There are so many ways in which TV crossovers can feel superfluous, but Netflix earned my respect, as well as an actual (and frankly startling) bark of laughter, with a particularly well-deployed one in the third season of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.
It happens in episode five, “Kimmy Steps on a Crack!” when Kimmy’s true-believer former bunkermate Gretchen (Lauren Adams) gets arrested after failing to start her own cult (it turns out that teenage boys don’t make the best kidnapping victims). Her arrest is a bummer, but Gretchen doesn’t see it as an ending so much as an opportunity to try again — and this time, she’ll try to start an all-female cult instead.
The next time we see her, she’s getting off the bus at a familiar location: Orange Is the New Black’s Litchfield Penitentiary, where she immediately begins preaching her demented gospel to her fellow new inmates. One of them includes conspiracy theory enthusiast Black Cindy (Adrienne C. Moore), who apparently enjoys “the orca part” of Gretchen’s teachings (whatever that means) because Cindy once stabbed her boss at SeaWorld. Gretchen, beaming, then declares that she is “loving this” as she strides into Litchfield to start her new life.
It’s a quick scene, which is probably why it works so well (unlike, say, Netflix’s recent and unfortunate “Orange Is the New Black Mirror” attempt to recreate the magic of Black Mirror’s “San Junipero” in the name of creating shareable social media content). Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt lingers at Litchfield just long enough to make it clear how well-suited the fervently faithful Gretchen is to prison before moving right along, leaving us to wonder whether or not she managed to successfully pull together her cult before all hell broke loose at the end of Orange Is the New Black’s fourth season. (I’m assuming Gretchen arrived at Litchfield before that point; the joke doesn’t get into the particulars of this Netflix crossover timeline, but if Gretchen showed up at the same time as Black Cindy, she’s been there for a little while.)
Really, the only thing that could make this moment better is if we ultimately get a glimpse of Gretchen recruiting followers in the background of Orange Is the New Black’s upcoming fifth season. Please make this happen, Netflix. Do it for the golden age of television!