Abbi and Ilana Leave the Door Open Behind Them in a Generous Series Finale
After five seasons on Comedy Central of phone wigs, pegging, the blue dress, lots of pot and dozens of exclamations of “Dude!” the excellent sitcom Broad City has reached the end of the subway line.
It concluded after its finest season, which lifted the stasis that made the previous season uneven and a little wobbly, allowing our heroes Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer (Abrams and Wexler on the show, respectively) to finally change and grow toward a trajectory that would take them beyond the series’ boundaries.
Many will write about this last season’s emphasis on growth and change. Abbi discovers that, yeah, she likes dating women after all and wants more out of life than what bedbug-ridden New York City can give her. Ilana lets go of her soulfriend and that perfect ass she’s been surreptitiously filming for years. But Ilana also finds her calling: transforming into a high-powered, badass therapist ready to assist in the neuroses of many future Type-A Abbis.
For me, though, the most powerful thing about the last season played out in the final moments and had nothing to do with our protagonists.
After a brief, split-screen, long-distance phone conversation showing the two are just as attached as ever, the camera pulls off Ilana descending into the Union Square Station subway while two women, one white, one African-American, emerge. They’re talking about whether DJing requires any skills. “I think it’s just a playlist, right?” one of them asks. Behind them, a trans woman and gay friend are talking about a rooftop party they attended the night before with at least one NBA player. Two Latinas speaking Spanish follow, high-fiving and joking about a nail salon that serves mimosas. And finally, two African-American women are breaking down their encounter with a homeless man, in which one of them gave money, but made change.
The camera pulls up to show dozens of other NYC pairings and the audio is a babble of more conversations just like these. So many stories, so many best friends just like Abbi and Ilana, so many laughs.
For a show that continued to champion intersectionality even as it made fun of its main characters’ white privilege, it was a particularly generous moment. By taking the focus off its stars and pointing the camera to the outside world, Broad City told its audience, and TV executives that could barely stomach a “Girly” sitcom, that there are many more stories out there, just like these, from creators of all kinds.
If this were a eureka moment for Broad City, the turn would be jarring. But Broad City always championed not only the otherness that the two faced in everything from being Jewish to being two broke girls to being subjected to gross men who think they should smile more.
It had plenty of room, though, for Ilana’s sensitive queer roomie Jaime, her conservative dentist boyfriend Lincoln (Hannibal Burress, morphing before our eyes into a LASIK-enabled hunk), and RuPaul as a sushi-restaurant-owning nasty bitch.
Like other buddy sitcoms it inspired or existed alongside, including The Other Two, the underwatched Playing House, and Comedy Central’s own canceled Detroiters, it found universality in its two heroines by turning a hangout sitcom into a weekly, unpredictable adventure.
Last season, as they tripped balls on ‘shrooms in a partly animated episode, Ilana and Abbi ruminated on themselves. “Sometimes I feel like our dynamic is special and we should capture it,” Ilana says. “I feel like people would really relate to it,” Abbi replies.
These are two talented comics evolving their characters into young thirtysomething conquerors. But the shifting, unselfish message by the finale is that all New York besties, regardless of race, language, sexual orientation, or gender have hilarious, raunchy, unbelievable stories to tell.
And we should get to hear them.