It’s become a cue for eye-rolling to say that a show treats New York City as “another character.” Still, it hasn’t become less true of most shows set there, because the truth is that living in New York is truly unlike living in any other city in the country. Between the sheer density, fast-paced lifestyle (literally—you will get trampled), and transportation that can take you from one end of the island to another in under an hour for three bucks, New York City presents a unique setting for a television show. Characters will inevitably run into situations or people that they wouldn’t in a place that is naturally more isolated. It is completely legitimate for a show to acknowledge that this kind of spontaneity is a New York special.
On the other hand, it’s also extremely easy to make people outside the city feel like they’re on the outskirts of some aggressively cool club. A show has to be totally sure of itself before it veers into that potentially alienating, “you won’t understand unless you live in New York City” territory. As easy and natural as it is for a show to make its New York City setting a prominent feature, it’s just as easy to put up a wall between its characters and those viewers who won’t understand its references. Series like Sex And the City, Friends, How I Met Your Mother, and even Gossip Girl found their greatest successes when they could combine their “I <3 NY” flag-waving with explorations of universal experiences, like family, sex, heartbreak, or that crazy neighbor (you know the one) somehow experiencing all three of the preceding experiences.
“Destination Wedding” is a perfect example of just how well Broad City rides that balance. Don’t get me wrong; New York City is a huge, indelible part of the show. Episodes like “The Lockout,” where Abbi and Ilana end up dragging their lives across boroughs, and “Stolen Phone,” where they chase a stolen phone and end up accidentally getting a tourists-eye view of their city, are purposefully specific to the realities of New York. Even just having the subway is a gamechanger for shows, especially one like Broad City, which follows two women who wouldn’t have the money to drag their sorry asses to as many disparate places in New York without a Metro Card. But Broad City rarely resorts to someone grandly stating, “this could only happen in New York!” It’s often implied, but it’s never the driving force behind a scene.
And so “Destination Wedding” focuses on the broads trying to get out of New York City without totally depending on New York-specific details for the bulk of the humor. Yes, their mad dash to Connecticut takes its course through just about every mode of New York transportation. They sprint to both Penn and Grand Central Stations, cram into a doomed taxi, sweat it out in a doomed rental truck, charge down avenues on Citibikes, and sit for as long as they dare on a Chinatown bus that takes that old “bus people are scary” trope and ramps it up to 11,000 (see: stuffed raccoons and spilling tanks of rancid fish). There are details that benefit from people’s familiarity with New York, like how Penn Station horrifies Abbi’s date so much that he breaks up with her rather than go, or how Lincoln, who’s presumably been living in New York for a while now, stops in his tracks to realize that Grand Central Station is pretty fucking majestic when you’re not sprinting through it. Still, Glazer and Jacobson’s script makes the smart decision to keep this location-based humor light. Instead, “Destination Wedding” expands Ilana and Abbi’s world with a rare glimpse into their lives before we met them. Before Abbi knew Ilana, she was apparently saving unsuspecting guests from cheese ball shortages as a cater waiter. Alongside Abbi was bride Darcy, frantic junkie Kevin (Todd Alan Crain), and hyperactive sycophant Morgan (Morgan Grace Jarrett). It’s unclear how long Abbi knew Morgan and Darcy before she knew Ilana; Ilana comes out the gate wearing her own catering uniform, suggesting that they worked together at some point. But before Ilana Wexler wormed her way into Abbi’s heart, Abbi was part of this “trifecta” friendship with Darcy and Morgan (sorry, Kevin—it was never a quad). The chances that Ilana would like tightly-wound Morgan were slim to begin with, but Morgan’s adoration of Abbi is the nail in the coffin. No one can love Abbi as much as Ilana does—especially not some high-pitched control freak who can’t even remember that Ilana’s changed her email address from email@example.com to firstname.lastname@example.org. Glazer plays Ilana’s irritation beautifully throughout “Destination Wedding,” but the scene that makes the episode is when the girls are trying to balance in the back of their absurd rental truck. Ilana literally goes with the flow, using her sick dance moves as a way to keep herself centered in the rocking traffic. Meanwhile, Morgan careens around the carriage while talking a mile a minute at Abbi, who’s strapped herself to the wall of the truck like a bug trapped in a spider’s web, waiting for her inevitable doom. If you showed just this scene to someone who had never seen Broad City, they would understand these characters and their relationship to each other immediately.
The turning point for “Destination Wedding,” though, is when Morgan finds Ilana’s weak spot. While waiting for the terrifying Chinatown bus, Morgan realizes that she knows something Ilana doesn’t about Abbi, and her grin grows three sizes when she realizes how much it will hurt. “When we went to the Hamptons”—without Ilana—“Abbi and Darcy made out.” Boom. Ilana’s world shatters. It’s a very funny moment, thanks in part to the sound cutting out in a callback to Abbi’s despair in “Working Girls,” but it’s also a surprisingly poignant one. Yes, it was before Abbi knew Ilana, but the real issue here is that Abbi was ever that intimate with someone else. It’s a betrayal that almost proves unforgivable. Time and time again, Ilana’s shown that she hates the very thought of Abbi having a life outside of their friendship. Hell, she hates the thought of herself having a life outside of their friendship. She’d never say it, but the chink of self-doubt in Ilana’s unwaveringly confident armor is that she might love Abbi more than Abbi loves her. You don’t have to have had as close a relationship as they do to know how much that kind of insecurity can hurt in friendship, which is why it’s so satisfying for us and Ilana when Abbi finally tells Morgan that the “trifecta” is dead—long live the unstoppable duo of Ilana and Abbi.
“Destination Wedding” really only has one storyline to speak of—people try and fail to get to a wedding—but Glazer and Jacobson’s script combined with Nicholas Jasenovec’s direction ensures that the episode moves at a breakneck pace. Every scene is so packed with jokes, callbacks, and nods toward character development that it’s just about impossible to catch them all on first run. The race against the clock is a rush, but it’d be a shame to miss the details woven throughout the episode, like the bus driver’s eye patch, or Morgan’s relaxation tape from her brother ending with, “you are strong, you are supple.” No one on this show is slacking off for a second, and it is a thrill.
- Shoutout to artist Mike Perry for consistently turning out beautiful graphics for the opening credits—tonight’s animation is particularly slick.
- Tonight in casting fun: Orange Is The New Black’s Michelle Hurst. Miss Claudette might not approve of her rental employee who only gives a shit about Idris Elba, but I really do.
- I’ve said before that I was thrilled to see Ilana’s crush on Abbi translate from the webseries to the television show, but I may be even more excited that Abbi’s wariness toward big dicks made the transition.
- As a critic, I wanted to see more of how gross Penn Station was in contrast to Grand Central’s majesty. As a New Jersey native, I’m grateful we didn’t spend more time there than we had to.
- Ilana and Lincoln saying goodbye was another lovely moment of character development. Figure it out, you crazy kids!
- As is appropriate and perfect for her, Ilana’s prime motivator in life is Rihanna’s Instagram.
- I was all set to say the high point was Abbi telling Morgan, “go fuck your brother, dude”—AND THEN MORGAN DID. Sometimes, there’s so much beauty in the world, I feel like I can’t take it. Delete, delete, delete!