Comedy Central’s “Broad City” (2014–) debuted its fourth season on Sept. 13. Diverging from the third season’s two-part finale, which was set on a satirical Birthright trip, the fourth season brings the show back to its usual setting, New York City, to show how the lead characters met in 2011. The show follows the lives of best friends Abbi (Abbi Jacobson) and Ilana (Ilana Glazer), a pair of seemingly unlikely friends, and all the adventures and realities of living in New York. While Ilana and Abbi have always been politically engaged characters, with episodes ranging from Ilana joining the Clinton campaign to Ilana’s roommate naturalization, this new season promises to shift the show toward a more politically poignant direction.
The season premiere “Sliding Doors” follows two different versions of how Ilana and Abbi initially met. As the title of the episode suggests, Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson were inspired by the 1998 film “Sliding Doors,” where one moment changed the trajectory of the main character’s life. Similarly, the premiere poses two different situations in which Abbi and Ilana met. In one situation, both Abbi and Ilana miss the train and end up sparking a conversation on the platform. In the other scenario, Abbi and Ilana do get on the same train and end up not speaking.
Following the scenario in which they meet on the platform, Abbi and Ilana end up spending the whole day together. This plot line follows the origin stories of Ilana wearing her hair naturally curly and Abbi’s infamous Oprah tramp stamp. Although Abbi and Ilana have a great day together, they visit a psychic who says they’re going to die that very day. The prophecy comes out true at the end of the episode when Abbi and Ilana run in front of a bus trying to avoid the cops, revealing that the ideal scenario is in fact the one that never happened.
The alternative plot, where Abbi and Ilana don’t miss the train and ride in the same car but never speak, follows how a typical day in the life of the characters functioned before they met. Ilana is accidentally kicked in the face by subway performers, forgets that she has to give a presentation in one of her lectures (and proceeds to sing, hilariously, of course), and gets roasted by her uptight roommates. Abbi also has a miserable day and ends up eating froyo alone, never a signifier that one is in their best state. However, Abbi and Ilana eventually cross paths near Abbi’s favorite pizza place, and the two end up smoking weed together, just like the Abbi and Ilana of the present.
A noteworthy quality of “Sliding Doors” is that the episode follows a less linear but more challenging and thought-out plot line than previous Broad City episodes. Hopefully, this season will prove to be the show’s most cinematographically interesting one yet. The blurring of past, present, and the characters’ perception of the future allows for more complex jokes throughout the show and a sense of recurring elements that a linear plot line cannot accommodate.
With many nods towards Donald Trump, whose name they bleep out for this season as evidenced by the trailer, the premiere sets the scene of what is sure to be a more complex, challenging, but still hilarious assessment of contemporary culture. Although the premiere focuses on the beginning of Abbi and Ilana’s friendship, it demonstrates a new beginning for the show and the comedic limits they are willing to push this season.