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Bedbugs, muggers, and unemployment plague Broad City, but at least Abbi and Ilana have each other

Broad City
Broad City
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Broad City has consistently strong cold opens. “Bedbugs” opens with Abbi and Ilana driving around in the convertible Ilana got out of their trip to Florida earlier in the season. At first, they’re riding the high of having a car in New York...until it’s time to park. Anyone who has ever had to deal with street parking in New York knows it’s a hellscape. Broad City is brilliant in these moments that take a specific aspect of New York life and mine it for relatable and organic comedy. The sequence is barely even exaggerated for comedic effect. Abbi directs Ilana into a tight spot only to then realize it’s in front of a driveway. After a long search, they think they see a spot, become excited and relieved, and then come crashing back down when they realize there’s a fire hydrant. Eventually, they give up entirely. It’s a tragic play. It’s a slice of New York life. It’s a great cold open that doesn’t have to try too hard to be funny. Broad City shows the extreme highs and lows of living in New York, and “Bedbugs” is full of that emotional whiplash.


And that easy, understated humor permeates “Bedbugs,” the second episode of the season to be directed by Ilana Glazer. I liked her directorial debut “Florida,” but there’s something more confident and cohesive about “Bedbugs,” which sees both Ilana and Abbi through two personal lows. Still out of a job and forced to turn in cans and bottles for a few bucks, Abbi’s luck turns around after Ilana bestows her with an absurdly expensive bag. Suddenly, Abbi’s living in a romcom version of New York or, more accurately, a romcom version of New York filtered through the wacky lens of Broad City. Glazer’s direction plays up the romance with sweeping camerawork, but a masturbating guy on the street reminds that the romanticized Hollywood version of New York isn’t real. Even artists with successful work showing around the world are broke.


Abbi’s bag confidence peaks when she goes into Anthropologie, a store so ridiculously overpriced that it seems to exist on a different plane. Sure enough, Abbi’s little voyage into Anthropologie has an almost fantastical vibe to it as she sniffs the perfect display of candles and wanders the store’s sacred halls. The bag’s magic is short-lived. Abbi comes crashing back to reality when a mugger, played by Steve Buscemi, holds her up and takes her to her local bodega to take out money. When he sees her bank account, he’s appalled and starts lecturing her on the importance of having money for emergencies and being more proactive about her equity. A mugger lecturing Abbi on her finances is just the right amount of absurd, heightened but still grounded, underscoring just how dire her financial situation is.

It’s not Buscemi with the best guest performance of the episode but rather Zephyr Ingle as Massouma, the girl who works at the bodega. Abbi comes to the bodega enough for Massouma to know her by name but Abbi doesn’t know hers. Ingle plays Massouma’s annoyance at Abbi with a perfectly straight-face. Broad City sprinkles its universe with fun and specific one-off characters, and Massouma is a great example. She’s funny, but she’s also more than just a bit character. And the episode places her in the larger context of the show’s universe: She and Ilana are tight enough to have each other’s phone numbers. Abbi comes off looking like a “dumb white bitch,” as she puts it herself. If you don’t know the names of the people who ring you up at the bodega on a near daily basis, you’re kind of a shitty person, and Broad City acknowledges that.

Given Ilana’s excessive spending all season, her comeuppance was inevitable. Abbi isn’t the only one to face one of New York’s monsters when she gets mugged. Ilana and Jaime get bedbugs. The ruthless way Ilana’s family and boyfriend treat her after finding out she has bedbugs is all too real. People in New York treat bedbugs like the actual plague. Lea Delaria has a fun cameo as the exterminator who finds the source of their bedbugs: all the cash Ilana was stuffing into her comforter. It all has to be burned. Ilana’s financial irresponsibility has severe consequences, and she can’t recoup the lost money because, as it turns out, Sushi Mambeaux was the source of the infestation and is closing down.

Now Abbi’s the one with a job (as security at Anthropologie, which wasn’t really the glam vision she had in mind...expectations versus reality have been extremely divergent for Abbi as of late) and Ilana’s the one who’s unemployed. More so than in past seasons, this season of Broad City has been showing Abbi and Ilana genuinely struggle financially and experience how tough it can be to find steady employment in New York. Their lack of steady employment has significantly affected the season—as it should. “Bedbugs” isn’t necessarily cynical, but it’s a realistically dark episode that puts Abbi and Ilana through some shit. In the end, they still have each other (and the real hero of the episode: Massouma). Sometimes the only thing you can do after an exceptionally shitty day is just be with your best friend.


Stray observations

  • My girlfriend has a car, and I have spent many nights riding in the passenger seat as we scour our neighborhood in Brooklyn for a parking spot. It’s a regular part of our lives, and watching it represented on television was both an incredibly satisfying and frustrating experience.
  • Did anyone else see sparks flying between Lisa and Abbi?
  • Ilana’s line reading of “I love money, fuck” is wonderful.
  • I love that Abbi’s first question about the bag is whether it’s as expensive as the blue dress. That blue dress has become one of the most significant recurring props on the show.
  • Lincoln names his new pup sticky after his favorite type of rice!
  • The end credits scene offensively makes a joke out of sex work, which this show has a troubling track record of doing.

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