Thursday, June 20, 2024

Magik Kweens: Broad City’s “Witches” is the Best Thing You’ll See This Year

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Welcome, brethren, to this week’s Broad City coven, in which literal magic happens on screen for 22 solid minutes. This week’s episode, “Witches,” is a step up from the okay/pretty decent previous two episodes of the season. It’s also Abbi Jacobsen‘s directorial debut, and she nailed it.

We open on Abbi and Ilana attempting to winterize Abbi’s apartment by putting plastic on the windows, and griping about how ridiculous it is that “some landlord in the sky” controls the heat. Abbi was so close to being able to afford the same space heater as Drew Barrymore before Wanda Sykes fired her for accidentally murdering her cat, and now she’s sad and cold. Ilana is her own kind of sad, aka very, very horny, but we’ll get to that.

Ilana spots a single gray hair on Abbi’s head and practically jumps for joy. Abbi is less thrilled. Bevers comes into the room. He and Ilana excitedly tell Abbi that she is at the most powerful moment in a woman’s life: she’s ascending, like Dame Judy Dench. She’s becoming a Witch, and Ilana is extremely envious.

Abbi is still less than enthused, mumbling that witches aren’t real, to which my new favorite duo (?!) Ilana and Bevers cackle and make their case: if witches aren’t real, who makes all the kombucha? Where do scarves come from? Witches are totally real. And they are powerful. And Abbi’s hair makes her one of them. REJOICE.

Double double toil and trouble etc.

Abbi still isn’t buying it, but she does decide that if she’s old enough to have a gray hair, she’s old enough to buy a Drew Barrymore space heater with her own money that she makes selling her own artwork. (Ilana has the most beautiful response to this newfound self-empowerment and if you watch it you will feel real joy). So Abbi grabs the 250 handmade holiday cards she was going to send to her 250 camp friends and sets up a table by the Met with some other craft vendors.

There’s another craft seller, Margo, with the same push-cart as Abbi (which is the locus of another magical comedy moment in this episode). The two are oddly in sync, and Margo declares them soul sisters. Margo can hear everything that goes on at Abbi’s table even from across the sidewalk. One of the things that happens is that an incredibly beautiful “upper east side dermatologist” (read: cosmetic surgeon) buys several packs of cards, in the process revealing that although she looks 20, she’s 51. Abbi is utterly shocked, and the woman gives her a business card (which has a mirror on the back, lol) and tells her to drop by if she’s interested in some treatment.

The other thing that happens is that Jeremy (of “To Peg or Not To Peg” fame) comes by with his new life partner (they’re not married because he doesn’t own her) and their newly adopted son in a wagon. They seem so happy and perfect and they buy the rest of the cards. Abbi is so despondent about how much better everyone else seems to be doing that she heads to the cosmetic clinic so she can look like a 20-year-old even when she’s “old.”

Wouldn’t be sad if I turned into Witchy Margo, just saying.

Meanwhile, Ilana is having a crisis of her own. She needs to orgasm yesterday, but can’t do it. She feels broken and angry, so she goes to another kind of witch: a vulva witch, a vagina witch doctor, an orgasm-caster, what have you. Whatever her title, her name is Betty and she has a beautiful apartment with a big room full of woman-centric art, for vulva therapy. She’s my favorite.

At first, Ilana is embarrassed enough to lie about why she’s there, saying she’s there on behalf of her friend Abbi, who hasn’t been able to orgasm in months. Betty is too wise for that but she just goes with it, because she’s Magic and will help Ilana get to where she needs to be eventually.

They examine Ilana’s vulva in a mirror, and Ilana calls it straight-up gorgeous. I really appreciate this moment because it’s small, but it shows how body-positive and sex-positive this character, and this show, is. This permeates everything from the ubiquitous Planned Parenthood posters to the unwavering confidence Ilana has in her body no matter what she’s wearing to the omnipresent appreciation she has of Abbi’s butt in literally everything.

