As promised ahead of this season, Abbi on Broad City is exploring her bisexuality and officially dating a woman! Clea DuVall to be specific! Riese wrote about the introduction of Dr. Leslie after last week’s “Artsy Fartsy,” and last night’s “Lost and Found” drops us right into bed with Abbi and Leslie in the cold open. Leslie is straight up watching Abbi sleep. Oh!
It doesn’t seem like Abbi and Leslie are putting any official labels on anything yet, but this morning scene implies a familiarity. There have clearly been multiple sleepovers. Leslie even gives Abbi a present? Before they’ve even gotten out of bed? It’s one of those moments where you’re like ah yes, this is exceptionally gay, and straight viewers probably won’t even understand how gay this is. That’s the kind of gay storytelling I like to see on my television! The kind that just goes over straight people’s heads, like the fact that Elena on One Day At A Time really thinks everyone is gay! That’s just SO GAY!
With Broad City, there’s not always a clear sense of how much time passes between episodes, but I think it’s safe to say these two are maybe a few weeks into whatever’s happening, still talking about each other as if they’re crushes but also very clearly having regular sleepovers. But we’ll come back to their level of intimacy. Let’s talk about Ilana for a sec!
Recently, a “straight” girl I intensely crushed on in college came out as very much not straight! Which should be illegal! (To be fair, she too would have thought I was straight in college, but I am above The Law.) This is all to say that Ilana is going through a very specific spiral, one I clocked immediately.
Ilana has had a crush on Abbi for forever! And we’re finally addressing that! Which is great, because if Broad City had just sort of let that sit there for forever, it would just seem like a very outdated joke where queerness was the punchline. Ilana’s reaction to Abbi’s new exploration of her sexuality reiterates that she does indeed have some complicated feelings for her friend, feelings she herself has probably never fully dealt with because she was operating under the assumption that Abbi was straight! Abbi with Leslie has shaken Ilana to her core, which we get an early glimpse of at the end of “Artsy Fartsy,” but it’s on display more in “Lost and Found,” unfolding on the edges of all their interactions.
(By the way, I don’t think Ilana wants to date Abbi. Ilana doesn’t really want to date any one person, something reiterated by her relationship renegotiation with Lincoln last episode. But she has made it pretty dang clear that she is attracted to Abbi and gets very amped any time they do kiss or do anything physical.)
Leslie gives Abbi a weird yellow hat, and Ilana immediately hates it, projecting all of her complicated feelings about her friend onto the hat. This is also queer as fuck storytelling. It’s messy, raw, and it taps into a very specific, queer feeling about blurry friendship lines and longing. Ilana is likely wondering why Abbi never wore a hat she bought her, to borrow their way of talking around the real matter at hand. This isn’t the typical friendship jealousy storyline where one friend becomes possessive because their friend is spending so much time with a new romantic partner. This is a deeper, more complex queer version of that.
Of course, Abbi doesn’t owe Ilana anything. This is Abbi’s journey, and Ilana can’t make it about her. Ilana even seems to understand that on some level. She’s holding back, doing her best to internally process what’s happening but also seemingly incapable of completely concealing her distaste for Leslie. That’s exactly what’s so brilliant about this storytelling. It feels way more believable and authentic and queer than Ilana just being blanket supportive of Abbi.
Another thing Broad City really nails here is the specific and very natural way that Abbi and Leslie are physically intimate when they’re alone and talking to each other. At the end of the episode, they’re shown snuggling on a couch, about to watch something. Abbi touches Leslie’s wrist at some point, just absentmindedly. Leslie’s holding Abbi’s leg, wraps both arms around it at one point. These are all things that we don’t get to see a whole lot of with queer couples on television. They’re not very sexual, just intimate and connected.
Our TV Team has talked on here about how it sucks that queer couples don’t get to be as overtly sexual as straight couples do on television, but there’s another important side of that convo, which is just like… queer couples don’t really get to be just regular, everyday levels of physically close on TV. It’s either VERY chaste or it’s like here, We Are Doing A Queer Sex Scene Please Clap. It’s rarer to see queer couples do the kind of intimate yet very intuitive things couples do (which is part of why I love Patrick and David on Schitt’s Creek! They’re very affectionate and physical in subtle ways that ring with verisimilitude). Abbi Jacobson and Clea DuVall feel very natural in these scenes, and it’s striking.
It also feels worth mentioning that Abbi dates a woman ONCE and is already wearing a denim dress with pockets? I guess we’re just diving right on in to the queer lifestyle!!! Also, it’s such a flex to put not only DuVall but also Sasha Velour and Alan Cumming… playing ALAN CUMMING in your “coming out” episode. Is Broad City peaking in its final season?!