The sophomore season of Broad City opens with best friends Abbi and Ilana (series creators Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer) traversing a crowded subway in order to optimally position themselves in the rear car. Squeezing past sub-munching tourists, crotch-grabbing lotharios, and, then, passing through a car filled entirely with Hasidic Jews, the duo finally arrives at their destination—only to realize, as the subway screeches to a halt, that it was actually the front of the train they needed to get to. In miniature, the scene encapsulates the core of the series: two twentysomething women trying, but often failing, to successfully navigate a New York where the eccentric and perverse reigns supreme. That premise might seem predisposed to mine a brand of melancholic humor, but the series is less invested in wallowing in every-day frustrations than in portraying the camaraderie that helps us shrug off such inconveniences. The series reasserts these desires when the friends step off the subway; any sense of irritation dissipates, and the pair quickly find themselves in a playful slapping match, their laughter echoing through the station.
As with the first season, the organization of each episode is loose, less a tightly plotted chain of events than a constellation of sketches organized around a central premise. The second season’s premiere episode roughly concerns the pair’s attempt to acquire an air conditioner during a heat wave, but that foundation is merely an excuse for a series of scenes that range from a trip to Bed Bath & Beyond—where Ilana discovers that BB&B-obsessed Abbi has established elaborate handshakes with all of the employees—to a stilted seduction between Abbi and the affectionately named “male Stacy” (Seth Rogen), who must pause in flagrante delicto to remove the paper towels he’s stuffed down his backside to prevent “swamp ass.” Rather than underscoring a lack of narrative direction, the show’s sketch-comedy quality highlights a welcome unpredictability; it’s never clear where a particular episode will wend, and in a series so open to possibility, sexual and otherwise, that fickleness is an asset—and one that often leads to perceptive commentary.
In the episode “Knockoffs,” Abbi’s consummation of a long-simmering flirtation with her neighbor, Jeremy (Stephen Schneider), takes an unexpected turn when he requests that she “peg” him. In a lesser series, the dilemma elicited by that proposition would fuel the entire episode, but Broad City refuses to exoticize Jeremy’s predilections for more than a moment. Instead, it pivots to become about Abbi’s attempt to find a replacement dildo after she accidentally melts Jeremy’s in the dishwasher the next morning. When he deems the $79 substitute she offers him a cheap knockoff, the incompatibility between the two is revealed to be rooted in the mores pertaining to class, not sex.
As these ramshackle plots unfold, they’re anchored by the friendship between Abbi, the tentative optimist, and Ilana, the carefree firebrand. If their dynamic is a familiar one (Ilana the Laverne to Abbi’s Shirley), the particulars of Jacobson and Glazer’s characters are nuanced enough to make the pairing feel fresh. In particular, Ilana’s emphatic body language and her tendency toward puckish malapropisms (“Grab the bull by its balls”) meld well with Abbi’s hesitant excitability, which lends her an air of barely submerged mischief. Whether sneaking into a movie or discussing the particulars of Colin Farrell’s sex tape (of which Ilana is an aficionado), their rapport overpowers any sense of peril they might encounter. When, at the end of one episode, Abbi expresses surprise at her friend’s offhanded implication that she’ll be present when the latter gives birth, Ilana replies, only half-kidding, “Bitch, who else would be my focal point?” It’s that exuberant depiction of female kinship as being inextricably bound to the anarchy of daily living that gives the series its unexpected sweetness.