One of my favorite things about television—and especially comedies—is watching shows break out of their own patterns and play. Characters are necessarily exaggerated in pilots so that network executives and newcomers can understand what’s up in five seconds or less—which, like most shortcuts, can be easier to digest but ultimately unsatisfying. How many characters have we seen that boil down to “The Hot One,” or “The Smart One,” or “The Woman One,” when in reality, people are rarely that one-dimensional? It’s boring at best, offensive at worst.
Broad City has mostly avoided this reductive trap, but there are still episodes when things break down to “Ilana’s the wild one and Abbi’s the grownup.” Towards the end of the first season, though, Abbi and Ilana’s personalities started to tip into each other’s territories, and it went past the point of no return the second Abbi was standing on the table at her birthday dinner, pumped up with literal adrenaline and screaming, “I feel so alive right now!” Abbi had said her twenty-sixth birthday would determine the way she lived that year, and if what we’ve seen so far this season is anything to go by, she was spot on.
“Wisdom Teeth” completely swaps Abbi and Ilana’s traditional roles, and it’s a hell of a lot of fun to watch Jacobson and Glazer stretch some new muscles. Abbi almost immediately gets high out of her mind on …whatever it is Lincoln gave her, and by the time Ilana gives her a weed-laced “Firecracker Smoothie” she can barely even speak. Jacobson’s physical comedy has proved to be one of Broad City’s most reliable sources of laughs, and it’s no different here as she drools, slurs, and skips her way through a serious drug trip. Abbi’s adolescent glee at getting to crash around Gowanus’s gentrification signifier Whole Foods with a giant, sentient version of her stuffed animal is glorious. Bingo Bronson (Paul Downs, who also writes/plays Trey) guides Abbi through the Whole Foods aisles, egging her on to add more and more obscure organic whatevers into her shopping cart. Jacobson’s blank, beaming face throughout is pitch perfect—but the funniest part might be when she’s stone cold sober. It takes a village of drugs to make her buy $1000 worth of Whole Foods oddities, but it only takes Jeremy’s face to send Abbi into a full-on spiral. For all the people whose brains shut down around a crush, Abbi Jacobson is here to personify your panic.
Ilana’s maternal worry for Abbi before, during, and after her wisdom teeth surgery is an extension of the usual concern for her best friend that once had her run from Brooklyn to Queens when Abbi didn’t answer her phone. Everything is always a little life and death with Ilana, so it still doesn’t feel unusual when she waves brightly at Abbi in her dentist chair and declares that if she doesn’t wake up, “I’ll still see you because I’m gonna kill myself and meet you in heaven or whatever!” The only constant of Broad City, after all, is that Abbi and Ilana love each other the most—and also that Ilana might love Abbi just a little bit more.
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While Abbi is tripping, though, she’s so far past the point of performing basic human functions that Ilana has to be more than concerned; she has to be responsible. (You know it’s serious when Ilana tells Lincoln, “I didn’t smoke today, I didn’t even vape!”) So she takes the role of Abbi’s guardian very seriously—or at least her version of “very seriously.” The Ilana Wexler Method of Caregiving involves requesting Abbi’s terrible Drew Barrymore impression (which makes Abbi feel mean, seeing as Drew is her favorite), braiding her hair, and sending her roommate Jamie out on a doomed mission for the perfect frozen yogurt.
Then, there’s the Firecracker smoothie.
First of all, the scene in which Ilana Strega Nonas and/or Walter Whites the Firecracker Smoothie is basically a step by step guide for making a weed s’more milkshake. While I’m not sure how they managed to keep such a helpful sequence in, I am thrilled they did, because it looks delicious and I will definitely be taking notes. Secondly, this scene and Abbi’s continuous tripping are the latest in a growing list of drug-inspired scenes that Broad City just nails. The show never defaults to the usual drug scene clichés like wildly tilting angles, uncontrollable laughter, or generic reggae music. Instead, it takes the opportunity to play around a little with different formats. The premiere’s dorm smoking went with alternating zooms and cinematic smoke rings. Abbi and Ilana’s sporadic Skype and vape sessions let their grainy webcams do the work, normalizing the smoking as just another part of the routine.
“Wisdom Teeth,” however, goes hard. Director John Lee steers the drug sequences towards contrasts. Ilana cooks at an accelerated, Edgar Wright-esque pace, while Abbi slobbers her way through Technicolor hallucinatory sequences that would make Yellow Submarine proud. In a smart trick, she even dips back into her drugged happy place when Jeremy agrees to go out with her. Scenes like these show just how ambitious an episode “Wisdom Teeth” is, which is thrilling. It’s good to know that Broad City won’t be satisfied just resting on its laurels.
- Looks like we’re in for an Abbi and Jeremy date! Fingers crossed they end up back at Amy Poehler’s restaurant, please.
- This episode was a lot more fun than when I got my wisdom teeth out and danced so hard to “Since U Been Gone” on the way back home that I pulled stitches.
- The cold opens are basically all their own sketches at this point, but this one was pretty special thanks to Ilana Glazer’s pretzel body.
- Lincoln and Ilana continue to have the most earnest cyber sex/dirty talk I’ve ever heard. (Ilana: “I hate to say it dude, but you might have boyfriend penis.”)
- Jamie’s fro-yo disaster runner feels very, very real. I mean, how is he supposed to pick between Sizzurp and Brown Town?!
- As a staunch advocate for the Boston Red Sox-themed Drew Barrymore and Jimmy Fallon romantic comedy “Fever Pitch,” I greatly appreciate Abbi’s appreciation for Flower Films.
- Preach, Ilana: “Don’t tell me to calm down, I hate it when men tell women that.”
- Favorite Bingo Bronson lines: “Knock them over, Abbi, they want to be on the ground!” “Oh no, it’s the Strega Nona lady witch!”