After three years spent watching their wild, outlandish hijinks, the Broad City Season 4 premiere finally lets viewers in on how Abbi and Ilana met — or at least, some version of it. The episode weaves in and out of two timelines, but you don't know which is real until the final moments, and even then, it's up for interpretation. But while both are convincing, there's only one meet-cute that really, truly fits who Abbi and Ilana are. Spoilers for Broad City Season 4, Episode 1 ahead.
The opening scene finds the soon-to-be besties sprinting, as New Yorkers do, to catch the train. Abbi's MTA card is low on funds, so Ilana — then still a stranger — graciously hands hers over to ease the time crunch. Except that last swipe forces Ilana's card to also come up short, and she doesn't have time to add on money lest she wants to miss the train. Instead, she opts to hop the turnstile and make a mad dash for the closing doors, and it's here that things split off. In plot A, she and Abbi make it on board and go their separate ways; In plot B, they're a second too late, leaving them to chat on the platform while they wait for the next train, lamenting their bad (but typical) misfortune.
What follows is a study in inevitability: Their friendship is an inescapable fate, but the paths that lead them there are less certain. The first narrative is a near-idealistic jaunt in which Abbi and Ilana bond over weed, tattoos, and fortune tellers. Immediately, they bring out the best in one another. Abbi encourages Ilana to embrace her natural curls and be herself, while Ilana pushes Abbi to stand up to a sleazy street vendor, then her roommate, who invited the permanent couch bum we know as Bevers to crash with them without running it by Abby first. Bad things happen, but not without a happy alternative waiting in the wings: After Ilana gets fired, Abby just so happens to have a hook-up for a great catering gig.
Back in the B plot, things aren't going quite as swimmingly. A train performer accidentally kicks Ilana in the face, then she gets fired (this time, with no other prospects) and flubs a big class presentation. Abbi, meanwhile, gets her ponytail snipped off by some scissored hooligan running around cutting women's hair. Their lives intersect throughout, but they don't run into each other again until the end, when a chance encounter finds them both on a park bench sharing pizza and pot.
The first scenario closes with Abbi and Ilana getting hit by a bus, which is a pretty clear indicator that it's not, in fact, how they met. But even still, the second one is much more in tone with the kind of show Broad City has always been. Abbi and Ilana's lives are a perpetual sh*t show, and the idea of them having some perfect, kismet meeting seems out of step, too good to be true. But a universe in which they acknowledge that bad things happen, then pick themselves up, move on, and rebuild — that feels authentic.
As with much of modern television, the magic of Broad City is often in the way that it mirrors real life. Abbi and Ilana are stunted, lost, and frequently unequipped to handle the weight of adulthood, but frankly, so are a lot of 20-somethings. Here, that shines through. Life rarely goes according to plan, but we lean on one another when times get tough, and eventually, we march on, just as Abbi and Ilana do on this disastrous, predestined, gleefully imperfect day. These are, after all, the women who got airlifted while mid-pee in a porta potty, narcotics-tripped their way through a Whole Foods, and cleaned the apartment of a Craigslist man while in their underwear just to get cash for Lil Wayne tickets. If their first meeting had been some sort of fun, foolproof adventure, it would have been a near-unbelievable fluke.
This season, of course, will depart slightly from the gonzo comedy fans have grown to love. It will be darker, more political, a reflection of the somber shift many Americans have felt over the last year. But knowing Broad City, it won't lose its heart. It will lean into the hard moments, then laugh about them afterward — just as Abbi and Ilana did when they first met, and just as they have from every day forward.