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Broad City returns, as surreal and so real as ever

Illustration for article titled Broad City returns, as surreal and so real as ever
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Broad City opens its third season with the best sequence the show has tackled to date. A split-screen montage takes us through several months of their lives, chronicling all the gross and beautiful things that go down in Abbi and Ilana’s respective bathrooms. It serves as an excellent, simple reminder of who each of these characters are as well as the things they have in common. On their toilets, they take turns reading Hillary Clinton’s autobiography, eat tacos and pizza, rip bongs, pluck and shave. Post-pride parade (I’m assuming, based on their outfits), Abbi flushes a goldfish down her toilet while Ilana makes out with a girl next to hers. Abbi dumps more fish, successfully fails a pregnancy test, and picks a wedgie. Ilana, unsurprisingly, brings sex into the bathroom, giving and receiving oral sex. There’s smoking, dancing, knitting, cleaning. They occasionally slip into each other’s frames to hold each other’s hair while the other pukes or to sing into their hairbrushes together.

The montage is full of weird details and moments that flash by almost too quickly to fully read into them (Ilana also takes a pregnancy test and seems to react much differently than Abbi does for hers). It plays out like its own mini-episode of Broad City, with Abbi and Ilana getting into their weird misadventures over and over. Abbi sports a neckbrace at the same time as Ilana has her arm in a sling—there’s definitely a story there, and the montage is particularly wonderful because of all the blanks it leaves. The imagery of the sequence alone is enough to make it a powerful short story. Then one quick four and three and two and one, one later, the real story of “Two Chainz” begins.

Illustration for article titled Broad City returns, as surreal and so real as ever

“Two Chainz” follows the most effective Broad City formula, giving Abbi and Ilana a very low-stakes goal but making it nearly impossible for them to reach it through a series of unfortunate and hilarious events. In the show’s pilot, all these two wanted was to get tickets to a Lil’ Wayne concert, but it never happened. In “Two Chainz,” Abbi just wants to attend an art gallery where one of her former college roommates Maxanne has a piece. This time, they do make it to their intended destination, but they probably wish they hadn’t.

When Abbi and Ilana finally do arrive at the gallery, Maxanne talks in circles about Abbi’s own landscapes, saying they were “so surreal, but at the same time, they were so real, and at the same time, they were so surreal, but at the same time, they were just so real.” Maxanne’s ridiculously drawn out description of Abbi’s art is actually a perfect description for Broad City itself, which keeps its stories so firmly grounded in realities about female friendships, the chaos and clamor of New York City, and some of the more eyeroll-inducing sides of millennial culture. Abbi and Ilana speak and think like very real women, and sometimes that means they speak and think like annoying white millennials, but there’s a definite sense of self-awareness to the way Ilana self-righteously rants about the plight of Saudi women (plight that she oversimplifies and decontextualizes, because she’s getting her information from one documentary she watched) and then seamlessly pivots to screaming about how unfair it is for a brunch establishment to take bottomless mimosas off the menu without warning.

The hostess calling Abbi “Abbo” sets off a chain of bad luck for Ilana and Abbi that heightens over time but never spins too far out of control. They’re all pretty relatable everyday problems, like losing your keys, or having to pee when you’re out and about in the city, or forgetting about plans with a friend. Broad City puts a few weird twists on those problems, trapping Abbi in a porta-potty that gets airlifted and sending Abbi and Ilana to Lincoln’s graduation from trapeze flying school. There’s a hint of surrealness throughout. A random voice echoes from the sewer where Ilana dropped her keys. The pop-up warehouse sale is heightened just to the point that it’s slightly askew and yet still feels somewhat real. The same can be said of the art gallery, which includes a giant magnetic pair of balls.


Broad City excels at those little moments of exaggerated weirdness within a simple framework, but one of the most defining aspects of the show is the naturalistic dialogue that lets its characters wander down strange tangents. In “Two Chainz,” Lincoln, Abbi, and Ilana have a straightforward discussion about which Sex And The City character they are. It’s a conversation that’s overdone in real life, and yet Broad City pulls it off without feeling trite. Lincoln admits that he only did trapeze school because he saw it in that one episode of Sex And The City. “The Miranda in me thought ‘I’m out of my comfort zone,’ but the Carrie in me couldn’t resist, so I did it,” he says. “You know what? I’m really a Miranda-Carrie too, I think,” Abbi chimes in. “With a little bit of Charlotte, even though she really annoys me.” It’s a fun take on the discussion, suggesting that everyone has parts of each of the characters in them instead of being confined to one character and therefore one “type.” It comes off as a bit of a meta-meditation on the show, which has always allowed Abbi and Ilana to fluctuate and be complex women. As the bathroom montage shows, they’re very different people, but they have a lot in common, too. Just as with Ilana’s rants about injustice, there’s a sense of self-aware mockery in the way the Sex And The City conversation unfolds, but in this case, it’s also a little endearing. Even when they’re pushed into extreme situations, Abbi and Ilana are always very real people, and that’s part of what makes it perfectly okay to let them have seemingly inconsequential conversations about dumb things like what Sex And The City characters they are.

Ilana and Abbi are far from having all their shit figured out. In “Two Chainz,” Abbi seems as far as ever from her dreams of being a successful artist. She can’t even successfully attend someone else’s gallery opening without mortifying herself. “Two Chainz” keeps things real by making Abbi and Ilana suffer the consequences of their tumultuous day. Maxanne throws them out of the gallery, and it’s honestly a little hard to watch. Abbi and Ilana’s antics are fun to watch, but their human-disaster tendencies aren’t really cute to the other people in their world, and that gives very real stakes to their screwups. But above all else, Abbi and Ilana’s friendship reigns supreme. Only one person could have gotten that chain off of Ilana, and they both know that.


Stray observations

  • I have rewatched the bathroom montage approximately a dozen times, and I recommend that everyone else do the same, because you catch something new every time.
  • I have had that exact mimosa tragedy happen to me before.
  • “To my frand to the and.” I love how Ilana just changes up pronunciations of words whenever she wants.
  • “We don’t have bathrooms. We don’t even have dressing rooms. This is a pop up, BITCH.”
  • “YEAH, I KNOW.” - Abbi, without missing a beat after the truck driver shouts “nice ass!”
  • “Let’s get married.”
  • “I recognize you from Abbi’s Instagram.
  • It sounds like Ilana only really talks to her therapist about Abbi’s problems, and yeah, that checks out.

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