builds up to a trial of the other thing that has threatened to hold her captive: her insistence on helping, and indeed saving, other people. At one point, Gretchen comes to New York to join a Scientology-like cult; Kimmy drops everything to prevent her fellow Mole Woman from retreating to a new kind of bunker (in this case, a cruise ship). It takes a full episode for Kimmy to realize what the rest of us have known all along: that Gretchen likes the constraints of culthood. “I tried to make you the person I wanted you to be,” Kimmy tells her, finally. “But that’s not you. And that’s okay.”
Kimmy undergoes a similar realization with Cyndee and her dream to marry, and have kids with, a man who everyone—Cyndee included—knows would prefer to marry a guy. And with Andrea (Tina Fey), her Uber passenger-cum-therapist, who moonlights as a stumbling alcoholic. (“Guess what: I’m not two different people,” Andrea informs her would-be savior. “I’m just one big mess. And you can’t fix me, Kimmy. Sorry.”)
Kimmy Schmidt, in all this, isn’t necessarily celebrating weakness or sadness or compromise. It’s not a good thing that Andrea is beyond saving. It’s not a happy thing that Gretchen, having been given her freedom, is still drawn so powerfully to the Church of Cosmetology. But the new season’s insistent complication of kindness absolves Kimmy of her driving desire to fix everything—for everyone but herself. And it forces her, ultimately, to be honest about the ongoing effects of being a Mole Woman. In the new season, Kimmy bonds with a former Army Ranger over their shared PTSD. She freaks out at the sound of a cork popping at a party (“Eek! A sound!”). She has a psychotic break that ends with her riding a roller coaster—her mom, not for nothing, is a “coaster head”—at Coney Island.
These are, ultimately means to the same end that Kimmy’s fellow characters have found with her help: growth. Self-improvement. Self-discovery. Initially, Kimmy resists talking about her problems, insisting not just that she’s doing fine, but that she’s doing awesomely. Why would she need to think about herself? Why would she need therapy? (“I don’t need to be shrunk like some Rick Moranis kid,” she mutters to herself, early on in the season—“I’m blowing up like a Rick Moranis baby!”) Post-Cyclone, though, Kimmy realizes that she needs help—and she gets it from, yes, Andrea. And Andrea, tellingly, begins her therapy by fighting against the cheery niceness that has been such a default aspect of Kimmy’s character. After Kimmy takes an “Ohio shower” (she uses toilet wipes) because Titus wouldn’t let her use their shared bathroom (he needed a place to store his Barbies), Andrea asks why she let him get away with that.