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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Broad City finale gets real about periods on a plane

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Even during some of the middling episodes of season three, Broad City has maintained its most striking and alluring quality: the friendship between Abbi and Ilana. First of all, friendships between two women aren’t at the center of many television shows. But this friendship is extra special because of its lack of conflict. Abbi and Ilana are different people who aren’t always necessarily on the same page, but they also aren’t in competition with one another—nor do they let little things get in the way of their steadfast love. Season three brought along the biggest conflict for both characters that we’ve seen all season. Abbi consistently lies to Ilana about her relationship with Trey for several episodes in the season, and then Ilana finds out the truth at the worst time imaginable. Still, Ilana’s emotional breakdown doesn’t really have anything to do with Abbi’s lie. She’s actually reacting to Lincoln breaking up with her. Abbi’s lie becomes an extension of her fear that everything is changing. But it isn’t enough to actually damage her relationship with her best friend. Broad City understands that friendships can be complicated without having to be conflict-ridden. There’s something genuinely fun about watching two friends have so much fun together and support each other.

Season three introduces some pretty heavy emotional stuff for both characters, but it doesn’t do so at the expense of the friendship. In fact, Abbi and Ilana seem closer than ever in “Jews On A Plane.” An episode after they had their brief fight, they were on a new adventure together, and that feels right for these characters. Even more so than its first installment “Getting There,” the finale provides a stripped-down premise that really leans into the strength of the dynamic between these two characters. The whole episode takes place on a plane, but the writers still create a whole world of possibilities for Abbi and Ilana. After everything they’ve been through this season, they’re still each other’s biggest fans, and that’s such a huge part of the show’s brilliance.

Even though Abbi and Ilana have been plucked out of their usual world of New York, the writers infuse this plane with just as much detail and heightened weirdness as they do with the show’s regular setting. The episode goes very deep into the world of this plane, and there are plenty of surprises that come from it. Ever wonder about the real reason for turbulence? According to Broad City, pilots and their co-pilots are just constantly giving each other blow jobs. As Ilana wisely points out, it’s called a cockpit. But this plane is home to more than just some casual air head. Tymberlee Hill and Tracee Ellis Ross guest star as two flight attendants who could easily sustain an entire show of their own. They get a subplot of their own that could definitely be the whole episode. Hill’s Mona has a school reunion coming up that she wants to make a splash at, and Ross’s Winona is her supportive wing woman. Peppy Winona also has a hilarious Fitbit compulsion.

On top of fleshing out these characters and bringing them to life with strange specifics, Broad City goes the extra distance, letting us know not only who they are but who they are to each other. Because when it comes to writing great relationships, the Broad City team isn’t limited to just Abbi and Ilana. Of course, with Mona and Winona, there’s less time to develop the relationship. They’re one-off bit characters who we’re not likely to ever see again (although, with this show and the interconnected web it spins, you never know). But Jacobson and Glazer, who wrote the episode, make the most of our short time with these characters, giving them over-the-top details that very quickly establish their personalities and the relationship. “I lost 200 pounds in two years, and you never said anything; I beat cancer and, come on, I was on Extreme Couponing. We never talk about me,” Winona says to Mona shortly before they stop Abbi and Ilana from carrying out what they believe will be a terrorist attack. “So yes, I love you, but I don’t like you.” It’s random and grounded all at once. This is Broad City at its best. The sheer amount of detail to Mona and Winona is bizarre, but it allows Jacobson and Glazer, to fill the episode with more than just what’s happening to Abbi and Ilana and to fire off jokes from unexpected places. It helps, of course, that Hill and Ross are fantastic actors who somehow manage to become even better when playing off each other—much like Jacobson and Glazer themselves.

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And sure enough, their fun little side story eventually merges with the main plot in the most perfect way. They could have easily just been flight attendants who body slam Abbi and Ilana on the suspicion that they’re plotting an attack, but Broad City makes them more developed characters than just that, and it makes a difference. It’s funny enough that they mistake Abbi and Ilana’s period talk for bomb talk, but it’s even funnier that one of them sees the whole thing as a hero story to tell at her upcoming reunion.


