After an outrageous, courageous, colorful sophomore season of Broad City, the broads are wrapping it up with a major throwback: so much of the episode is plucked from the web series and reimagined for the small screen. Moments from the first season are also acknowledged, and it’s this kind of reminiscing that makes Broad City fans feel like members of an insider club. But ‘St. Marks” is an odd episode. It feels like an ode to New York City, an ode to days of Broad City yore, and- this is where it gets slippery- an ode to the particular faults of season two.
Mirroring season one’s finale, the broads are celebrating a birthday and this time it’s Ilana’s 23rd. Abbi books the dinner reservation under Little Wayne, as she pronounces it, plus she splurges on a $12 bottle of wine, sweeping Ilana off her feet. But the joy ends quickly because the broads are seated next to a very annoying, show-tunesy couple from their past, played by SNL cast member Aidy Bryant and her real-life writer boo Conner O’Malley.
The web episode “Comedy Couple,” has a similar set up- Abbi and Ilana run into the “comedy couple” who recite everything in a sort of sarcastic, jokey, painfully unfunny way. When asked if they’re getting lunch, Abbi accuses Ilana of having an eating disorder and it turns into a huge fight, both of them storming off. It isn’t until they high-five, laughing, that you realize they improvised the fight to escape the comedy couple. So. Damn. Smart. But in “St. Marks,” to get away from the couple, Ilana simply throws a glass of red wine on Abbi. Why the deviation from the cleverer copout, I don’t know. But it brings to light how the show has evolved: it’s brighter, bigger, faster, and a bit more visceral. While this adds a particular energy to the show, it’s taken away from the more cerebral, subtle humor that originally made it so fiercely powerful.
The “business Guido” who sidetracks Ilana is the guy with the big cock from web episode “D*ck Magnet” and Ilana’s shouting “A to D!” at Abbi was first heard in web episode “Towel Down.” To a fan of the web series these moments feel like throwbacks but they also serve a couple other purposes. First, the broads have been vocal about their gratitude toward those who contributed their time and talents to the web series, before salaries and recognition came into play. Remembering where they came from is evident in the casting and staffing of the TV series. And, as Amy Poehler put it so brilliantly during the Broad City Paley Center for Media panel, the key to successfully adapting a TV series from the web, is keeping its heart beating. So at the end of a season that hosted a first-time pegging, a Vicodin trip (damn, this season was Abbi-centric), and a white power suit, moments that are plucked from the way-back web series feel like grabbing the end of the string before the big red balloon flies out of reach forever. ‘Cause in some ways, I fear that could happen.
Broad City lives on the street, where there’s dog poop on the ground and smoke blowing in your face. “St. Marks” does give us a good taste of the New York City streets. At one point a small child flies past the broads on his scooter gleefully yelling, “I’m alone!” surprising a woman who drops her food on the ground, picks it up, and continues eating it. Then there’s the tree man who’s startling and magical and because of his height, demands the camera to angle upward– a directorial first for Broad City and a cool variation.
The chase is the most exciting part of the finale. It’s like a blown-up demonstration of the broads’ hustler sensibility. I like Patricia Clarkson but I could have done without her angry mother rant. It felt like an irrelevant, slightly upsetting way to bring her on board and, this episode being the finale, I wished we didn’t have to spend so much time with her and her man-child, dud of a son. Ultimately the finale was forgettable but Abbi and Ilana, if you’re reading this, I love you, you are Qweens, you are Vulvarines…you are everything to me.
In the spirit of the broads’ birthday tradition, I’d like to close out my final review of season two by stating three things I think the broads succeeded at this season, and three things I hope to see in the next. First, the broads upped their political prowess as liberal feminists. Never forget: do not tell a woman to calm down. Second, they pushed the boundaries of what we can see on network television, for instance, the blurs over Ilana’s crotch were not just pink but also brown, ‘cause pubes. And finally, they explored the supporting characters just deeply enough, offering up some of the season’s biggest laughs. Trey, ‘nuff said.
This season felt like a bit of a test for the broads. How fast and bright could the show get without losing its heartbeat? Next season I hope they reel it in a bit– revisit the washed out, gritty vibes of season one. I hope they give us more Trey and Lincoln and Jeremy and…Bevers, although I hesitate to say it. And lastly, I hope the broads spend more time with just each other agreeing to disagree, vaping (and sometimes vicodining), and continuing to be the baller bosses they are. Until next January, y’all.