Who in New York isn’t constantly wondering what their life might be like if they hadn’t just missed the train–or, vice versa, missed the train to avoid that “sick passenger” that made their train ride a hellish nightmare? It’s such a plaguing philosophical question that it became the entire premise for Peter Howitt’s debut film in 1998, Sliding Doors, starring Gwyneth Paltrow before she became insufferable. Not to mention a Sex and the City episode called “The Big Time.” No stranger to re-creating plots to underrated classic films (specifically Mrs. Doubtfire in the eighth episode of season three, “Burning Bridges”), Broad City‘s season four premiere, giving credit where credit is due with the title “Sliding Doors,” shows us that Abbi and Ilana were always destined to be friends. That no brief separation by the fickle New York City fates could have ever kept them apart.
Thus, with the ominous ponytail cutter at large as Abbi (Abbi Jacobson)–voluminous ponytail sported in that Andrew McCarthy in Pretty in Pink sort of blatant wig–enters the subway, we find she’s short the required fare, a mere $2.25 in 2011. Fellow incoming subway passenger Ilana (Ilana Glazer) is generous enough to give her a swipe, only to herself be left without enough money to enter. This delay, paired with the direction of a businessman’s projectile vomit in reference to how it affects Abbi and Ilana’s pathway to the train, ultimately leads the new acquaintances on two different potential outcomes of the day.
In the first, far less appealing one in which they catch the train in time, Ilana is kicked in the face by some showtimers (who, because of their blackness, she briefly assumes aren’t Tisch students just like herself). Abbi, meanwhile ends up going to the Grey Dog where Ilana still “works” (i.e. naps in the bathroom) after a trip to Bed, Bath & Beyond only to have her ponytail snipped off by the illustrious ponytail cutter while waiting in line for the bathroom. Running out of the restaurant/coffee shop/bar (no one really knows what the Grey Dog is supposed to be except everything to everyone) to, one supposes, reclaim her ponytail like a shamed samurai, Ilana ends up getting fired anyway–just as she would have in scenario two for leaving the doors unlocked all night.
More than an esoteric tribute to Sliding Doors, the premiere of season four speaks to a prevalent disease among most people and pretty much all millennials: retromania–a term commodified by Simon Reynolds in his book, Retromania: Pop Culture’s Addiction to Its Own Past, published, incidentally, in 2011. Then again, who can blame the writing duo for setting their narrative in this not so distant past? After all, who could have known then what a carefree year 2011 really was? It certainly was a lot easier to get fired from places like the Grey Dog without caring, or to accept freeloading roommates’ boyfriends with a smile. And, oh yeah, it was before Trump as anything other than an annoying reality TV star was the furthest thing from all of our minds.
Let us also not forget that it was a year when Four Loko still existed in its original, pure formula, prompting Ilana to ask, “Do you like Four Loko?” Abbi admits, “It kind of scares me.” Rightly so. Many of us are still recovering from its undiluted effects. Other demure allusions to the year, like the sight of the Freedom Tower still in its incompleted building phase, The Oprah Winfrey Show just about to end and a Trump’s face ad for The Apprentice on the side of a bus that mows them down Mean Girls-style in scenario two, serve to accent what a remarkable moment in NYC history it was for Abbi and Ilana to meet–all solidified by them writing their names in wet cement for that ultra immortalized feel. The world so full of promise as Ilana remarks that we can only go forward now that Obama’s been president, with a woman sure to be next on the horizon, we can only wonder where the biting political commentary will go from here–especially since it’s already been revealed that the word T%#@* will be bleeped out for the entire season.
As for their bus death in scenario two, as predicted by the ten dollar psychic they go to, Ilana probably thought to herself, “To die by your side is such a heavenly way to die” as it happened. Not to mention a heavenly way to avoid seeing 2016.