It’s rare for a show in its fourth season to find so much new, fertile ground, but Broad City has always had a magic all its own. In “Witches,” the aging fears of women in their 20s are externalized, refuted, and celebrated. Meanwhile, the idea of enjoying sex in the hellscape of 2017 is examined head-on, in one of Broad City’s most Zeitgeisty story lines to date.
Abbi and Ilana duct-tape the windows shut to deal with that absurd period of time between October and December when New York City landlords decide, “Eh, I’ll withhold turning on the heat for just a feeew more weeks.” (Seriously, why is this a thing?) Abbi wants a space heater but can’t afford one, and Ilana, now “waitress rich,” offers to buy it for her. Abbi declines, saying she’s just upset that she doesn’t have a job and therefore can’t buy one for herself.
Ilana is excited to see that Abbi has gotten her first gray hair. Abbi is less thrilled, but Ilana insists she’s becoming a witch. “Like Dame Judi Dench,” agrees Bevers, who barges into the room, pantless as ever. “And Stacey London from What Not to Wear before you.” Abbi doesn’t believe in witches, and anyway, she was hoping that by the time she got her first gray hair she’d be further along in life (“posting pictures of Akai [sic] bowls on Instagram”). She decides to sell handmade cards outside the Met to take control of her life and buy herself that space heater.
Once on the steps of the Met, another street artist named Margo introduces herself to Abbi, who sees a bleak glimpse into her future. They have the same rolling cart, the same Tupperware, and even the same soup Thermos. Just as she’s starting to morph into an actual witch, complete with a scarf-induced hunchback and a misplaced lentil for a wart, Abbi then meets an incredibly young-looking 51-year-old dermatologist, who keeps herself looking young by doing fillers for rich ladies on the Upper East Side. The dermatologist buys $50 worth of cards, and gives Abbi her contact information.
Abbi isn’t thrilled to hear that Margo went to the same art school that she did, and is further caught off guard when she runs into Jeremy, who now has a girlfriend and an adopted son. They do charity work and have disposable income, and Abbi is clearly embarrassed. She asks Margo to watch her table, and runs to go take the dermatologist up on her offer. Abbi realizes she made a mistake: She’s been insecure about aging, but the truth is that she likes the way that she looks — well, aside from the half a face of bat poop she just had injected.
Meanwhile, Ilana is incredibly horny — even more so than usual — and goes to a sex therapist, Betty. She’s says that her “friend” hasn’t orgasmed in months. Ilana’s in denial that she has a problem, and the therapist lets her maintain the denial. The therapist encourages Ilana to look at her vulva, which she names Abbi. Ilana rages at “Abbi,” before admitting that the problem isn’t her vagina, but her mind. She’s upped the dosage of her meds and she’s had “dead pussy” all year.
Hit with a sudden realization, Ilana flashes to a montage of President “Human Skin Tag” saying and doing vagina-drying horrifying things. Ilana realizes she hasn’t had an orgasm since the election, even though she’s a “cum queen.” Betty comforts her by telling her that since the election orgasms have been down 140 percent.
Betty helps Ilana look inside herself for the mental clarity to rise above the knowledge that a “sexual-assault-bragging steak salesman” is president. Ilana battles between hot thoughts and the horrifying facts about the current administration. Ilana manages to access the strong women icons inside of her heart — I’d imagine Ilana herself might make it into those montages for many modern women — and finally is able to orgasm again.
Ilana and Abbi run into each other back at the Met steps, where the tables are all gone but there is a scroll waiting for Abbi, telling her to come to a thicket in the park that night. Once there, they find a gathering of cool older women partying and dancing around a fire. While Ilana stays behind to party with them, Abbi goes to find the dermatologist, bringing her back into the park so she can embrace herself as well. The witches howl into the night.
And yes, Abbi eventually allows Ilana to buy her the space heater.
I love that Broad City is directly taking on the subject of women’s autonomy in the Age of the Unashamed Misogynist. It is easy, right now, for millennial women to feel despondent. Like Abbi, many of us lack job stability or even the hope to get there. Like Ilana, many of us are dealing with uncomfortable relationships to our bodies because so many men in power clearly don’t think we should have control of them. Like both, many of us have complicated relationships to aging, not only because our generation has been economically disenfranchised to the point where milestones like buying a home or retiring seem like impossible fantasies, but because aging has always been uncomfortable for women in a world that values our youth and appearance above all else.
In season four, Broad City is taking on the idea of adulthood not only in the way that every generation has had to cope with growing up, but by also considering the specific challenges of getting older amid the madness of 2017. If “Witches” understands anything, it’s that despite history’s attempts to tear us down, women have survived everything — and there’s no stopping us now.
• There it is, the cursed name of President 45, bleeped out just like Abbi and Ilana promised it would be!
• “TR*MP-RELATED PUSSY CONSTIPATION” is the punk band name I’ve been looking for.
• If casually talking about antidepressants last episode was revolutionary, acknowledging that they can often impede orgasmic abilities is next-level.
• “Witches aren’t monsters, they’re just women … everyone wants to kill them because they’re jealous.”