Image: Broad City (Comedy Central)
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Broad City is really seizing the opportunity of a planned final season to really push Abbi and Ilana through some really big moments in their lives. “Artsy Fartsy” follows a pretty typical episode structure for the series and includes a lot of the show’s signature weirdo moments that just feel so much like they could only happen on this show. But within that typical structure, the writers weave in hugely significant character moments for both women that build on some of their history. It’s smart, sharp writing, and it’s doused in the show’s distinct sense of humor.

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Ilana and Lincoln’s relationship renegotiation, for example, is strikingly serious in its scope and weight but also still balanced out with silly comedy. The conversation itself is very mature and a healthy choice for two people in a relationship. I had kind of forgotten about Ilana telling Lincoln that she only wanted to date monogamously on the condition that they revisit after a year, and the show could have easily forgotten about it, too, so I’m pleasantly surprised to see that it was such an intentional choice that the writers would eventually follow through on. Things start off very funny, with Ilana trying to make a hard sell for wanting to have sex on a rollercoaster at some point and Lincoln earnestly explaining that he doesn’t want to do that out of fear. The way Lincoln brings up his request that they watch four rom-coms a year together is so him and so funny. For both Lincoln and Ilana, the humor of these negotiation scenes feels so strongly rooted in character.

On a very real note, it’s rare to see couples talk about boundaries so explicitly on television (and in real life, for that matter), and the fact that Broad City dedicates an entire main storyline to two people navigating and expressing their relationship needs and desires is striking. Things get even more serious once Lincoln brings up his desire to move to Maryland to start a practice with his brother and also to have a family. Ilana’s struck by this, and it’s certainly a lot to drop on someone over dinner, but Lincoln’s also just being honest. Ilana and Lincoln might just be one of the healthiest relationships on television given all this open, honest communication.

And plenty of silliness gets mixed in with the weighty stuff. The physical comedy of Ilana shoving pasta in her mouth while she emotionally processes the likely end of her relationship is pure gold. But it does seem like Ilana and Lincoln storylines always somehow end with a lot of farting. But maybe that’s kind of cute because it’s like their thing? I can’t believe this show has me seeing potential romance in the level of comfort this couple has with each other in terms of their digestive systems, but here we are!

Following her departure from Anthropologie last episode and her decision to really focus on her art, Abbi continues to travel along that path of self-discovery and refocusing. She runs into an old friend from college (played by Broad City writer and director Lucia Aniello!) who invites her to an artist party at MoMa, and things take a classically unfortunate turn when the catering gig Abbi calls out of ends up being this exact party. A throwbacky sitcom premise ensues, with Abbi having to both act like a party guest in order to seem cool and also still serve as a cater waiter in order to not get fired.

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And within that simple setup, Broad City unearths a lot of deeply rooted internal stuff for Abbi, particularly when it comes to some of her insecurities about where she’s at in life. But a conversation with an artist she admires provides some hope. Broad City yet again strikes a crucial balance between putting Abbi through the ringer but also not being too punishing. The shitty stuff that happens to her is indeed funny, but the show never becomes too cynical in these moments.

So after a truly terrible night that ends with her face smashed when she faints, Abbi gets an unexpected win that also pushes her character arc in an interesting new direction. Clea Duvall guest stars as her hot emergency room doctor, and there’s immediately a spark. That spark surprises Abbi, and while she’s a bit nervous, she doesn’t entirely run away from it. As she later explains to Ilana, she realized that the only reason she wasn’t asking her out was because she’s a woman and hadn’t really considered that for herself yet. Broad City is starting to tell a really compelling story about sexuality here. And there are specific moments within Lesley and Abbi’s initial interaction that feel so distinctly queer in a way that reads as authentic and exciting.

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It has long been an established thing on the show that Ilana is attracted to Abbi. And Ilana’s reaction to finding out that Abbi is going on a date with a woman reiterates that that attraction was never merely a joke. It’s a real layer to their friendship. Ilana essentially has a freak out about the news but also wants to be supportive and chill so holds a lot of it in, something Ilana Glazer ends up playing masterfully. Abbi and Ilana taking new directions from themselves is obviously going to have an impact on their relationship, and the glimpses of that we see here are fully felt and meaningful.


Stray observations

  • It was announced ahead of this season that Abbi would start exploring her sexuality this season, so all season so far, every time Abbi talks to a new female character, I’ve been at the edge of my seat, but I should have known the show would pull some stunty casting like getting CLEA DUVALL to play Abbi’s first queer love interest. What a power move.
  • Anti-Trump sentiment has become such a strong part of the show’s visualscape.
  • Donna is the worst. For a second I worried Abbi was gonna get romantically involved with HER.
  • The slow sliding of the curtain Lesley does...what a move.
  • Abbi wrote this episode, and Ilana directed.

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