Since the premiere of “Broad City” in 2014, the careers of Ilana Glazer (“Rough Night”) and Abbi Jacobson (“Portlandia”) have taken off. Jacobson has been able to work with the Museum of Modern Art in New York to create a podcast about fine art. Glazer has been getting more work in other films and television series. Life has changed since the duo uploaded the first YouTube short in 2011. Glazer and Jacobson obviously no longer have to worry about the same financial concerns which continue to plague the on-screen characters — yet the show never forgets the characters’ humble beginnings. In the “Broad City” universe, friendship, not money, is the most powerful tool for getting anything done.
The finale of season four, “Friendiversary,” finds the heroines reflecting on the past few years of friendship in a way that is uncharacteristic for a show like “Broad City.” Season four consisted of many moments that looked inward: Ilana’s battle with depression, Abbi’s struggles against poverty and unemployment and life under Trump (whose name is censored). The tonal shift matches the seasonal shift in the universe of “Broad City.” It’s finally winter.
For all its millennial styles and sensibilities, “Broad City” approaches the season in a strikingly classic way. Both Abbi and Ilana are forced to face some unpleasant realities about the world and endure some hardship. Both women fail, in some respect, to live up to a set of standards and have to admit their shortcomings. Ilana gets a particularly rich character arc this season while she works under Marcel (RuPaul, “RuPaul’s Drag Race”) at his restaurant, Sushi Mambeaux. After a troubling shift, she confesses that her depression interferes with her ability to give it her all. Marcel forgives her and keeps her on staff, which sends the message that Ilana is important and valid while she suffers with depression.
While the season finale tackles a topic of less weight, the episode sends the same message. Abbi, upon waking, finds a giant cardboard standup of Ilana’s head and a clue that leads to a scavenger hunt. It ends at a cheap barbeque place, where the pair devours a fat tray of chicken fingers and slushie cocktails. However, it’s not all sunny and celebratory. Ilana reveals that the purpose of the scavenger hunt is to celebrate their Friendiversary, which Abbi has completely forgotten. Abbi’s poor attempts to assemble an equally thoughtful and elaborate gift end up leading the duo to the top of the Empire State Building on a rainy night. Long story short, Abbi and Ilana end up pursuing a man who they think threw a sex doll off of the balcony.
After they confront the man, which almost leads to jail time for Abbi and Ilana, Abbi divulges that she forgot their Friendiversary. Ilana quickly replies that she knew, with no tinge of injury or malice in her voice. While Ilana isn’t a vengeful character, it wouldn’t be out of her range to feel neglected or forgotten. It’s a beautiful moment where the audience realizes how in-tune and intimate the characters are with each other. Abbi’s unwillingness to mellow Ilana out is matched by Ilana’s patience and eagerness to follow Abbi’s ideas. As the camera pans to a section of sidewalk where “Ilana + Abbi 2011” is etched into the concrete, the audience gets the sense of the permanence of their friendship. In times of turmoil, the most valuable resources that we have are our friends. “Broad City” never forgets this.