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Abbi and Ilana are more than their shenanigans on Broad City

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Image: Broad City (Comedy Central)

Broad City is doing so many things right in its final season. It’s reaching back into its characters pasts in order to propel them into the future, wrapping some storylines up while pushing others into new and compelling directions that play on what we know what the characters while also revealing growth for them. The show is playing to its strengths to the point where this final season feels very much like a greatest hits album, but at the same time, it isn’t just repeating what it knows. The final season feels fresh and familiar all at once.

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Another fun thing the final season is doing is not only sending its central characters off to new and exciting places but also providing some closure or at least checking in with the series’ recurring and bit characters from throughout its life. In “Shenanigans,” Amy Sedaris returns as the sketchy real estate agent Pam who showed Abbi and Ilana terrible apartments once upon a time. Janeane Garofalo also returns as the vet who is both into and disgusted by Ilana all at once. They’re both, unsurprisingly, hilarious, strong examples of the kinds of specific, strange, but still somewhat grounded characters Broad City populates its world with.

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Ilana’s parents, played by Susie Essman and Bob Balaban, also return along with her brother Eliot, played by Ilana Glazer’s real-life brother Eliot Glazer. There are some delightful Wexler shenanigans, like the fact that Ilana’s mom is more excited about her booking a Devacurl modeling gig than about her getting into Hunter College’s grad program. The snuck-in soup is also so good.

But the emotional core of the episode really belongs to Abbi, who gets dumped in the very first scene. It’s almost too real, one of those special moments where Broad City reminds you that it is, indeed, not just about shenanigans but about real women with real lives who are learning about themselves, fucking up, and forming new relationships. Leslie, played by Clea DuVall, bristles at Abbi recounting her previous night, when too much tequila led to a sprained foot and hazy memories. They are, as Leslie points out, in very different stages of life. She accuses Abbi of getting into too many shenanigans, which is of course something we’re intimately familiar with. We’ve watched Abbi and Ilana get into shenanigans for five seasons now.

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While Leslie might have a bit of a point about them being on different pages, her words are mean. They strip Abbi of some of her agency. Whether intentional or not, it’s a bit of a meta dissection of Broad City criticism that posits the show as merely one about two friends getting into shenanigans. Broad City has proven it’s more than that, that there’s more to Abbi and Ilana than their mishaps and their weed-fueled, madcap adventures. The show is more than its shenanigans. Though, let’s be real, the shenanigans are great. Abbi getting stuck in an air shaft because she’s too distracted trying to curate an “adult” Instagram story to flaunt in front of Leslie is just pure Broad City magic.

And the subsequent phone call with Leslie is another one of those surprisingly real, earnest Broad City moments. Sure, it gets tied up with a joke at the end, but Abbi’s confession that she needs Leslie to call an ambulance doesn’t undercut anything that comes before it, just resituates us back in Broad City’s usual self-deprecating tone. It’s genuinely moving to hear Abbi express to Leslie that her feelings were hurt by their conversation that morning—those aren’t words you hear a lot in television or in life. But Abbi tries to hold Leslie accountable for her words, and Leslie is open to it. She’s open to adjusting some of her own expectations, because she does like Abbi. The fact that she still ends up dumping her again because of the whole air shaft thing is...fine, though not the strongest ending to the storyline.

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In any case, we’re onto a much bigger emotional cliffhanger. Abbi is thinking of leaving NYC, which means leaving Ilana, something Ilana for sure doesn’t see coming, because the show makes that abundantly clear. It’s a truly gutting case of dramatic irony. Broad City seems poised to blow up its very foundation.


Stray observations

  • Abbi Jacobson and Clea DuVall have such natural chemistry together. Get them in a rom-com, stat!
  • On that note, Abbi lamenting that the dumb yellow hat looks cute on Leslie is great (and gay!).
  • Okay, I’m all about grotesque comedy, but it was truly hard for me to look at Ilana’s eye. Also I already had a fear of air conditioner droplets.
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