Probably my favorite Broad City scene ever.

Anyway, Betty asks Ilana to name her vulva, and she unsurprisingly names it Abbi. (Will they get together at the end of the series? I ship it). At this point it’s clear that Ilana is not here for Abbi but for vulva-Abbi. They go through a series of attempts to get vulva-Abbi to orgasm using a vibrator, but Ilana can’t do it. Betty tells her that orgasms are a journey that start in the mind. BETTY MY QUEEN.

A horrifying montage of Tr*mp images and soundbites invades the screen and it suddenly makes perfect sense why Ilana can’t be turned on enough to cum. Because GROSS. The revelation she has is that she hasn’t orgasmed since November 8. It’s a pretty striking allegory for life since then: it’s such a struggle to feel joy, but the built-up frustration and rage needs to be diffused somehow.

Betty hangs in there with Ilana until they get her to orgasm and it’s very funny but also weirdly poignant. Also, they bleep Tr*mp’s name as if it were a slur or a curse word, because #appropriate and #onbrand.

Ilana, wrapped in one of those silver blankets they give you after running a marathon, thanks Betty profusely as she continues to ride out residual orgasms every time she moves. Betty quips that she’s technically the only small business owner that Tr*mp has helped. I am very much under Betty’s spell.

In the end, the girls run into each other after their respective lady-doctor visits, both of them feeling better. Abbi realized after a botox injection in just one side of her face that she’d made a mistake. The dermatologist was not nearly as happy or perfect as she seemed. She didn’t allow herself to laugh (because laugh lines) and told Abbi that staying young-looking was a full-time job. This made her “youth” seem much less appealing, and Abbi realized that usually, on days that aren’t today, she feels pretty hot. #YQY, as Ilana and Phoebe Robinson would say.

As Ilana and Abbi head back to pack up Abbi’s table, they see that it’s gone, along with Margo. A tiny scroll floats down from the sky and Abbi unfurls it: it’s an invitation to come to Central Park that night, aka the winter solstice, in the thicket of the park; she’ll know where to go.

The pair go into the park after dark, and it’s the kind of thing where in real life it would feel very dangerous, because two female-identified people alone are often targets of harassment or worse. But they aren’t afraid, and when they hear whoops and shouts, they go toward the sound. They find a whole coven of womxn (including Our Foremothers Margo and Betty) around a bonfire, marking their faces with period blood and dancing, singing, playing instruments, stripping their clothes—being joyous. Ilana is into it. Abbi tells her to go ahead; she has to go see about a girl.

Abbi runs to the cosmetic clinic. In a rom-com worthy scene, she finds the dermatologist and takes her to the witch party. Everything is perfect and beautiful because Witches Are Beautiful and Good. Witches are the powerful, strong, brave womxn who will save the world, at least for tonight.

Also, they howl so loud that the break the glass on Tr*mp Tower.

And Abbi gets her Drew Barrymore space heater.


I give this episode 6/5 thriving houseplants and hand-knit scarves.

I love how it made every major character a woman, and through those characters explored different ways womxn use their bodies and minds for power, strength, and bravery, even when they don’t realize it. Ilana’s orgasm journey, while hilariously funny, also illustrated what it can look like when some aspect of The Patriarchy literally gets under the skin of even the most confident and seemingly unshakeable among us.

Abbi’s gray hair, despite her initial reaction to it, became a source of empowerment for her to be more active in creating the life she wants, and by extension, pull others (see: the dermatologist) up with her. I even loved how Bevers, normally a stand-in for The Patriarchy itself, was all about what he called the Swirling Chasm of Witch Magic, showing actual awe, maybe even respect, for the womxn who make that magic.

Until next week, queens, kweens, witches, Bettys, etc.

*There’s* the OTP.

Author Note: I take the category of Witch in general, including in this episode, to encompass not just cis women but all womxn who find their power outside of toxic masculinity.

Images Courtesy of Comedy Central

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