[Editor’s note: The following contains some spoilers for Season 4 Episode 1 of Broad City]
Origin episodes are tough. They’re not only tasked with subverting cliches, but they fight for importance, fight to matter: you can only air an origin episode if the audience is invested enough in its characters to care. A devoted fan base, however, has never been a problem for Broad City; the show has inspired self-identification in many of its devout viewers.
The first episode of Broad City’s fourth season, which gives us Abbi and Ilana’s how-they-met arc, is titled “Sliding Doors,” a direct reference to the 1998 what-could-have-been romantic comedy starring Gwyneth Paltrow. Similar to the film, the episode uses parallel timelines to display two different possibilities: What if the man threw up over the subway railing, and what if he threw up right in front of the girls? From there, two roads.
In both timelines, we see how Abbi and Ilana balance each other. Where Abbi would’ve fallen flat at a bubble-blowing street vendor’s harassment, Ilana speaks up. When Ilana’s hair—which she straightens daily?—gets wet, Abbi encourages her to leave it curly. What’s so fascinating about their interactions is how, from the very outset, they encourage each other to embrace their individuality: it facilitates their immediate intimacy, but it’s not contrived or too cheesy (as far as a how-they-met episode goes).
Another episode staple is the adherence to time period. Their clothes are confused; Abbi and Ilana confessed in a behind-the-scenes video that in their early 20s, they didn’t know how to dress their bodies. There’s a joke about being in a “thruple” with Michelle and Barack Obama. There’s the fit Bevvers, Ilana’s domineering college roommates. Perhaps this wasn’t the funniest Broad City episode, but the comedic reprieve felt earned after three seasons of back-to-back gags. And make no mistake, the usual comedy of errors unfolded throughout: it just took a backseat to the girls’ growing connection.
We’re given two timelines; the messier, the sadder, has the happier ending. But what seems most important is that whether it was their best day (timeline 1) or worst day (timeline 2), they ended up friends regardless.