The last time Broad City was on-air, the show took a minute to endorse Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination. Less than a year later, Donald Trump was inaugurated as the 45th President. In a fitting coincidence, Hillary Clinton’s new book, What Happened, a reflection on last year’s election, was released yesterday, just a day prior to Broad City’s season 4 premiere. While no television show is obligated to address real world politics, Broad City—a show that once satirically predicted that the future is “caramel and queer”—did. And in their beautiful, bawdy way, the creative team behind Abbi Abrams and Ilana Wexler have managed to spin something perversely funny from the trauma of Trump.
In episode 3 of the latest season, Ilana finds herself unable to orgasm following the election. She seeks out the help of a counselor, who coaxes her mind out from beneath the heaps of Trump rubble that remain strewn all over America’s collective consciousness. Eventually, only after finding the strength to summon a montage of powerful women, which includes Mindy Kaling and Elizabeth Warren among others, she comes. How common was this orgasmic roadblock for liberal women? “Quick survey,” I urgently texted my girlfriends. “Was it hard for you to come after the election?” The answers were divided, but an issue for half of us is an issue nonetheless. If the election of a self-proclaimed assailant was shocking to anyone—and shock certainly manifests physically—Ilana’s “recovery” is a weirdly hilarious prescriptive on re-taking control of the body.
Real world politics aren’t the only forces that urge the show’s protagonists to become sturdier characters this season. Ilana is now making “cold, hard cash” as a waitress, and Abbi no longer works at Soulstice. Lincoln has moved on romantically, and Trey is nowhere to be found in the first three episodes that I’ve screened. In that way, a bit of the reliable comedic scaffolding of the previous seasons—familiar faces and places—has been taken down. The changes give the women more room to fail at growing up. In episode 2, six days into seeing a new guy, Abbi makes a fool out of herself by jumping the gun and declaring herself “in a relationship.” Later, in a spur of fear about getting old, she gets botox to half her face. Ultimately, for every slapstick setback, the women manage to cling tight to one another and troop forward, as they do.
While the show propels the duo in new directions, the premiere actually takes place in the past. The episode is split between two tales of their meeting: one in which they become fast friends, another in which they don’t. “It’s a parody of the typical meet-cute of romantic comedies,” my girlfriend noted. The episode gets physical in the way that Broad City does best: Ilana’s dress gets ripped off by a passing bike while Abbi’s hair is snipped off by a sadistic pony-snatcher. The episode positions the horrible circumstances/men that women have to endure against the salvation that kindred spirits offer each other. It’s hilarious, of course. To me, it’s also as romantic as Jesse and Celine meeting on a train to Vienna.
By every measure—save for their hairstyles—past-Abbi and past-Ilana are identical to their present-day selves. If you recall, Broad City’s premiere episode was driven by their need to earn a quick $200 in order to see Weezy. Five years later, when Ilana rolls up in a limo to pick Abbi up for a party, she yells “young mula baby!” through the moonroof before scattering bills all over the street. While their worlds and circumstances change, Abbi and Ilana stay the same: perennially hustling, uncouth, and good.