Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt has always been a show about abuse, but it took until its third season for Kimmy (Ellie Kemper) to directly acknowledge one of the biggest traumas she suffered in the bunker.
When the Reverend's (Jon Hamm) new girlfriend Wendy (Laura Dern) arrives at Kimmy and Titus' (Tituss Burgess) doorstep with divorce papers for Kimmy to sign, she completely ignores the abuse "Dick" inflicted on Kimmy and the other women he kept imprisoned for 15 years. "It's kind of sophisticated, if you think about it," a gleeful Wendy exclaims. "An evening in Manhattan with my lover's wife. It sounds like a Noël Coward play!"
But Kimmy has no patience for Wendy romanticizing her abuse and — for the first time in three seasons — she verbalizes the sexual abuse she suffered for over a decade, telling Wendy that her comparison would only be accurate "If Noël Coward really was a coward who rapes everybody."
Hearing the word "rape" come out of Kimmy's mouth was jarring, but many fans were excited for the show to finally explore Kimmy's sexual assault head-on. (In its second season, Kimmy Schmidt dug into Kimmy's PTSD, but the show has never used the words "rape" or "sexual assault" to describe anything Kimmy or the other women were subjected to.) However, that small but crucial moment was the only time Kimmy's rape was addressed in the entirety of the season. And as it stands, it's unclear when — if ever — the show will dedicate more time to fully exploring those experiences.
"I don't know exactly," executive producer Robert Carlock told TVGuide.com. "That's always been — at least to us — that's always been a very clear subject. And whether Kimmy is describing certain things in a kind of Life of Pi way that maybe happened differently or whether she's simply not talking about them, there have been a lot of things, to us, that stand in for obviously terrible things [that] happened there."
Due to the seriousness of the issue and Kimmy's penchant for repressing the negative aspects of the world, it makes sense that sexual assault wouldn't be something she'd be very keen on speaking openly about. But Carlock is hopeful that one day they'll find a way to balance directly discussing Kimmy's rape with Kimmy Schmidt's lighter tone.
"She needs to fully explore that," Carlock says. "It's a tricky line, obviously, to walk. Bad things happened to her in there and yet we're doing a comedy. We love walking that line and we think that important things can be said and approached through comedy, but at the same time, we know it's definitely a line to walk and you have to be careful and we're very conscious of it."
For now, viewers can at least be content with Kimmy finally verbalizing the sexual assault. Hopefully, it was the first of many steps towards Kimmy being comfortable discussing, dealing with and eventually healing from her abuse.
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is available to stream on Netflix now.
Additional reporting by Joyce Eng