tv review

Broad City Is Back for One Last Time, and That Feels Right

Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson, pivoting in the final season of Broad City. Photo: Cara Howe/Comedy Central

The first episode of the fifth and final season of Broad City follows Abbi (Abbi Jacobson) and her forever BFF Ilana (Ilana Glazer) as they celebrate Abbi’s 3oth birthday by walking from the top of Manhattan all the way to the island’s bottom. Naturally, they livestream much of the journey, peppering their Snapchat Stories with enough filters and captions to make them seem like a pair of teenagers instead of full-fledged adults entering their fourth decades. That disconnect is the point.

Based on the trio of new episodes Comedy Central provided to critics, the notion that these up-for-anything millennials are aging out of their usual antics is a running theme in the final season, which gets underway on Thursday. The first episode, “Stories,” provides the first hint that it’s time for the duo to take their lives in new directions. Subsequent episodes, which find them considering new career directions and even the possibility of leaving New York, hit that same note, while simultaneously counterarguing that deciding to continue doing you can be as much a measure of maturity as moving out of the city, getting married, or having kids. “While I was breaking your toilet, I had a lot of time to think,” Ilana tells her sort-of boyfriend Lincoln (Hannibal Buress) at one point. “And I am meant to be a polyamorous queen.”

Ilana may be destined to keep on yassing on, but Broad City feels like it’s taking a final bow at the right moment. That’s not because the show has forgotten how to be funny. The writing is still rife with socially astute zingers — “I love a restaurant run by women because they don’t rape or molest their employees,” Ilana tells Abbi. “Plus, the food just tastes better.” — and the chemistry between Abbi and Ilana, our sex-positive Laverne and Shirley for the 21st century, remains strong.

But five seasons seems like the right amount of time to spend with these two ladies in this particular milieu. Broad City debuted in 2014, but in this hyperaccelerated cultural climate, a distance of five years feel like five decades. Remember when Abbi and Ilana had Hillary Clinton on the show? You might think that happened in 2016, but in reality, it was 20 years ago. In terms of assessing the show’s relevancy, it doesn’t help that the show took a break from the airwaves for more than a year before this final comeback. Through no fault of Glazer or Jacobson’s, it feels like the world has moved on since the time when Broad City first won acclaim for its frank, feminist brand of comedy. Broad City inevitably must move on, too.

It’s wise, then, that this last season pushes its two protagonists to engage with the concept of moving forward. To be clear: Abbi and Ilana still do stupid, occasionally gross things. I’ve only seen three of the ten new episodes, but I’ve already witnessed one of them fall down a manhole, drop her cell phone in the Hudson River, eat cheese grated with the same grater the other one used to remove dead skin from her feet, and, for reasons too complicated to explain, let a rat loose in the Anthropologie across from Rockefeller Center. They do not have their shit together, because if they did, there would definitely be no more show.

But in subtle ways, even in their performances, Jacobson and Glazer signal that their alter egos are evolving. Abbi is still goofy and prone to nervous chatter, but she enters into new environments with a little more awe and slightly — emphasis on slightly — less awkwardness. When she gets invited to an art world reception at MoMA, Jacobson looks around the room and revels in what’s she’s finally earned exposure to: “Art! Asymmetrical hairstyles! Unabashed confidence!” She plays the moment with a wonderment that’s charming and relatable.

Glazer’s performance is still hyper and idiosyncratic — no one on TV does line deliveries with the same offbeat rhythms — but even her take on Ilana has calmed down somewhat, with a little less kookiness and more moments that feel grounded in reality. As writers, both Glazer and Jacobson also continue to display impeccable instincts for mocking millennial and New York trend-chasing. “Oh, my Pedi-phile is here,” an acquaintance tells Abbi and Ilana, explaining that Pedi-phile is a “new Uber-style app designed for people who are obsessed with pedicabs.”

In other words, Broad City is still enjoyable and it’s still heartening to watch an entire series devoted to female friendship. But it no longer feels like something new or surprising in the way it did for the first three seasons. You’ll still laugh a fair amount when you watch Abbi and Ilana’s swan song. But when it’s over, you’ll also feel ready to say good-bye.

Broad City Is Back for One Last Time, and That Feels Right