How about that cold open?

There is no way a Broad City episode opening with a jubilant hip-hop homage set to Drake’s “Started From The Bottom”—with Ilana doing a kinetic Nicki Minaj impression and a nearly-unrecognizable Abbi outfitted in a garbage bag sumo suit like Missy Elliott in 1997’s classic “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)” video—is getting anything less than an A. Especially this Broad City episode, which is the most assured entry in an already impressively assured debut season.

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Written by Tami Sagher, who also wrote “Hurricane Wanda” from two weeks ago, “Apartment Hunting” is decidedly less slice-of-life and low-key than the web series and episodes like “Stolen Phone.” And although Broad City does slightly-skewed observational comedy well, this episode underlines that Abbi and Ilana’s relationship can anchor the series even when it starts cranking up the zany (and even when the pair’s storylines hardly intersect). Like Abbi with her eight thousand f*cking thousand dollar check, the series has seen its resources balloon since its DIY days, which allows for scenes like the perfect, extravagant musical opener.

This sense of the series expanding its boundaries and dabbling in excess continues throughout the episode, which takes fairly standard comedy tropes—the infuriating call waiting experience, the horrors of New York City apartment hunting, the ex-boyfriend who won’t let go—and brings them to surreal and slightly sinister places.

Amy Sedaris’ deranged screen presence tends to infuse whatever she’s in with an anarchic electricity, and her appearance early on as Pam, the world’s most terrifying broker, continues the high-octave tone established in the cold open. Abbi, disgusted by Bevers’ Julianna Margulies-fueled onanistic interludes (hey, there’s a phrase I never thought I’d type) decides to take the money she receives from her first major illustration gig and get a new place, which is why Pam brings Abbi and Ilana on the apartment hunt from hell. The bathroom-less hallway Pam tries to pass off as a charming railroad apartment was unsettlingly close to the truth, but here’s hoping the blood-smattered second apartment (with really thick walls) is just a depiction of urban legend.

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Ilana plays the straight man for much of the episode, which means she doesn’t get as many big comedic moments as she normally does, save for a wonderfully inappropriate scene with Lincoln at his dentist’s chair near the end of the episode. Ilana is usually the one who acts as a catalyst for mayhem, but here she primarily reacts to an inane, infuriating customer service line for the cable package she canceled months earlier. This might sacrifice a few laughs within the episode, but her understandable frustration at getting put on “pre-hold” and having to deal with a sublimely creepy ex-boyfriend to put an end to her cable woes goes a long way to illustrate that her character isn’t just a charismatic volcano of id and bad decisions—she’s a maniac, yes, but she’s a maniac living in an all-too-recognizable urban world of red tape and terrible telecommunications companies.

Ilana’s reluctant phone call to the ex-boyfriend, Dale (played by Tim Martin, a Upright Citizen’s Brigade stalwart who, according to Broad City’s Twitter account, is responsible for introducing real-life Ilana and Abbi, and to whom we should be forever indebted) will probably ring true for anyone who has ever dealt with an ex out of necessity. And then it takes a turn for the dark, in a way that makes me want to keep very good track of my remote controls, forever.

If every episode kept our One True Pairing split up as much as this one did, I’d have some complaints, but the way “Apartment Hunting” expanded the show’s sensibilities to allow more darkness makes it hard to feel too sad that Ilana wasn’t there to witness Abbi’s sputtering humiliation when she finally finds the perfect apartment and the perfect ethnically diverse roommate couple only to find herself cast as a racist when the commercial featuring her illustration turns out to be a commercial for a white supremacist dating website. Also, having Lincoln accompany Abbi on her apartment hunt gives us a scene with Hannibal Buress enthusing over crown molding and a sink so large “you could put a baby in it,” which is worth mixing up the character pairings.

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Next week is the season finale, and it will be hard to top this penultimate episode’s polish and pizzazz, but here’s hoping the girls get some more scenes together.

  • Wonder how long it took the set designers to cut out all of those pictures of Ilana for the end scene?
  • Speaking of the boiler room underwear Christmas tree nightmare scene, that is only the second-most disturbing part of this episode. Bevers’ in-depth, heavily-bleeped description of his masturbation technique is now seared in my mind.
  • Jaime thinking a dictaphone was a “dick phone” is one of those throwaway jokes that might get lost in an episode full of big scenes like this, but it made me laugh.
  • Many thanks to Caroline Framke for letting me cover this episode. Your intrepid regular Broad City reviewer should be back for next week’s finale.

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