For much of Broad City‘s second season, the series expanded its world and went a little deeper into the personalities of side characters, like having Bevers invade Abbi’s workplace or the discovery that Trey did porn under the name Kirk Steele. We saw Abbi and Ilana off on separate missions — Ilana at a shiva while Abbi pegs her neighbor — and while all of this made for an adventurous and successful season, a season that proved Broad City can mine gold out of any situation or character (including Kelly Ripa!), it’s still nice to have a season finale that’s focused on Abbi, Ilana, and their friendship.
Similar to last year’s season finale which took place at Abbi’s birthday dinner, “St. Mark’s” revolves around a birthday: Ilana’s 23rd, a “nothing” birthday because there’s no real significance to turning 23. Again, they are going out to dinner but first we get an extended, quietly magnificent sequence of the two wandering down St. Mark’s, reminiscent of one of their best — and most New York — web series shorts. The camera focuses on the two but makes sure to pack in as many eccentricities into the frame as well, from the “tree man” to the sad business Guido to the woman pissing right on the street.
I’m consistently amazed at the subtle but impressive directing in Broad City, and how all of the series’ directors have such a command of the episode in a way that makes every single frame count and work to its highest potential. Half of the fun of watching these sidewalk scenes in “St. Mark’s” is paying close attention to everything that’s happening outside of the girls at the center. But even the somewhat simplistic cold open features a superbly choreographed long take as the two discuss birthdays, culminating in a wonderfully scornful response to a street harasser telling the girls to smile. Abbi and Ilana don’t miss a beat with their response, and the camera doesn’t miss a beat spinning along with them to showcase it.
“St. Mark’s” is a low-key but appropriate finale to go out on. While there are certainly big highlights throughout such as when Abbi and Ilana run into an annoying couple (you know, those friends that you never want to see), played by Aidy Bryant and Conner O’Malley, at dinner. The two are so obnoxious and grating, causing Abbi and Ilana to get increasingly panicked, that Ilana finally just tosses her glass of wine all over Abbi’s dress and proclaims that the two have to leave now, forcing them to bail on the dinner they’ve both been so looking forward to. Though, of course, they can’t let wine go to waste so they swiftly chug their full glasses before heading back to the street. “I’m sorry, but they are too much,” Bryant’s character says.
The second action-packed moment comes when a teen runaway (Leo Fitzgerald) snatches Abbi’s bag with Ilana’s purse in it and a funny, physical comedy-filled pursuit ensues. They run down the sidewalk, across the street (Abbi ungracefully rolling over the hood of a taxi), through a store, into a kitchen, into a shady alley, and finally end up in a fancy Manhattan townhouse. The richness of the home is jarring to both the girls and the viewers, a place that seems far too nice for the world Broad City has existed in for the past two years. It turns out that the “teen” scumbag is actually a privileged 35-year-old living at home with his psychiatrist mother played by Patricia Clarkson, who furiously — and defeatedly — screams and growls at her son, berating him for being a loser with no job, releasing all sorts of frustrations while clutching her glass of wine. Her and her son spit venom back and forth while Abbi and Ilana can’t do anything but watch, trying to back out toward the doorway once Abbi’s bag is retrieved.
But, again, the best parts of the episode are the smaller ones. Abbi and Ilana spend so much time shooting the shit, way more time than should be good in an episode of television. It all works because Abbi and Ilana are both such well-written and developed characters (and Jacobson and Glazer are both such talented comedic writers) that we are willing to spend 24 hours a day with them, even if it’s just listening to them talk and watch them try on wigs. They talk about everything, from their differing funeral plans (Abbi wants a funeral on a hill and then everyone has to go Six Flags; people are allowed to Weekend At Bernie‘s her as long as she doesn’t go on the log flume. Ilana wants everyone she’s ever hooked up with to jerk off together) to all their past accomplishments and future hopes (and how great was it that Ilana just casually brought up the fact that she’s on antidepressants? No punchline, no discussion — brilliant). Their conversations are never boring because Abbi and Ilana are never boring. To end a season of pure insanity with Abbi and Ilana sitting on the sidewalk munching on cheap pizza is as bold as it quiet, but it’s also perfect for Broad City.