What I’ve always loved about Broad City is that it feels like classic, urgent, current New York fiction. It’s not representing New York as it actually is—the show itself is a little grungier, a little more vulgar, a lot sillier—but it feels like the city has always felt to me. New York is a city of being your fine ass self with your BFF and your sorta not really boyfriend, going out to have the best night of your life that might turn into one of your worst. It’s perfect that this season of Broad City begins with a montage of Abbi and Ilana’s bathrooms—a year of fuckin’, drinking, shitting and smoking weed.
The two gags that will run the course of the season 3 premiere, “Two Chainz,” are set up when Ilana drops the key to her bike chain down a sewer drain and Abbi ruins her shirt trying to get it back up. Abbi has to go to a gallery show that evening to see her old college roommate’s first Big Deal show, and now Ilana has a heavy ass chain wrapped around her waist.
They head to a sample sale, where people are literally beating the shit out of each other for clothes. I’m not sure if sample sales are actually like this, having never been to one, but I honestly assume that they are. As Abbi leaves she realizes that they left the security tag on, but when they double back they find it deserted. Again, I assume this is just a true to life representation of a sample sale.
Now with the titular chains tightly adhered to their bodies, they embark on the tried and true New York tradition of finding a place to pee in public. One problem with this episode and the whole Broad City formula is that it tends to feel at times more like a series of sketches than a real comedy show. The interlude where Ilana gets stuck to the back of a truck because of her bike chain, while hilarious, certainly feels that way. The rest of the episode elegantly feeds into itself, each problem mounting until the back breaks and everything snaps, but I struggle to understand why this section is here.
Then again, its pointlessness is its point. New York is a city where Weird Shit Happens and you kinda have to roll with it. Every time I have been in the city it’s like a switch flips in my brain and I magically become chill. I have panic attacks on the Blue Line in Chicago after the sun goes down but I happily board the MTA after 1am. New York is a place where you walk and kind of let things happen to you—you don’t have to seek them out. Shit is happening in New York all the time whether you want it to or not. At least most of the time it makes for a fun story. Have I ever told you about the time I ended up singing Miley Cyrus at a metal karaoke bar?
The real gem of this episode, however, is when Abbi and Ilana make it to the gallery. I help run a non-profit gallery space and interned at an art gallery for two years. Trust me: art people are exactly like this, especially the shirtless guy carrying a stick who compliments Ilana on her bike chain, mistaking it for a fashion statement. Enchenté indeed.
This is what makes Broad City so enduring. It’s exaggerated, but not to the point where nothing is recognizable. It feels all the more intimate and real because all the right parts are emphasized. Abbi’s artist friend, wearing what looks like a take on a Jacobian ruff, a flapper dress, and knee high heel-less lace up boots (all in black, of course), says she looks ridiculous while also looking like a model. She then describes Abbi’s college paintings, calling them, “So surreal… but at the same time, so real. But at the same time, so surreal. But, at the same time, so real.” It is a perfect portrait of a person who might be brilliant, might be an idiot, but will definitely be successful.
This episode ends where is has to end—Abbi and Ilana ruin their friend’s painting. Ilana tries to take the security tag off with her teeth, and sprays her mouth and their friend’s all white painting with blue ink.
One of my favorite kinds of jokes are the ones that go on so long they stop being funny, until they start being funny again. When Ilana’s bike chain gets magnetically attracted to a giant sculpture of a ballsack after being screamed at to leave three times, blue ink splattered on her mouth, I was cackling.
It isn’t a transcendent premiere, and it’s not here to coax newcomers into latching on to the show, but “Two Chainz,” is a little bit perfect. It is the kind of episode that makes me want to move to New York, a city I have been avoiding moving to for years. Broad City is a love letter to the kind of weirdness you only get in New York, when you’re young and hot and you don’t need to care what people think of you. Their New York isn’t a place where dreams come true or where the city lights are calling your name, but one where you build a repertoire of stories to tell at parties. Someone should write a song about that already, but for now Broad City will do.
Gita Jackson is Paste’s assistant comedy editor.