Broad City: “2016” Season 3 Episode 5 Review

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The DMV becomes Broad City‘s latest surrealist landscape, Ilana makes her next career move, and a presidential hopeful makes a well-executed cameo.

Part of Broad City‘s majesty—and its comedy—derives from the ability to warp common situations into absurdist dreamscapes. In doing so, the series is able to expertly highlight the ridiculousness of everyday life. Packed subway cars become a circus caravan, depositing a large check at the bank transforms into a Drake music video, and shopping for knockoff handbags in Chinatown leads to an underground black market. All of these situations are heightened to the extreme, but the way they tap into the feelings and reactions that typically surround them feels genuine.

Most of Broad City‘s surrealist sequences center around the crazy hubbub that is New York City, but this week’s set piece could have taken place just about anywhere. The DMV is no one’s favorite place to visit, so when Abbi has to renew her license, she’s filled with dread. As expected, the episode turns things up about 100 notches and presents a post-apocalyptic nightmare.  Patrons are savagely attacked for their tickets. Outlets are treated like watering holes in the desert. Loved ones give emotional goodbyes to each other as their numbers finally get called. In short, it’s total hell, and the depiction manages to feel both over-the-top and accurate.

There’s a great amount of detail and effort put into the drudgery of the DMV, but luckily, “2016” doesn’t stop there. Making jokes about how terrible it is to wait there is pretty well-worn territory, but Abbi ends up seeing more than she expected. A series of unfortunate events leads her to both vomit while her license photo is taken—truly, a fantastic laugh-out-loud moment—and pull a neck muscle. After visiting her chiropractor (an adorable Alan Alda), she learns that she can make an appointment online and skip all the waiting.

DMV Round 2 is nothing like Round 1. A specially sectioned off area for those who have made appointments ahead of time offers a luxurious waiting room with chocolate truffles, a chocolate fountain, and a fabulous concierge who leads her around while on rollerblades. Abbi gets a massage before taking her license photo because here, the DMV “doesn’t mind waiting.” When the time for her photo does arrive, it’s done in the style of a high fashion shoot, with the photographer questioning whether or not she’s a professional model.

Allowing the simple act of making an appointment online serve as the absolute antithesis of normal DMV protocol is genius, and another example of how Broad City is able to take simple, common premises, and elevate them to another level. Even with the show’s reputation for bending reality, Abbi’s quest to get her license renewed was anything but predictable.

Ilana’s, meanwhile, heads on a separate quest to find a new job. One of the best moments from this plotline occurs early on, when she panhandles on the subway and begins her opening statements lamenting the hard times she, an NYU graduate who was let go from her job at an internet startup, has fallen on.

A great new twist in Broad City‘s third season has been its insistence on showing how superficial and self-serving Ilana can be. Sure, she’s a believer in social justice, but she also unknowingly appropriates other cultures, and gets equally as riled up about her brunch spot getting rid of bottomless mimosas as she does hearing about the plight of Saudi women. Broad City has a much more diverse view of New York than, say, Sex and the City, or even Girls, but it also fully acknowledges that it’s still a show about two white girls who are, all things considered, doing fairly well for themselves. The fact that it can check its privilege in such a tongue-and-cheek way is even better.

Ilana’s job search leads her back to Rachel Dratch’s recruiting agency, who gets her a job as a bike messenger. This career is fairly short-lived, but it does give us a chance to see Ilana in yet another one of her ridiculous bike helmets with a wig attached. The meat of this plotline revolves around her accidentally happening upon Hillary Clinton’s headquarters and taking a position there.

Yes, “2016” features the highly-publicized cameo from Mrs. Clinton herself. Making such an overt political statement is a difficult tightrope walk for any TV show, let alone one with such a passionate millennial fanbase. I think it’s safe to say, however, that Broad City played it cool. Hillary only appears at the end of the episode, and her joke about wanting an inflatable flailing man—a callback to season 1’s “Fattest Asses”—to boost office morale is one that actually lands.

The rest of the plotline smartly touches on Hillary’s broader public image, as well as her image in the eyes of Ilana. Cynthia Nixon guest stars as a campaign director who has to tell everyone making cold-calls that they’ll likely have to answer questions about whether or not Hillary is a witch. At this point in her presidential race, I think these jokes are a little stale, but they work in keeping with the show’s usual lighthearted tone. In short, even if you’re not a Hillary supporter, I think we can all agree that this was miles better than Trump hosting SNL.

Broad City has never failed at using New York as its twisted playground, and “2016” is no exception. The show’s sense of fantasy is engaging because it’s able to be simultaneously outrageous and relatable. Whether the broads are getting their license renewed or stumping for a political candidate, they always get what I’m thinking. Grade: B+


Some Other Notes:

  • Always nice to see Elliot Glazer stop by for an appearance. I particularly enjoyed this exchange:
    Elliot – Ilana, you not listening to me is really homophobic.
    Ilana – It is?
    Elliot – No, but get a job!
  • Also, Kirke Steele returned in this episode and it was amazing.
  •  Ilana’s reaction to realizing that campaigning is a volunteer job was hysterical
  • “Abbi. Proud Demo. Crat. College. Aquarius. I pegged!”


By Mike Papirmeister

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