“Witches,” the sixth episode of Broad City’s fourth season, begins with Abbi (Abbi Jacobson) and Ilana (Ilana Glazer) covering up a bedroom window with plastic while Abbi voices her frustration about “the crazy landlord in the sky” who controls the heat in their apartment. It’s a seemingly insignificant moment that, by the end of the episode, is brazenly understood as a reflection of the helplessness that women like Abbi and Ilana feel over what was taken away from them when Donald Trump became president. This isn’t hyperbole. Ilana, unbelievably, hasn’t come in four months, and the episode’s uproarious centerpiece sees the horndog speaking directly into her stubborn vulva during a session with a sex therapist and realizing that her inability to satisfy her libido is directly linked to every horrible thing that our commander in creep said about more than just women on the campaign trail.
Broad City is still gut-busting, but there’s a sad undercurrent to the new season. It’s in Abbi, knowing that she needs a heater, choosing to spend money on a Botox injection because of how her first gray hair has made her insecure about everything she thinks she hasn’t accomplished. When her impossibly young-looking 51-year-old dermatologist (Great Lee) instantly regrets laughing at one of Abbi’s jokes because of the wrinkles it’s brought on, Abbi is fully awakened, like Ilana, to the absurdity of sacrificing her body to a world defined by men. And that realization alone is enough to spark a party out of thin air, at night in the woods, where all of the episode’s women (and then some) dance in celebration of their empowered womanhood.
Hillary Clinton wouldn’t be out of place at this impromptu party, nor any of the women from sitcoms past who Broad City lovingly honors during the episode’s end credits. One who is there is Jane Curtin, who stars as a street vendor who’s written as a kind of future version of Abbi, and because the actress once anchored Weekend Update on Saturday Night Live, my mind wandered to Tina Fey and the controversy surrounding her recent “sheet cake” bit on the late-night show. The visceral nature with which Broad City’s Abbi and Ilana use their pleasure to fight Trump brings into sharper focus that Fey’s unmistakably self-deprecating satirizing of inaction is, at worst, a miscalculation of tone. By contrast, Abbi and Ilana’s weaponizing of their bodies (“Witches” features a smash cut to a Trump Tower window cracking in response to the energy of the all-ladies party in the woods) feels like the fire needed to fight the president’s own as he escalates the culture wars.
Broad City is still gut-busting, but there’s a sad undercurrent to the new season.
Though season four sees it treading into heavy waters, Broad City does so without shoving a woke badge in our faces. This show, without even knowing it, fights the ugliness with which Trump’s words are inviting violence against non-white bodies and their comrades in arms by simply putting white and non-white bodies in close proximity to one another and not giving a shit. Literally. In “Just the Tips,” Ilana craps her leotard upon realizing that her ex, Lincoln (Hannibal Buress), has arrived at the party she’s attending with another girl. Later, Lincoln joins Ilana in the bathroom, and the show lavishes us with that ingeniously deployed lowbrow humor that is its specialty: having us obsess about whether Ilana is actually going to put the party thrower’s towel she uses to wipe her ass with back on its hook as she and Lincoln themselves obsess over the stink of shit in the air, until all that matters is that this crazy white girl and this crazy black guy are crazy for each other.
The series is more deliberate about giving Jaime (Arturo Castro) a central role this season, but it’s still only in the service of advancing the show’s overriding message that sex is a panacea. (Better than sheet cake, amiright?) “Just the Tips” pivots with laser-sharp precision around Ilana’s crippling discomfort at being around Lincoln, Abbi grotesquely over-inflating the significance of her relationship to a man she’s only been dating for six days, and Jaime struggling with the decision about whether or not to get a circumcision. In a Dadaist explosion of comic neurosis that rivals some of the finest humor from the second season of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Jaime’s analogy for what a normal orgasm feels like for him so profoundly contrasts with that of the circumcised party giver that one doesn’t doubt that Jaime will not cut his pepito, no matter how much irritation his excess skin brings him.
Broad City’s season premiere isn’t as anarchic as the third and sixth episodes, but that’s because its humor aspires to float like a butterfly. The 2011-set episode, aptly titled “Sliding Doors,” could have been made by Hong Sang-soo: two different accounts, so delicately braided, of the day that Abbi and Ilana met, beginning at the moment where one swiped the other one into the subway and ending, well, I won’t spoil that. Each account is vastly different in the embarrassments it doles out to each of these two women, as well as in the distance it keeps between them throughout. You’re never certain which account is the true version of how they met, or whether you’re just wallowing in some warped nostalgia for what once was because, God forbid, it will never be again. And then you realize that it doesn’t matter. What does is that Abbi and Ilana will always end up together, comrades in arms, fighting the good fight against any man who dares to go around snipping women’s ponytails.