The broads are back! In the season four “Broad City” premiere, “Sliding Doors,” we go back to the day Abbi and Ilana first met, and alternate between two versions of how things could have gone — with drastically different outcomes. Just like that Gwyneth Paltrow ‘90s flick, our heroines’ fates hinge upon their making the train (in this case, the subway) before the doors close. Our girls even rock different hairstyles to help us differentiate, just like Gwyneth did: in one, Abbi loses her ponytail to “the NYC snipper,” and must make do with a spiky shag, a la David Bowie in “Labyrinth”; Ilana wears hers either straightened, or naturally curly.
The question isn’t whether or not the two NYU undergrads circa 2011 become besties (that was written in the stars!); it’s whether or not they’ll make it through the day. While the storytelling device is a fun experiment, as “Broad City” is wont to do — and c’mon, who hasn’t imagined how their own “Sliding Doors” would play out — there’s a deeper message here. The episode is a sort-of parable about how blind optimism and naivete can lead to disaster. It’s a loose foreshadowing of Trump’s presidency.
The parallel days each begin with the girls meeting underground, when Ilana lends Abbi a Metrocard swipe. In version A, we’ll call it, the two make the train, but go their separate ways, each enduring extremely trying days, before reuniting again by chance and commiserating. In Version B, the two miss the train, but spend a magical first day together where almost nothing goes wrong (suspiciously, so). And then there’s this exchange:
Abbi: “I’m so relieved we have a hot black guy as president.”
Ilana: “I feel like we’re finally moving forward.”
Abbi: “And it’s just the beginning. Never backwards, only forwards.”
Ilana: “Next is a woman!”
At the end of their nearly perfect NYC day, they get hit by a bus with an ad for Donald Trump’s “The Apprentice,” featuring his mug and the tagline “America is Watching. You’re Fired!”
Version A is more “Broad City”’s speed. Part of why we love Abbi and Ilana is because they know how to take New York City lemons and squeeze ‘em into gold. Sure, they can be delusional and immature, but they’re also scrappy and unspoiled and that’s how they make it, leading semi-charmed kind of lives in the Big Shitty. In A, Ilana gets kicked in the face by a “Showtime!”-esque subway performer, fired from her waitressing job at the Grey Dog, ostracized by her roommates, kicked out of class for bombing a presentation and gets her clothes ripped off of her by a passing cyclist. Abbi gets her ponytail snipped, gets sexually harrassed by a guy selling toy water guns and comes home to the terror of Bevers for the first time (OK, Ilana actually had a much worse day). But the two meet again, smoke a bowl, write their names in wet cement, bond over the injustice of not being able to order a bacon egg and cheese sandwich after 11 a.m. at the bodega (is this true?), and, most crucially, live.
In episodes ahead, we’ll return to the present day and see how Abbi and Ilana are coping after Trump’s election, though they we never here his name — they bleep it out throughout the season. Spoiler: not well. In “Witches,” we learn that Ilana hasn’t been able to orgasm since the election. But she gets back her “cum queen” status by harnessing some witchy woman power. All hope is not lost, so long as you stick with the broads.
“Broad City” airs Wednesday, Sept. 13 at 10:30 EDT on Comedy Central.