Hidden Frank Ocean lyrics, references to Beyonce’s “Check On It” video wardrobe, and insight into the inner workings of a HOE-tation . . . Issa Rae’s passion project INSECURE follows the escapades of Issa and Molly: two young, eccentric African-American women living in Los Angeles, discovering themselves while navigating the choppy waters of the professional and dating worlds. From its Season One premiere in the Fall of 2016, INSECURE set itself apart from the male-centric, high concept slab of HBO original series. Without resorting to wildly-outdated and plain offensive stereotypes, INSECURE focuses on the #realstruggles of living and achieving success as a POC in today’s sociopolitical climate. Season One of INSECURE saw Issa attempt to take charge of her seemingly aimless life, and forge a new path towards self-actualization and prosperity. For nine incredibly relatable and comedically “woke” episodes, we followed Issa on the various twists and turns of her journey (mostly a counterstrike of her own wrongdoing), hoping that she would find something to give her life purpose. Her plan to be “Miss No Fucks” completely blew up in her face, but she certainly ended up in an entirely unexpected place. The buzz and acclaim surrounding INSECURE ensured a renewal for a second season, and fans eagerly waited to see what would become of their incredibly complex, somehow lovable gang of narcissists.
HELLA drama, HELLA Black Girl Magic
Season Two of INSECURE follows Issa as she adjusts to her newly-single life after her breakup with her long-term boyfriend, Lawrence. While part of Issa still longs for the pair to rekindle their five-year romance, she accepts that she must take responsibility for her actions and move on as he has. Season Two wisely introduces a new perspective on the modern dating age, blending technology with real human connection and raising the question: “What does it take to find the right one and at what point should I just be happy with myself?”
Feeling liberated from the constraints and expectations of her former relationship, Issa begins to step out of her comfort zone and embrace the spontaneity of her “HOE-tation.” Her various sexcapades take her on a journey of inevitable self-realization as she discovers what she’s looking for in a relationship and questions if a serious relationship is even what she’s after at this point in her life. While Issa hopes that putting positive and open energy out into the dating scene will allow her to bounce back and find a new man, the reality is that deep down she still finds herself looking to find someone with the same familiarity and security as Lawrence. Issa’s “HOE-tation” is so enjoyable to watch because of its incredibly raw and even comedic approach to the ups and downs of perusing the online dating scene and participating in casual one night stands.
Middle fingers up, put ‘em hands high . . . wave it in his face, tell ‘em BOY BYE!
The one sour taste left in my (and unfortunately Issa’s) mouth at the close of Season Two was the unnecessary return of Issa’s former fling, Daniel. From his introduction in Season One, Daniel continuously tempts and plays on Issa’s insecurities of her future. Before there was Lawrence there was Daniel, and so there is a familiarity and intimacy between the two that stands the test of time. In Season One, Daniel became the physical manifestation of Issa’s greatest indignity: her infidelity to Lawrencel. What Issa interpreted as a moment of weakness or an “itch” she “needed to scratch,” Lawrence and viewers alike saw the undeniably passionate hookup as the greatest form of betrayal. Her involvement with Daniel completely destroyed her life, and by the end of Season One, a heated exchange between the two made it very clear that Issa was not going to let herself fall victim to Daniel’s charm again. So imagine my surprise when Daniel managed to weasel his way into an open slot in Issa’s “HOE-tation.” In Season Two, the pair enters into an informal friends-with-benefits agreement that completely contradicts Issa’s stance on Daniel at the end of Season One. While their “relationship” is a comfort for Issa, who is now entering into relationships with men she knows nothing about, it only shows that she has not fully taken responsibility for her actions and will continue to put her needs before considering how others might interpret her actions. If there’s any line that the show should not cross, and believe me it crosses several, it should be the lame attempt at romanticizing the relationship between two cheaters.
Molly, on the other hand, finds herself mixed up in the not-so-clear boundaries of an open relationship with her old childhood friend, Dro. While Molly prides herself on being the “girl with a plan,” this season we finally see her allow herself to fall into something without knowing every detail about where it will take her. It is a refreshing character development from the inflexibility of her Season One self, where we can now root for instead of against her. This season of INSECURE pushes both Molly and Issa to their emotional limits, and through it all they still remain true to each other and their friendship. When all other relationships cast doubt and insecurity, the bond between these two remains unbroken and stands the test of time, patience, and fuckboys.
Cue “Case of the Ex (Watcha Gonna Do)”
On a different beat, we see Lawrence adjust to his life apart from Issa, which mostly involves random hookups and short-lived “relationships.” While his character arc is too drastic of a shift from devoted good-guy to wannabe player, his newfound swagger and confidence allows insight into the complexities of his character. Which is a shame, because he was so easy to love in Season One. Lawrence’s character progression in Season Two follows a give-and-take basis where he slowly comes to self-actualization with each passing romantic entanglement. As the season progresses and the pair learn from their respective experiences, we see Issa and Lawrence come to terms with their own shortcomings in their former relationship, and by the finale, we see a bittersweet resolution between these two individuals who remain deeply devoted to one another. Season Two succeeds by not offering an overly-simplified “happily ever after” sequence where the love between Issa and Lawrence is rekindled and they end up back together (although it is teased in heartwarming flashforward). Instead, these characters must accept the damage and move on, putting to rest the mutual resentment that followed them throughout the entirety of Season Two.
Apart from the romantic aspect, the series remains true to itself as a culturally “woke” series by touching on issues of white privilege in the workplace and intercultural discrimination. With Molly, we see the struggle that POC battle with in the workplace: being paid less than your white counterpart for doing more work. The microaggressions Molly faces in her workplace from her colleagues are ones that POC can easily identify with—an element of the show that makes it so much more than a simple comedy, but a playful satire on the inequalities that plague Women of Color. Issa’s career narrative takes an interesting turn as she compromises her moral code to capitalize on her successes. Playing on the issue of intercultural discrimination, we see how POC struggle to accept the diverse layers within their own communities in an effort to stand as a united front for their own “kind,” not caring if people of other backgrounds are forced below them in the social chain. What I respect about the show and about Issa’s writing is that these issues are not brought up to degrade or point fingers, but rather to educate and offer a perspective that is often overlooked as the “lesser.”
Season 3 wya?
Following the critically acclaimed and undeniably binge-worthy first season, INSECURE had “hella” hype to live up to. After leaving the characters in the Season One finale in a very low place, Issa Rae and her staff of talented writers needed to craft a comeback story where we could root for each character. While INSECURE does not make it easy for us to accept the flaws of each character, their relatableness and unashamed honesty keeps us from laying in on them too hard. Season Two of INSECURE plays with the dynamics of the characters’ relationships in an innovative and insightful way, while still maintaining its comedic and lighthearted essence. Its ability to be simultaneously relatable and thoughtful keeps viewers glued to our screens, looking to see what wild adventure Issa and Molly take us on with each new episode. In one sentence: ISSA HIT! I look forward to the return of Season 3 for more shameless antics with my (at times regrettably) favorite trio.