Spoiler alert! Contains details about the series finale of Comedy Central’s “Broad City.”
There are few things more quintessentially New York than a bodega bacon, egg and cheese sandwich.
So it’s fitting that Comedy Central’s “Broad City,” one of TV’s most relatable depictions of millennial urban life, ends with an unsuccessful quest to find one after 11 a.m. In Thursday’s fifth season (and series) finale, Ilana (Ilana Glazer) is determined to give her best friend Abbi (Abbi Jacobson) her best last day in New York, before Abbi moves to Colorado for an art residency. But their zany trek across town becomes unexpectedly emotional as they – in true “Broad City” fashion – lug an expensive toilet they found across the Brooklyn Bridge.
Gazing at the Manhattan skyline, Abbi confesses to Ilana how scared she is to move to a new city with new people, but insists that nothing is going to change between the once-inseparable pals.
“I know, but it is going to change,” Ilana says, crying. “But this is still going to be the most beautiful, deep, real, cool and hot, meaningful, important relationship of my life. Really. I’ve never felt so cool – not as cool as when I’m with you.”
The water works continue later in the episode, after Ilana throws Abbi a going-away party with all their “friends” (mostly random strangers from Abbi’s apartment building, since they long ago abandoned trying to meet new people). Before Abbi leaves for the airport, they tearfully share how proud and excited they are for each other, and how much they both have to offer the world: Abbi as an illustrator, and Ilana as an aspiring therapist starting grad school.
“This is really brave, and it’s the right thing,” Ilana says of Abbi’s move.
“I wouldn’t have been able to do it without you,” Abbi responds, before her cab driver honks for them to get a move on and they curse him out.
It’s rare to see such a nuanced portrayal of friendship on TV that isn’t jaded. Lena Dunham’s “Girls” – which “Broad City” was lazily compared to in its early seasons – ended with its central foursome making peace with the fact that they had grown apart and hadn’t truly been close for a while. Even the tight bonds between Leslie and Ron on “Parks and Recreation,” and Liz and Jack on “30 Rock,” came after years of butting heads in the workplace, as they reached mutual understandings and grew to respect one another.
But “Broad City” has always been refreshingly free of cynicism. From the very first episode, when they tried to score Lil Wayne tickets, Abbi and Ilana were each other’s biggest fans, whether it was Ilana incessantly complimenting Abbi’s butt, or Abbi refusing to judge Ilana’s sometimes questionable sexual partners (her doppelganger and a guy who did improv, among them). With them, no topic was ever taboo or too trivial, and being friends meant there were zero boundaries. (They frequently FaceTime while on the toilet.)
“Broad City” celebrated what it means to find your person: that someone you can talk to for hours about nothing,and yet it means everything. But its final season also poignantly depicted what it means to get older, when new jobs, relationships and opportunities might separate you from those you’re closest to. Now on the cusp of 30, Abbi and Ilana learn to accept that their carefree days of freewheeling adventures are over, but that doesn’t mean their friendship has to end.
The series does, months later, with Abbi in Colorado and Ilana in New York, babbling on the phone about the minutiae of their days before they promise to talk later and hang up. As Ilana descends into the subway station, the camera zooms out on other pairs of friends of different ages, races and genders, all walking, chatting and laughing together.
It’s a big-picture moment that reminds us that “Broad City” was never really just about Abbi and Ilana, but about cherishing those friends who love you unconditionally – even when you wear a dog hoodie to work on four separate occasions.
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