Broad City: “Burning Bridges” Season 3 Episode 8 Review

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Broad City continues to serialize itself with one of its best episodes yet.

Last week’s episode strongly indicated that the winds of change were coming to Broad City. They did indeed come, but “Burning Bridges” successfully managed a tightrope walk between allowing the show’s characters to evolve while never losing sight of the weird, wacky tone that made this series such a hit in the first place. This is easily the most emotional episode that Broad City has ever done, but it’s also one of the best.

What’s so interesting about “Burning Bridges” is that it managed to be totally groundbreaking—relative to the world of the show, of course—while featuring the classic sitcom premise of a character juggling two dates at the same location. As soon as Abbi walked into the restaurant to meet Trey, I knew that it would be the same place Ilana was celebrating her parents’ anniversary with her family. Yet, the execution of the plot was so perfectly off-kilter, so very Broad City, that I can hardly fault this show for taking a well-worn trope and making it new again.

Last week I predicted that something fishy was going on with Ilana and Lincoln’s open relationship. The reveal wasn’t exactly what I expected, but it was still a bold choice nonetheless. What I liked most about Lincoln’s decision to break up with Ilana was how non-judgmental it was. Lincoln doesn’t fault Ilana for her free-spirited, open nature, and Ilana doesn’t fault Lincoln for wanting to be monogamous. Though this exact situation feels specific to the show, it’s actually a very common crossroad in a relationship. Two people want different things and there’s no clear compromise.

The real heartbreak comes from Lincoln telling Ilana that he doesn’t want to be friends with her because they were never really friends in the first place. In the show’s brief history, Ilana hasn’t ever been forced to deal with such a direct, immediate change in her life, and her reaction feels wholly authentic to her character. Of course, she tries to play it cool, especially during a dinner celebrating her parents’ 35th wedding anniversary, but the final nail in coffin is the reveal that, on top of all of this, her best friend has been keeping a secret from her.

Ah yes, Abbi’s Trey secret. Picking up from last week’s surprise hookup, the show moved full steam ahead…well, at least in Trey’s case. It’s clear from the start that he’d like to move things past the point of being just purely physical, while Abbi is fine with them being just sex friends…at least for now. The episode does a good job of expanding his character, making Abbi’s decision to not tell Ilana about him all the more multifaceted. Sure, it’s too much too soon when he whips out a corsage for her on their first date. Still, he means well! He remembered that she never got to go to prom! This back-and-forth between overdoing it and genuine earnestness would be confusing for anyone, so it’s understandable that it takes Abbi the length of the episode to admit—both to Ilana and to herself—that she’s more than just attracted to him. She really likes him.

After a series of amusing switch-offs between Trey’s table and the Wexlers’ table—fueled by one too many lychee martinis, of course—Abbi’s secret inevitably comes out, sending Ilana over the edge. What follows is one of the most poignant scenes the series has done so far, allowing both of the ladies to react to the major changes the’ve been faced with.

Abbi accidentally calls her thing with Trey a “joke” while he’s within earshot, something that she clearly was saying just to placate Ilana. Still, the damage is done. Trey’s response to all this is very simple. “I’m not a joke Abbi, I thought we were having fun,” he says. And then, “This really sucks.” It’s a very straightforward reaction, but Paul Downs’ delivery is perfect. This season has begun to dig deeper into both of the ladies’ flaws, giving special attention to the idea that Abbi might not be the best person. If anything, this scene provides another example of how easily she shuts things down before they get too real. This isn’t to say that Abbi is bad, per se, but she’s certainly more self-involved than she’d like to admit. The development of her character in this season alone has been fascinating. If you had told me in season 1 that there’d be an episode where I pitied Abbi’s annoying co-worker from her gym, I wouldn’t have believed you. Yet, here we are, and I believed every second of it.

After Trey leaves, Ilana loops in Abbi about her breakup with Lincoln. I don’t talk much about the performances on this show, mainly because they’re always consistently upbeat and wonderfully comedic, but Glazer showed incredible range in this scene, proving she can do so much more than deliver the perfect “YAAS Queen!” The effect of her losing someone from her life hit her like a ton of bricks, and her subsequent breakdown felt fully realized. Ilana has always been carefree and spontaneous when it comes to her hookup choices, and, for the most part, has been able to pretty much do what she wants without any consequences. This isn’t to say that Lincoln leaving her was her fault, but when she says “of course he wants to be monogamous with someone else,” it’s as if she’s finally realizing how often she’s ignored him in the past.

Just in case anyone was worried that Broad City has transformed itself into a melodrama, I just want to clarify that “Burning Bridges” is also really f*cking funny. A sequence early on in the episode involving Ilana skipping down the street while shouting “Madonna, Rihanna, Ilana!” made me laugh out loud several times. Bob Balaban, Susie Essman, and Eliot Glazer return as Ilana’s endearingly opinionated family, and a scene where Ilana accidentally catcalls her brother is not to be missed. On top of all of this, Abbi’s table-hopping features some top-shelf physical comedy, particularly after she’s downed her second martini of the night.

My point is saying all of this is that I’m so impressed with how the show is still very much itself while exploring new avenues of storytelling. The best TV shows find ways to give their characters added layers over time, while never losing site of what made them so unique in the first place. Abbi and Ilana deal with some big changes over the episode, but Broad City itself isn’t changing at all. It’s just growing up, and it’s a beautiful thing to behold. Grade: A

 

Some Other Notes:

  • Fun Fact #1: The women who yell “f*ck you!” to Abbi and Ilana after they take their seats in the park were played by Jacobson and Glazer’s real-life moms.
  • Fun Fact #2: The plot of Abbi jumping between Trey’s table and the Wexlers’ table, while a commonly used sitcom premise, is also very reminiscent of a similar scene in Mrs. Doubtfire. I only bring this up because the waitress who serves both tables was played by none other than Mara Wilson!
  • I absolutely love the fact that the show keeps having Abbi re-wear the blue dress she bought in “Fattest Asses.” If I spent over $400 on an article of clothing, you can bet I’d be wearing it all the time too.
  • “Ohhh Jesus! My diaphragm! I left it! Cathy comic!”
  • Eliot recognizing Trey as Kirk Steele was so, so great.
  • “He met some beautiful queen…” “A real queen?” “No, a queen like us.”
  • I have now watched Ilana’s “Madonna, Rihanna, Ilana” sequence several times over, simply for the woman she accidentally pushes into the trashcan. It never fails to make me smile.

 

By Mike Papirmeister

 

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