Broad City: “Mushrooms” Season 4 Episode 4 Review

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A vibrantly animated episode is Broad City at its best.

Any episode of TV with the basic plot of “let’s watch these guys do drugs,” is a bit of a gamble. Taking your favorite characters to different planes of existence can be an enlightening and wholly interesting viewing experience….or it can just be an excuse for the writers to get everyone to act crazy without actually developing a narrative.

You could end up with a brilliant meditation on life and love, like with Roger’s eye-opening acid trip on Mad Men or the incredible multi-episode arc on Six Feet Under when several family members accidentally take ecstasy. Or, you could be like that episode of Entourage where they all do shrooms at Joshua Tree and Vince just says the word “Benji” over and over again.

Luckily, “Mushrooms” doesn’t go anywhere near that path. In fact, psilocybin is used so ingeniously, that this episode deserves to be in a category all its own. The key to a successful drug trip storyline is to have a firm grasp on who your characters are at their core—even as their brains go to crazy new places. Broad City knows Abbi and Ilana inside and out, and so their animated shrooms journey becomes a magical experience that only this show could pull off.

Oh, did I not mention that this episode is almost entirely animated? Mike Perry, the illustrator behind the show’s delightfully irreverent opening title sequences, was given free reign to turn Abbi and Ilana’s stroll through the city into a candy-colored wonderland. The results are out of the this world—literally. At one point Abbi’s ass turns into a galaxy. There’s also a music sequence set to a newspaper box opening and closing, a magical lake that Bingo Bronson appears in, a moment when both girls turn into actual “cool cucumbers,” and a french macaron store that transports them to Paris (more on this in a minute). It’s honestly worth watching multiple times to catch things you might have missed. Every frame is filled with beautifully zany art that goes by at a mile a minute.

“Mushrooms” elevates itself beyond its colorful design, though. Cartoon Abbi and Ilana are still Abbi and Ilana, so their conversations still feature the breezy back-and-forth we know and love, just slightly off-kilter. Only a show like this could feature discussions about how pregnancy is when a woman “pussy poops another person,” or how pickles are the “trans people of the vegetable community” because they used to be cucumbers, with equal amounts of hilarity and authenticity.

I honestly could have watched hours of animated Abbi and Ilana just gliding through the city while talking about nothing, but “Mushrooms” is smart use its concept as a genuine narrative device instead of a mere (but still very entertaining) gimmick. In the middle of their trip, Abbi gets a text from her boss Dara that she needs her to pick up macarons for her wife’s birthday. So the two head to the aforementioned french pastry shop, and are delighted at all the confections in front of them. It’s only when they arrive at Dara’s apartment that they start to come down from their high.

This is where things seem to take a turn for the better, until the Broads decide to make it worse by softening their comedown with some weed. It has a negative effect on both of them, as they start to become paranoid in seemingly optimal situations.

Ilana is invited to have a threesome with an attractive, biracial couple who are also into pegging. Basically it’s her dream come true. Of course, thanks to the weed-shrooms cocktail she’s on, she keeps envisioning a cartoon Lincoln popping out of nowhere. At one point, he appears in a suitcase as a pretty potent metaphor for the baggage she’s still carrying.

Abbi, meanwhile, makes some headway with her career after Dara tells her they should get lunch to discuss her future. Unfortunately, her paranoia causes her to fear she’s locked herself in Dara’s study. She’s able to let her cat outside, but can’t open the door back to the living room.

What actually happened is much worse. Abbi was never locked in, and she accidentally smushed the cat to death in the doorway. She’s immediately fired. It’s a dark moment for sure, but the episode juxtaposes it with Wanda Sykes’ great performance—the repetition of “this too shall pass” is hysterical—and some wonderfully over-the-top party guests who are all-too shocked at the scene they walk in on.

What’s interesting about both these situations is that they’re clear indicators of how real-world consequences are starting to seep in to Abbi and Ilana’s lives. Abbi has messed up at work before, but this assistant position was a step in the right direction for her, and her drug-addled mind messed it up. Ilana is similarly starting to realize that she can’t go about love and sex as carefree as she’d like to. Although she probably wishes she hadn’t, she’s developed genuine feelings and she needs to face them head-on.

This culminates in an ending sequence that’s almost—ALMOST—as fantastic as the animated trip that takes up most of the episode. Ilana decides she’s going to tackle her demons, and goes on one last binge through Lincoln’s social media before totally un-friending him. The whole scene is shot with manic pacing as she furiously clicks through his various feeds in an attempt to get him out of her system.

She goes through the seven stages of grief with rapid speed and then breathes a sigh of relief. It’s intense and funny and totally relatable for anyone who’s ever had to get over an ex. Broad City rarely strays from its tried-and-true formula, but this episode about a cartoon drug trip and a smushed cat showed that it also isn’t afraid to grow up a little. Grade: A


Some Other Notes:

  • Last season saw Ilana out of work, and now Abbi is the one who’s unemployed. I’m interested to see where this goes, especially since I feel like Abbi’s job hunting will look very different from Ilana’s.
  • Ilana’s attempts to psych herself up in the mirror before heading back to her threesome were amazing. I can’t decide if I liked it better when she called herself “Nicki Minashkenazi,” or when she told her nipples to “Aniston up.”
  • So does this mean the end of Hannibal Buress on Broad City? If so, I’ll miss him a lot, but I’m excited to see the new direction Ilana heads in now that he’s out of her head.


By Mike Papirmeister


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