TV Review: Broad City S3 E08, “Burning Bridges”

Published on April 12th, 2016 in: Comedy, Current Faves, Feminism, Reviews, TV, TV Reviews |

By Sachin Hingoo

ilana cries

“Am I at the farmer’s market? Because this is so juicy!”—Bevers

If there were any doubts—and I certainly had a few over the last couple of episodes—that Broad City was capable of a real, emotional epiphany and a story that evokes genuine feels from its viewers, “Burning Bridges” dashes them on a New York City sidewalk. Beyond the jokes about piss tests and securing a chair in Battery Park without inadvertently tearing off an amputee’s artificial leg, the events of this episode rocked me to the core because it’s a reckoning for Abbi as a character, while also giving us one of Ilana’s most layered performances on the show yet. No celebrity cameos are required here, because the BFFs are the only stars that “Burning Bridges” needs.

Abbi’s engaged in a “sex friends” relationship with Trey, but he obviously wants more while she’s happy with the status quo. When Trey asks her on a for-reals dinner date (during an oral-sex-a-thon in the shower), Abbi recoils at first but reluctantly agrees. If you haven’t gotten on board with Trey by now, this scene and the later one in the restaurant inspires genuine sympathy for him as Abbi shuts him down in the most abrupt and unsubtle ways.

abbi leg

Ilana and Abbi meet in a park and Ilana suggests that Abbi join her family for her parents’ anniversary dinner. This forces Abbi to (ineptly) lie about her dinner plans with Trey, using her “go-to lie” about doing personal training for Shania Twain. Ilana accepts this at face value, showing the unwavering trust she has in Abbi and compounding the palpable awkwardness in the scene, since that very trust is being abused here. Ilana even says, though outwardly flippantly, “don’t keep anything from me. It could kill me. It kills me, to feel any distance here.”

It’s not over for Ilana, because Lincoln shows up and asks to speak with her alone. After an unnecessarily lengthy explanation, he finally impresses on Ilana that their open relationship isn’t working and that he wants to be monogamous with his new girlfriend. Ilana’s all-too-slow realization of the gravity of this makes it that much more heart wrenching, and as she runs away, Lincoln’s penchant for stating the obvious prompts him to point out that “her running away is a metaphor.” It would definitely be a shame if this is Hannibal Buress’s swan song from the show, but if this is his last scene, it’s easily the best he’s done so far. In fact, this entire park scene is the best single scene Broad City’s put together, with Buress, Glazer, and Jacobson all doing great work.

ilana runs away

Getting some help from her recently-returned roommate Bevers in exchange for Trey’s “dick deets” in a hilarious scene, Abbi chooses an outfit that she hopes will communicate to Trey that she wants to keep things casual. It’s a nice return to the show from Bevers, who has been mostly absent this season, and he’s as gross as ever—this time just eating right out of a bag of shredded cheese. It’s probably best for my desire to not vomit that he’s used more sparingly here than in prior seasons.

At the restaurant, it’s time for a patented Broad City twist on a sitcom trope, in this case the old “character has two separate engagements in the same venue” chestnut. Abbi is, of course, on her uneasy date with Trey and is also roped into joining Ilana’s family for the anniversary dinner that’s, naturally, occurring in the same restaurant. She goes back and forth between tables with the flimsiest of excuses, seemingly fooling everyone, when Ilana’s mother chokes on a lychee and Trey steps in to help. Abbi is entirely exposed, and Ilana is crushed that her friend has kept her relationship with Trey from her. While trying to explain this, Abbi manages to call him a “guilty pleasure” and a “joke,” which Trey overhears. It’s interesting and kind of sad the way this calls back to Abbi taking advantage of Ilana’s gullible nature, just indicting her further.

In the end, though, Ilana’s not mad about the Trey thing (in fact, she brushes it off with a request for “dick deets,” too) but is having a hard time dealing with the fact that she and Lincoln are over, and her attempts in this episode to cover it up (catcalling random guys in the park, only to accidentally do it to her brother, and attempting to have a rendezvous in the bathroom with a guy that turns out to be both married and gross) have been failures. She breaks down in front of the restaurant in a tragic scene, but Abbi brings her back around.

hugs

“Burning Bridges” still has the laughs and sitcom-subverting elements of prior episodes, but it imbues them with real gravity and stakes that keep you deeply invested in the characters, especially Ilana. This is Ilana’s (the actor) best performance on the show yet, and her scenes with Lincoln in the park and with Abbi outside the restaurant at the end of the episode are positively devastating. Though she brings it all back in the last segment of the show, draining the humor from even two scenes in the episode and replacing it with undistilled discomfort, it’s powerful and affecting when the impenetrable, near-sociopathic Ilana (the character) puts all her emotions on display.

abbi ilana bathtub

“Burning Bridges” is affirming, for the first time in three seasons, that Abbi and Ilana’s actions have real consequences, even to each other. This is low praise, perhaps, considering that a lot of Broad City’s appeal is that the characters don’t have any reason to give a fuck, which allows for much greater freedom and room for the absurd, ostentatious behavior the show’s known for. The realness on display in “Burning Bridges” is a watershed moment for Broad City, and a clear sign that the show has found its more mature voice, while still allowing things to wrap up like it so often does, in a filthy bathtub with your best friend.

P.S. Did I say there were no celebrity cameos in this episode? Well I lied, because here’s Abbi and Ilana’s REAL MOMS!

Animated GIFs courtesy of Binge Whale

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