Abbi and Ilana, meanwhile, are so committed to each other that they do just about anything they can to try to sit next to each other. John Lee’s direction throughout the finale is wonderful but especially during some of the episode’s stylized moments, like the sped-up sequence of Abbi and Ilana moving seats (The interrogation at episode’s end and the aforementioned body slammings are other standout scenes as far as the direction goes).

In “Jews On A Plane,” Broad City stands out for more than just the Abbi/Ilana dynamic. The finale isn’t special just because the gals are working together—we’ve seen that in every episode since the show started. This time around, it’s what they’re working toward together that stands out. Shortly into the flight, Abbi gets her period. It comes in one of those aha moments that I instantly recognized and could relate to as a human person who menstruates. Broad City has been so straightforward and bold about sex and bodies and the ordinary but decidedly unglamorous aspects of living life that it’s surprising it took this long for the show to tackle a plot about periods. Unsurprisingly, Broad City crushes it. I can’t really think of another time when I’ve seen two women openly discuss the severity of their periods without sparing any detail. Abbi and Ilana bluntly describe day one: “It’s like fruit on the bottom,” Abbi says. Damn. That’s some real talk.


And Broad City has a certain self-awareness about how radical it’s being with all that straight talk about menstruation and bodies. As they start scouring the plane for tampons (master packer Abbi, of course, packed several, but her Drew Barrymore-approved suitcase was gate-checked against her will at the end of last episode), Abbi comes across an older woman and asks her if she has a spare tampon. The woman is flattered but tells Abbi she has menopause. Abbi forgot menopause is a thing. “Menopause isn’t represented in mainstream media,” the woman says. “No one wants to talk about it.” She looks up and, sure enough, Abbi is gone. It’s funny, but it’s also provocative commentary. Abbi and Ilana also reflect on how unfair it is that tampons aren’t free. Sometimes, Abbi and Ilana think out loud about things that don’t matter at all. Other times, they just tell it like it is. Broad City always packages its more insightful commentary in a way that feels true to the characters and makes sense in the context of the story. “Jews On A Plane” does just that magnificently. It’s an episode that’s unapologetic with its humor, and Glazer and Jacobson don’t hesitate to push it as far as they can. They’re not merely doing comedy about periods; they’re doing it loudly and proudly. But the fact of the matter is, even though the conversations Abbi and Ilana have on the plane aren’t like anything I’ve ever seen on television, they’re exactly the kind of conversations I’ve had in real life with real people I know.

Season three ends as it began: with an episode that takes a real and relatable premise that eventually spirals into an over-the-top, high-stakes adventure that shows the friendship at its finest. “I miss New York,” Ilana sighs at the end of the episode. The broads are heading home.


Stray observations

  • I can’t believe another season of Broad City is already over. I have loved covering the show this year, and I already miss it. I can’t wait for season four (and three and two and one one).
  • Adam Levine also guest stars, singing in the safety video played at the beginning of the flight. I think Levine can be great in very small doses, and Broad City seems to understand that.
  • Seriously, where is the Mona and Winona spinoff? I want it, and I want it now. Winona gave Mona a bone marrow transplant. We know so much about Mona and Winona and yet I want to know so much more.
  • The joke that the guy who looks dead is actually dead is so great, and it’s made even better by the fact that Ilana seems to have known all along.
  • Abbi is so bad at being Jewish that she sings a Christian hymn as a distraction during their tampon quest. That’s some fantastic joke escalation.
  • The title of Rachel H is already claimed by another person going on the birthright trip, so the second Rachel H has to be Rachel H2.
  • Ilana successfully achieves her dream of giving a blow job on a plane.
  • “Why did you move seats to sit next to a dead man? That’s suspicious.”
  • Ilana gives several religious “lessons” throughout the episodes, but the best is her explanation of God and Jesus: God is like the “daddy god” and Jesus is the “son god.”
  • Ilana finally figures out what she wants to do with her life: make enough money to fly in first class. That felt like a fun nod to anyone who has suggested this season that Ilana needs to grow up. It also, honestly, does feel like progress for Ilana.