“Me too,” Abbi says.
“I’ve never felt so cool,” Ilana says, fighting tears.
“I’ve never felt so cool.”
“Really,” Ilana says, “not as cool as when I’m with you.”
Abbi and Ilana look out over the East River, suspended, with their reclaimed street toilet, on the iconic bridge, the horizon spreading before them. Abbi takes a Sharpie and writes something on the railing of the wind-tossed landmark. Soon, the show’s roving camera reveals the message she has scrawled: “ABBI + ILANA FOREVER.”
It’s a fantastic scene, and only in part because it takes one of the running themes of Broad City—Abbi and Ilana treating New York’s topography as a playground for their adventures—and blends it with the one of the city’s most familiar icons. The scene also summons another of Broad City’s long-running jokes: the notion that the show that follows the familiar contours of the buddy comedy has also been, all along, a rom-com. The series has been explicit about that: It has repeatedly emphasized Ilana’s attraction to Abbi (Ilana once proposed marriage to her friend); it featured, as the premiere to Season 4, a Sliding Doors–inflected exploration of how the star-crossed friends almost didn’t cross paths at all—the anxieties of love’s accidents.
But the idea has been stressed more subtly, too. The relationship that Abbi and Ilana share is platonic, but characterized still by the woozy warmth most traditionally associated with romantic relationships. Their affection for each other is unconditional. They find each other magical. They are the loves of each other’s lives. This is the stuff of sonnets and love songs, applied to the promises of best-friendship. As Abbi tells Ilana, finding her own kind of poetry, “I didn’t even know my ass was dope until you taught me it was!”
It’s an approach that can read as a rebellion, and that’s because it is. Broad City is in some ways a studiously small show: Its focus, over its five remarkable seasons, has been the wacky adventures and, more often, the wacky misadventures of its two protagonists. Abbi and Ilana have had other friends, and also boyfriends, and also girlfriends, and also parents, and also siblings, and also roommates, and also coworkers. Those relationships have all been secondary, though, to the relationship around which all the others have orbited. The pair’s friendship is total, and totalizing. The most beautiful, deep, real, cool-and-hot, meaningful, important relationship of my life.
That has helped make the show, precisely in the narrow scope of its story line, so very broad. It is a rare thing, after all, to see a friendship between women given such myopic focus, and such deep attention, and such steadfast love. It is far more common, on television, to see such relationships treated, effectively, as plot devices: as vehicles for drama, and/or jealousy, and/or pettiness, and/or pathos. It is far more common to see stories about women’s friendship assumed to be competitive—the brute logic of a zero-sum society applied to individual relationships. It’s a pernicious idea, but a common one: women, even when they’re friends, competing with one another for partners, for professional success, for status. And Broad City has rejected its premise.