Review: Broad City S5E5 “Artsy Fartsy”
At the midpoint of its final season, Broad City crafts some crossroads moments for Abbi and Ilana in the Ilana Glazer directed and Abbi Jacobson written “Artsy Fartsy”. In this, and the previous episode where Jaime moved out, Ilana decided to follow her dream as a therapist, and Abbi quit her job at Anthropologie in a blaze of glory, Glazer and Jacobson have switched from telling stories of cultural satire to more personal ones. The episode chronicles Abbi juggling the two worlds of being a guest at a prestigious MOMA party and the caterer at one, and Ilana negotiating her relationship contract with Lincoln (Probably Hannibal Burress’ farewell) over a prix fixe pasta meal. Also, Lucia Aniello, who directed Broad City’s pilot and many of its best episodes, gets to step in front of the camera as the artist formerly known as Smelly Pussy Donna and current MOMA big wig.
The episode begins with Abbi being saved from being a third wheel on Lincoln and Ilana’s anniversary/relationship negotiation dinner by running into an old college friend, Donna, who has done well for herself in the art world. The context is that Abbi and Ilana are watching, eagle eyed, at the MOMA gift store to see if anyone buys Abbi’s cute, celebrity favorite food postcards. After getting fired from Anthropologie and getting a new job as a caterer, Abbi is jumping back into the art game, and Donna’s name dropping about teaching and residencies shows her a glimpse at a world she definitely wants to be a part of. Aniello plays Donna as a little stuck up, but likable and friendly and open about what techniques she used to shed the college nickname of Smelly Pussy Donna.
However, the emotional heart of the episode comes in Ilana and Lincoln’s plotline where Glazer (directing herself) lingers on the pain that Ilana feels when she thinks Lincoln is going to propose. Thankfully, the box just has some dangly, trendy “Jewess” earrings. This awkwardness does show that maybe their relationship isn’t long for this world even though they seemed pretty happy in the season 5 premiere. It extends to the dinner, which is shot almost pornographically by Glazer, because that’s some pretty good pasta they’re eating on.
But after the tasty food, their conversation turns from little, funny things, like letting Lincoln watch three romantic comedies (Ilana enjoys roasting the.) a year and going down from having sex in a roller coaster to the more manageable Ferris wheel, to more serious matters that have been building up for quite some time. Lincoln wants to move back to the more affordable Maryland and open a dental practice with his brother that’s adorably called Tooth Factory, get a house, married, and have kids. Ilana wants to stay in New York, try the becoming a therapist thing, and kiss at least fifty people in addition to Lincoln. They both love each other very much, but Ilana and Lincoln’s life goals have become incompatible so I guess it’s quits for them. Thankfully, Glazer and Jacobson punctuate the feels with a lot of fart jokes.
While this is going on, Abbi is having a throwback to Season 3’s “Burning Bridges” and having to play the role of guest at artsy fartsy party and caterer at one. (Lincoln and Ilana also broke up in the Aniello directed episode so they’re kind of companion pieces.) It leads to a lot of awkward physical humor from Jacobson as she tries to avoid her ever vigilant supervisor Kevin (The Punisher’s Todd Alan Crain) and still schmooze around the complex art world. And it ends up being a complete disaster involving drink spilling on artist heroes, lots of misunderstandings, and general feelings of inferiority. Abbi desperately wants to be a part of the art world, but she’s still a beret wearing caterer on the outside looking in.
But thing take a fantastic turn in one of the best character beats created for Abbi. After she passes out at the party and is brought to the hospital, she ends up flirting and hitting it off with her doctor, Leslie (Clea DuVall). Jacobson and DuVall have immediate chemistry as they shyly ask each other if they’re seeing someone between Leslie giving Abbi glucose pills and instructions. At the end of the episode where Abbi and Ilana chat, Abbi says that she was hesitant to ask Leslie out because she’s used to dating men. This scene shows that queerness and coming out isn’t always a “very special episode”, but it can sometimes be thinking that someone the same gender is attractive and asking them out. It’s a powerful, quiet moment that is well-written and acted by Jacobson and visually captured by Glazer.
“Artsy Fartsy” turns its focus back to earlier Broad City themes of feeling inadequate compared to your more successful friends (i.e. Donna) and the ever evolving nature of relationships in your late twenties and early thirties. Abbi and Ilana are changing, and this episode boasts fantastic character development for a show that’s not super serialized. It’s worth checking out for Lucia Aniello’s dance moves in the ending credits alone.
Overall Verdict: 8.4