“Ilana, I’m really scared,” Abbi says while looking out over the East River from the Brooklyn Bridge. It’s one of the many goodbyes the duo give to each other during the series finale of Broad City, but this one feels the most heartfelt and real.
“I’m really scared of the change, too,” Ilana replies. “But, we’re both gonna be better for it.”
Their voices are shaky, their eyes on the verge of tears. Ilana’s are bloodshot, but this time, it might just not be from the weed. As they talk about their friendship — “the most beautiful, deep, real, cool and hot, meaningful, important relationship of my life” as Ilana coins it — you can’t help but feel the fourth wall disintegrating right into the river as the real Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson address each other and their creative futures.
The good news is the pair doesn’t actually need to say goodbye in real life. They have several new projects in the works already, including an animated series for Comedy Central. But they do need to say goodbye to Broad City, which, including the original web series that spawned the sitcom, is a show they’ve been working on together for 10 years.
“I don’t know what it’s like to be an adult without Broad City,” Glazer recently told the hosts of the Today Show. It’s a question that echoes in the finale, as Ilana and Abbi venture off to discover what adult life will be like without each other in the same city.
The finale centers on Abbi’s last day in NYC before moving to Boulder, Colorado for an artist residency. It begins with classic Abbi and Ilana shenanigans, first with a journey to procure the best BEC (bacon, egg, and cheese) the city has to offer, only to discover the bodega they’re looking for is literally gone. (Fun fact: This scene was filmed mere blocks from the Alma office!). But this ultimately leads them to the real adventure of the day: getting a $10,000 “intelligent” toilet they found next to a pile of garbage on the street back to Ilana’s apartment in Brooklyn. When no cabs will stop for the toilet-wielding women (and Uber’s charging 60 times the normal rate, which is not really that much of an exaggeration, TBH), they decide they must walk it themselves across the Brooklyn Bridge. They’re half-way to their home borough when the journey abruptly stop, they briefly contemplate suicide, Abbi writes “ABBI + ILANA FOREVER” on the bridge, and the two have their emotional moment about change.
Change has been a long time coming for the characters of Broad City. Throughout the seasons we’ve seen them go from barely employable early-20-somethings who care more about wild adventures (and each other) than anything else, to women trying to come to terms with adult life. This final season has seen Ilana make the bold choice of going back to school to become a therapist. We saw Abbi’s first real relationship with a woman (Clea DuVall’s Leslie), and we also see her prioritizing her art for the first time, by applying to the Boulder residency.
But what Broad City understands phenomenally well about change is that it’s not all-encompassing, and in many ways, no matter how much their circumstances adjust, Abbi and Ilana are the same two Jewesses we’ve known all along. In the penultimate episode of the final season, Abbi buys (fake) tickets to a Lil Wayne concert, a direct echo of the pilot episode in which the pair are willing to do almost anything to score tickets to the Weezy show (including clean the home of Fred-Armisen-acting-as-a-grown-man-baby while in their underwear). The second time around, they actually have the means to go, though still not the savviness to distrust ticket scalpers on Craigslist. What do they do about it? Take some Molly, climb into the arena’s vent, climb back out of the arena’s vent, forget about the concert altogether, have a gnarly come-down from the MDMA, and briefly welcome back Abbi’s stuffed animal come alive, Bingo Bronson. The more things change…
We also get some nice callbacks to Ilana’s favorite pastime: calling out problematic faves. In the pilot episode, she points out to a disbelieving Abbi that “What a Wonderful World” is a “slave song,” a fact she claims is commonly known in the black community (IMDB disagrees). In the series finale, after a surprise going away party on her roof, Abbi records a series of short phone videos of Ilana taking on Disney (“Walt Disney was like, um, jizzing basically for rich Euros and feudal lords, and Mickey Mouse was supposed to represent a dirty little Jew, straight up.” Why yes, we fact-checked that claim); the Kennedys (“sex addicts” who “killed Marilyn Monroe”); and the post office (“So the way the post office controls women is…” is sadly a sentence she doesn’t finish). Later, in the credit cookie (yes, that’s a term I just learned which refers to the short scene after the ending credits of a TV show), we’re back in this moment, and Abbi says to Ilana, “The information inside your brain is just vast.” In a line that gave me the biggest laugh of the episode, Ilana responds with, “Vast, and then also there’s nothing.”
But we do see plenty of real growth, too. This is especially so with the relationship between Ilana and Lincoln (Hannibal Buress). In the very first scene of the pilot, after Ilana FaceTimes Abbi while literally riding Lincoln, he questions the status of their relationship, asking whether they’re dating or just hooking up. “This is purely physical,” she plainly states. But that status wavers throughout the series, and in the end we see them as actual friends. At the surprise party, Ilana tells Lincoln, “We’re no longer dating, right? And we’re gonna keep growing our real yet platonic friendship” (she then promptly kicks him out, but still). We also see it with Bevers (John Gemberling), who begins the series as Abbi’s roommate’s slacker boyfriend who plays video games in his underwear and eats all her cheese. In the finale, now “hot” and sporting a dapper suit, Bevers gifts Abbi her very own cheese storage box, with her name written on every side so nobody could take it from her again.
And then of course, there’s Abbi and Ilana themselves. When the ending scene flashes forward four months, we first see Ilana reading Freud’s Family Roles & Sexuality (a book that doesn’t actually seem to exist) on a park bench in New York, laughing to herself. She then sees someone walking a hairless cat in a tuxedo shirt, which she immediately photographs, texts to Abbi, and then calls to discuss. Abbi picks up while on a walk in an incredibly idyllic-looking (and I’m guessing not real) Boulder, and the two discuss the ridiculous nature of New Yorkers and what’s happened in their lives since they last spoke the night before (“I also went to sleep and woke up, so we are on the same schedule”). I’d be remiss not to point out perhaps the sweetest detail of the finale: We can see in this scene that Abbi and Ilana have traded their “phone wigs” which is just too cute I CAN’T.
They get off the phone — Abbi is on her way to the studio, Ilana to the subway — and that’s that. (Cue Lizzo, whose music Broad City has been featuring for some time.) They’re still the same person to each other, still the same friend they’ll call at any time, but they’re off doing their own individual things, and we’re led to believe that they are happy this way. (Side note: Did anyone else expect/kinda hope the “four months later” scene would cut to a post-Apocalyptic nightmare in which Abbi and Ilana locate each other under the St. Louis Arch and scramble to find a decent lighter for the emergency joint they stashed? Just me?)
As the two characters physically part ways with one another, it’s time now for the audience to let go, too. That can be hard, especially for us Jewish women who saw ourselves so clearly in Abbi and Ilana, who are so grateful for some of the most Jewish episodes in television history, like the recent one featuring a Holocaust survivor, or their trip to a retirement home in Florida, or the many other Jewish moments (I mean, those EARRINGS). On the bridge, the two confess that throughout their friendship, the other made them feel more cool, and I have to say, they made me — a Jewess tryin’ to make a buck in Brooklyn — feel a lot cooler, too. But just as the characters of Ilana and Abbi trust that this change, while difficult, is the right thing to do, us Broad City broads need to believe the same.
To those of you still finding yourself in a moment of panic, head on over to the Brooklyn Bridge, just before you get to the tower on the Brooklyn side, and you’ll find the actual “ABBI + ILANA FOREVER” tag in all its glory. I know because I went searching for it with one of my very own besties the other night, and had to uncover it from this weird dumb sticker.
And to Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer, thank you for giving us the gift of Broad City. We can’t wait to see what you do next — both as the fearsome duo we’ve come to love, and the brilliant individual artists you are.
Header image: Matthew Peyton