“Game Over” isn’t Broad City at its best, but it pulls off some fun surprises.
Abbi is now an official trainer at Soulstice, in case you’d forgotten, and the episode opens with her teaching a senior aquarobics class. Everything seems peachy until, in a nod to a very creepy scene from The Sandlot, an old man named Squints pretends to be dead so Abbi will give him CPR. The reference initially went over my head, and I wonder if others will be as confused and skeeved out as I was, especially since that particular Sandlot scene hasn’t aged well. It’s not the greatest cold open, and I’m not sure the gag is funny enough to pull off its sleaziness.
Moving on. Now that she’s a trainer, Abbi gets to use the trainer-exclusive locker room, where Trey, Gemma, et. al. are very comfortable letting it all hang out. Abbi’s unease about locker-room nudity struck me as a bit of a red herring — I kept waiting for this setup to pay off in a big way, but it ends just as the chaos gets going. Perhaps it’s the start of a running gag?
The trainers are gearing up for their annual group-bonding activity: The Soulstice Games. Abbi is nervous due to her latent hypercompetitive streak, a new bit of character development that’s one of my favorite details in the episode. Because Ilana is such an overbearing presence, it can sometimes be hard to remember she doesn’t dominate their relationship. There are very good reasons why these two people truly understand each other. Any time Abbi is given room to let her freak flag fly, we get another piece in the beautiful neon mosaic that is their friendship.
And oh boy, does her freak flag fly … though it’s really more of a freak pole, and I’m not sure if it “flies” so much as “repeatedly hits another trainer in the face.” Abbi’s competitive nature drives her to take the lighthearted team-building games all too seriously, and when Ilana figures out that Abbi has been put into a situation where losing is on the line, she rushes to save her — and everyone around her — from “All Caps Abbi.” Her presence initially proves to be calming, but then Abbi sucks herself into one of those mini-jousting competitions that looks like the playground version of the “Amok Time” fight from Star Trek. This is where I figured that nudity joke would come into play again — maybe Abbi’s hypercompetitiveness would be reawakened by taunts about her prudishness, or by Gemma publicly exposing her body — but instead, she’s teased about her past as a cleaner. That triggers another ALL CAPS meltdown, and Abbi pounds Gemma’s face with a padded stick.
Luckily, Trey is convinced Abbi has just gotten into steroids, like a lot of the Soulstice trainers do when they start out, and lets it slide. As much as I liked the notion of competitive Abbi, the actual execution of this idea felt a little weak. I hope it’s explored again in a future, tighter episode.
Meanwhile, Ilana’s coupon-vending employer gets a visit from an investor named Elizabeth (played by the flawless Vanessa Williams). Given the stakes of the visit, Todd wants Ilana to get lost for the day. Instead, Ilana puts herself directly in Elizabeth’s path, and Elizabeth is taken by Ilana’s candor and Millennial appeal. She immediately tells Ilana to manage the company’s Twitter account — a job that her work rival, Nicole, had been doing — and Ilana sets out to tweet what she refers to as “early randomcore.” (Hey, remember eBaums World?)
For a few hours, Ilana does great work, until she tweets out a link to the “Mr. Hands” video. (If you don’t remember Mr. Hands … I’ll just leave this here, I guess.) So, Todd fires her. The scene of Ilana getting fired lasts just a bit too long, especially since it seems like there’s a beat or two of story missing here. Why was Elizabeth so into Ilana’s shameless Ilana-ness before, but she’s backing Todd’s decision? (After all, Ilana insists it’s the “cool” kind of PR nightmare.) Also, Ilana’s been doing horrifying stuff at work since the beginning of the show — what made this so different?
Was it the bestiality porn? It was probably the bestiality porn.
All in all, Elizabeth is a bit of a wasted character in “Game Over.” She is a lot of fun when we first meet her — I mean, she’s a Maxxinista — and it would have been entertaining to watch Ilana wielding some actual power at work for a few episodes.
When Ilana leaves, the show indulges in a musical number: Nicole, Todd, and the rest of the company singing the praises of an Ilana-less office while decked out in full Sister Act regalia — and Whoopi Goldberg even shows up! I liked this fantastical diversion, which is actually just Nicole’s daydream, but it didn’t make up for the underwritten aspects of the story line.
Actually, the whole episode felt a bit underwritten. At its best, Broad City is like a tripped-out Curb Your Enthusiasm, tightly plotted and packed with jokes. “Game Over” isn’t bad, per se, but it’s not the first episode I’d show someone who wants to see what the cult of Broad City is all about. This wasn’t All Caps Broad City; this was case-sensitive Broad City.
- Trent (Paul Welsh) from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is one of the trainers at Soulstice, which I’m assuming proves some kind of unified-universe theory.
- Ilana wearing a hoodie meant for a dog — and then coloring in her stomach to match it — is a really good gag.
- Vanessa Williams is just everything. This can’t be said enough. Broad City is killing the guest-star game this year.
- Ilana’s “I Shit” song (and its sequels, “I Bike” and “I Tweet”) are doubtlessly headed for fan remixes.
- Ilana leaves only one thing behind at the office: one of those wacky inflatable arm-waver thingies. I don’t know why she had it and I hope we never find out.