The bathroom’s a sacred place. It’s the only place where being alone is the norm. It’s where we cleanse ourselves. And, if you’re Abbi and Ilana, it’s where you have sex, smoke weed, make sure you’re not accidentally pregnant, etc. Privacy is hard to come by, and even harder when you’re an underemployed 20-something living in New York.
Although the two only spend the fantastic first couple minutes of the episode in their respective bathrooms, the entire premiere revolves around the lavatory: Both need to desperately pee after a brunch where they took advantage of free sparkling water, so they spend the rest of the day searching for a place to do it — but in typical Broad City fashion, the titular city holds them back. It’s bad for them and good for us: Each time New York defeats Abbi and Ilana is a win for entertainment.
And New York defeats them often. In the first five minutes alone, a hostess repeatedly calls Abbi “Abbo,” Ilana drops her keys in a sewer grate, and then Abbi ruins her shirt trying — and failing — to retrieve said keys. This all happens before the two try to use the bathroom of the restaurant where they were literally just eating only to get rejected by the no-nonsense hostess, who apparently has never had to relieve herself after downing multiple bottles of free sparkling water. Some people know no struggle.
Looking at the dirtier aspects of life isn’t anything new, but Broad City is special in that it presents these aspects earnestly and (usually) without judgment. The opening bathroom sequence is a perfect example of that: Abbi and Ilana go about their lives on the toilets, experiencing both the good (reading Hillary Clinton’s book) and the bad (dumping dead pet fish) as Lizzo and Caroline Smith’s “Let ‘Em Say,” a vibrant anthem about confidence and its complications, plays on. Everyone poops, that one children’s book tells us. Everyone poops… and has sex, and waxes, and shaves, and clogs the toilet, Broad City tells us — an equally valuable lesson, especially when presented in such a delightful way.
Abbi and Ilana continue to tackle the vulgar on their journey to find a bathroom. Ilana crouches between cars in the street to pee before a cop almost catches her, and later accidentally wets herself after taking a surprise ride on the back of a truck. All the while, she’s donning a gigantic, heavy bike chain around her waist — that’s what the missing key was for, and is another challenge the two have been trying to overcome all day.
Ilana’s not the only one with an obstacle weighing her down though: Abbi bought a new shirt at a pop-up sale, but the clerk forgot to take off the security tag. While it’s not nearly as noticeable as Ilana’s unwanted belt, it does become an issue once they arrive at a friend’s art show and discover that this friend, who could help Abbi with her art career, has a personal problem with thieves.
To avoid any miscommunication, Ilana fumbles to forcefully take the tag off with her mouth after the friend briefly steps away. It’s successful, if “successful” means taking the tag off but spewing blue ink all over the friend’s painting hanging nearby in the process. Goodbye, tag. Goodbye, art career.
At this point, Ilana’s a capital-M mess. She looks like she just gobbled up a clan of Smurfs and still is stuck with that pesky chain, one Abbi eventually gets off in a concluding sequence that features a very aroused Ilana. Just watching the scene is torturous — blood is shed — but it’s also a strangely sweet example of an unsaid rule between the two friends: You help me, and I’ll help you — no matter how ugly it gets.
And, of course, it gets ugly. On Broad City, it usually does, which is part of why it’s as beloved as it is. The show lovingly embraces the unpleasant and the taboo, finding humor and oftentimes joy in the less-than-polite moments. Life isn’t always pretty, and Broad City makes a hell of a case for that being a good thing.
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