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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Broad City makes space for personal growth for Abbi and Ilana

Illustration for article titled Broad City makes space for personal growth for Abbi and Ilana
Image: Broad City (Comedy Central)

Television comedies usually allow very little room for personal growth, because if the characters evolve too much and fix all of their flaws, then what exactly are we watching anymore? While Abbi and Ilana do often fall into the same traps and run up against the same obstacles in their life journeys, there has been a surprising amount of growth and changes that feel very true to life and not just scripted.


“Make The Space” is a very odd episode of television, though there’s nothing explicit about its premise that suggests so. Like most of the top Broad City episodes, it’s incredibly simple in its components: Abbi and Ilana learn that Jaime is a hoarder and stage an intervention. But as it unfolds, we watch people realize their problems, reorganize their boundaries, and evolve...all over the course of just 20 minutes and all the while being funny and true to the show’s oddball voice. Jen Statsky delivers a sneakily brilliant script, and Ilana Glazer brings it to life with her direction of what ends up being pretty close to a bottle episode, largely taking place in Ilana’s apartment during a faux therapy session that’s weirdly productive for all involved, but especially Ilana, who walks away with a new potential career path.

The episode gets a lot of jokes out of Ilana just mimicking the surface-level details of a therapy session—from her flowy white outfit to the way she sets up her “office” to the phrases she uses, like when she warns Abbi against wasting Jaime’s hour and also notes that they ran over a bit. It’s a pretty spot-on impression of an NYC therapist, laced with typical Ilana-isms, too, which as Johnny points out lends a certain unprofessionalism to the whole experience.

But she’s admittedly good at this shit, too. Maybe not completely intentionally, she does get Jaime and Johnny to open up to each other as if they were in a real couples therapy session. Jaime admits that the hoarding started when he was feeling a lack of control over his immigration status, but he also admits that it escalated when he started falling in love with Johnny. Scared that he didn’t deserve that love, he started self-sabotaging. His self-awareness here is striking, but even more so because he resolves to do something about it. It’s so rare to see that kind of deliberate action from characters on television and, frankly, from people in real life, too. Broad City isn’t only destigmatizing mental health by speaking so candidly on it but also making a compelling argument that people are capable of radical change. Jaime and Johnny unlock a new stage in their relationship, communicating more vulnerably and honestly than ever before. And even though we don’t know Johnny as a character that well, it’s still effective because of how well written it all is.

And then when Ilana freaks out at the notion of Jaime moving in with Johnny in Jersey, Abbi has to step in and help her take her own advice. Ilana’s tantrum feels very on-brand for her, but the show doesn’t just leave it at that and let her get away with shutting down Jaime’s choice. She realizes that she’s making it about her and offers up a genuine apology. Again, it all happens very quickly, but it’s believable, too, an oddly comforting display of someone realizing that they’re wrong and quickly correcting it in order to preserve the friendship. Broad City remains nuanced and earnest in its depiction of friendship dynamics. Ilana and Jaime have long relied on each other for a lot of things, and his decision to move out is a big deal for both of them.

It’s all part of this final season’s ambitious efforts to really push its characters in new directions instead of just relying on the old setups for familiar comedy. Ilana and Abbi are actually making moves this season. By episode’s end, Abbi resolves to make more space for her art. Just watching Abbi and Ilana go through the process of building a window display conceived by Abbi at Anthropologie is rewarding, even if it does end with her getting fired. It’s just watching two friends work together on something that matters to them, and it’s genuinely sweet. Broad City’s best moments are often these very simple ones about its central friendship. There’s a sincerity and a commitment to personal growth at the heart of “Make The Space” that charms.


Stray observations

  • The foot cheese stuff is very hard to watch! I started gagging with Abbi!
  • All the Anthropologie-specific jokes are great.
  • The props for Jaime’s room are excellent—shoutout to the art department for this episode!
  • Abbi’s Bruce Springsteen impression deserves an award.