In keeping tradition with the season-one finale, last night’s Broad City season-two closer was dedicated to a birthday celebration gone awry. As Ilana turns 23, she and Abbi head to the East Village’s most obvious freak show, St. Mark’s Place, where they show no signs of being fazed by business guidos, street urinators, parrot dudes, drunken bachelorettes, and unaccompanied children on scooters. But it’s their empathy for the homeless that ends up biting them in the ass, climaxing in a chase scene and a subsequent rumination on New York’s class divide — the show’s go-to target in recent weeks.
Maybe it was the plethora of uninterrupted shots, or the presence of inexplicably bizarre strangers in the girls’ path, or the fact that the humor was a little more existential and surreal this week, but I got major Louie vibes from “St. Mark’s.” For a show that usually moves so fast, this week’s episode felt slowed down despite the fact that much of the episode takes place in real time (or something like it). It perfectly suited the more serious tone: Ilana can’t stop talking about death throughout the episode. “New York Jews wake up every day just thinking about when they’re gonna die,” she tells Abbi as they make their way to the dumpling house.
Later, in one of Broad City’s best (semi-) serious scenes to date, Ilana and Abbi discuss their elaborate funeral plans — a Six Flags after-party for Abbi, all of Ilana’s conquests circle-jerking to RuPaul’s “Supermodel” — and which one of them will die first. Between the death talk and all the New York City jokes, I saw Broad City as working in a comedy tradition last night instead of boldly making its own path. Its subversive humor was still there, but there was a tip of the hat to people like Louie or Jerry or Woody in “St. Mark’s.” At times it felt a little too safe or simply like another series altogether, but then a dude would perform an anti-capitalism jack-off monologue in the middle of a busy restaurant, or the girls would have an action-movie chase scene where Abbi screams obscenities about ripping dicks off, or there’d be a riff on the value of Beanie Babies.
While “St. Mark’s” was neither the funniest nor the most subversive episode of season two, it covered a lot of serious ground regarding the broads (i.e., the Abbi/Ilana bond) and the city. It felt distinctly like a season finale, with the girls staring down more responsible futures as they eat $1 pizza from 2 Bros. I have to wonder how non–New Yorkers are faring with references like 2 Bros or Ilana casually mentioning that she doesn’t have a dining-room table, or the fact that Ilana’s first thought after escaping Patricia Clarkson’s dinner party breakdown is, “I wonder if they own or rent.” As a New Yorker, these nods bring extra legitimacy to Abbi and Ilana’s portrayal of the struggle to make it here. I just wish all fans of the show could fully appreciate the inside nods to city life.
In one of the episode’s first scenes, Abbi and Ilana encounter a street punk named Timothy (played by Leo Fitzpatrick from Kids), who gives them shit about not giving money to every homeless person on St. Mark’s, including himself. They soon put Timothy out of their minds as they prepare to gorge on dumplings and classy $13 wine. With the reservation under Lil Wayne’s name, the celebration starts jubilant before Abbi and Ilana are seated next to the Worst People Ever. You know, those temporary friends you had when you first moved to a big city, or the folks you know from college but make a point not to see more than twice a year at a large group function where you can easily escape them. Allie (played by SNL’s Aidy Bryant, in an impeccable nagging-girlfriend role) and Chris (Conner O’Malley) are those people for Abbi and Ilana. Turns out they only hang out with each other obsessively because everyone else they know sucks.
This recap would run ~2,000 words if I launched into all the things wrong with Allie and Chris, so I’ll just say this: Creatives can be the worst about their social group supporting their work. The two are unable to sense that Abbi and Ilana have ghosted them, even after the girls offer up the weakest excuse ever regarding Facebook invites: The interface is too confusing. The scenario quickly becomes too much for Ilana, who throws a full glass of red wine on Abbi’s white dress just to have an excuse to leave. They chug and roll out to the wig store, where Ilana — in peak Ilana mode — nabs a “Female Body Inspector” shirt and wild synthetic mane, and puts them both on immediately.
Timothy reemerges and makes off with Abbi’s present for Ilana. The chase scene ensues, at which point Abbi fails at parkour once again. They follow him into a fancy townhouse, where Clarkson’s character is hosting a judgmental crew of richies for dinner. It turns out Timothy is her 34-year-old, rich, unemployed fuck-up of a son, who gets into trouble out of boredom. Again, what a New York reference.
Clarkson’s scene is tense and lingering; she calls her son a dud and a loser with frightening vehemence, while he reveals her clichéd addictions to pain pills and wine (which she later laughs off to her guests). This scene in particular — with these strangers acting inappropriate to surreal heights — felt so Louie. Soon it’s over, and perhaps, like Louie, these characters will float back into Broad City down the line. For now, Broad City ends its transcendent second season on a high note: Abbi, Ilana, pizza, “the most powerful and beautiful blanket since the AIDS quilt,” and the dream of eventually going off anti-depressants, all under those big city lights.
“You girls are so pretty, you should smile.” —rando dude on the street, to Abbi and Ilana
“I also want everyone I’ve ever hooked up with to just jack off together. That might bring me back to life.” —Ilana
“I’m sorry your son sucks so hard.” —Ilana to Patricia Clarkson’s character
“I’m a tree, dammit. I was here first, car.” —tree man
“I finally masturbated above the covers, without my eyes being closed. That was a really big journal entry.” —Abbi