Broad City

Given that the season opens with the brilliantly told story of how Abbi and Ilana first met, their “Friendiversary” is a fitting way to cap off season four. Broad City never follows a traditional narrative structure, so “Friendiversary” isn’t an overt sequel to “Sliding Doors,” but its final scene, beautifully and intimately directed by Nicholas Jasenovec directly connects the two episodes. Genre-wise and structurally, the episode stands on its own apart from from “Sliding Doors” but is as effective at exploring the specifics of Abbi and Ilana’s friendship, pulling humor from dark places and centering their deep, persistent love for one another.

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Part platonic rom-com, part murder mystery, “Friendiversary” is a lot of things at once, but it all comes together surprisingly well. The opening scavenger hunt plays into Abbi and Ilana’s ongoing thirst for hijinks and builds on how well they know each other. Abbi doesn’t have to think too hard about any of the clues, which are all based on experiences she and Ilana have had together. They both know each other so well, and it shows. Their adventures can sometimes zig-zag and go down weird tangents, but nothing ever feels too random on this show, Abbi and Ilana’s actions rooted in the specificities of their friendship. They eat platefuls of chicken tenders and guzzle frozen margaritas on their friendiversary date, and we easily accept that that’s just what they do; it’s who they are. Broad City is so confident about characterization and relationship dynamics, always grounded in a strong sense of character so that even though Abbi and and Ilana are complex, they’re consistent.

Ilana stalking Abbi along the way makes for a great visual gag, especially when the episode pushes it so wildly far with Ilana admitting to Abbi in their time of crisis that she was the horse she rode. It makes no sense and yet so much sense all at once. Broad City celebrates its characters’ weirdness in a way that isn’t self-deprecating, and that’s refreshing. Their weirdness feels real rather than just a joke.

And even though it turns out that Abbi didn’t even remember it was their friendiversary, that doesn’t take away from their friendship. Even when there’s conflict, Broad City never becomes cynical about Abbi and Ilana’s relationship. Their friendship is familiar and safe, a warm blanket in the cold, dark, S.A.D.-inducing winter. Ilana knows in the end that Abbi forgot, even though she goes along with Abbi’s bad improvisation for so long. Again, they know each other well. It’s even telling of their relationship that Abbi thought Ilana was just doing all of this for funsies. They have so many wild adventures that this could really just be another night for them...that is, until Ilana gifts her with an inappropriately personal family heirloom that even she later admits was way too much. But both Abbi and Ilana are entirely themselves throughout the episode, and more than that, their friendship remains authentically specific to them, too. We’ve spent a lot of time with these characters at this point, and as they nostalgically reflect on their time together in the final scene, it’s easy to get swept up in that moment. Broad City has invited us into all the messy and intimate parts of this friendship so thoroughly.

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Once Abbi and Ilana witness a man (Dennis O’Hare) throw what they assume to be a human woman over the side of a fifth-story balcony, the episode takes a turn, evoking the brilliant Search Party. Their attempts at solving a murder together are dark and twisty but ridiculous and hilarious, too. And when they get stuck in a life-or-death situation, the true depth of their love for one another is pulled to the surface: Abbi is willing to sacrifice her life to save Ilana’s. That’s some heavy shit, and Broad City of course lightens the mood quickly by revealing that the “murderer” is really just a lonely guy who accidentally dropped his sex doll off his balcony. But that doesn’t take away from the sincerity of that moment in the closet. Abbi may have forgotten their friendiversary, but she would do anything to protect Ilana.

They have come a long way since they first wrote their names in that cement in 2011 and had a lot of wacky adventures. But even more than that, they’ve formed a bond that cannot be broken, their connection evolving into a relationship that seems to defy the limits of language, somewhere between friendship and romance. It has been a bit of a mixed bag of a season, but “Sliding Doors” and “Friendiversary” are both very strong bookends, fully capturing the dynamics of Abbi and Ilana’s friendship.


Stray observations

  • Thanks for joining me for another season of Broad City! One of my favorite things about this season was Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson breaking into directing. I hope to see more of that in the future.
  • The accordion folder of takeout menus is indeed disturbing.
  • Ilana spent $12,000 on the massive heads, so presumably she planned this evening long before she lost her job.
  • The way the not-murderer eats the cake is one of the most terrifying parts of the episode.

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