“We gon’ be all right” is a common thing to hear after a breakup or other event that shakes up your foundation. We’re tied together by heartbreak and shock, laughs and our own flaws. It’s probably why HBO’s Insecure, which returned for a second season on Sunday, relates to so many people. Some don’t dive head first into bruising, “damn, I’ve been there” moments on an album or soundtrack, but Issa Rae and her writing team have developed an entire series of moments where the viewer can immediately think back and say, “Damn, I was definitely in that position there.”
In a land where comedy, particularly black comedy, is stretching its wings to not only touch on surrealism (Atlanta), traditionalism (The Carmichael Show) or a mixture of both (black-ish), Insecure finds its niche by being personable and hyper-realistic. Every situation that befalls our cast of characters in Los Angeles is a tangible, legit situation that could play out in daily life. Developed with Larry Wilmore and drawing inspiration from Rae's YouTube webseries The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, Insecure currently holds the title of HBO's sharpest returning show. From a gap in wages between co-workers to holding onto a lingering partner, the series wraps itself around reality, pulling out some of the smartest, if not insightful comedy on television today.
To wit, it is also one of a few shows that elicited one of the loudest viral waves in recent memory. Last fall, the show wrapped its first season with a relationship cliffhanger. Rae’s Issa Dee had stepped out on her boyfriend, Lawrence (played by Jay Ellis), just as Lawrence was pulling himself up from being unemployed, unenthused and somewhat checked out of their relationship. As time progressed before the illicit deed, Lawrence was getting back on his feet, and had even swallowed his pride to take a day job at Best Buy to make ends meet. Yes, the relationship felt dead early because of a lack of effort on Lawrence’s part. No, Lawrence was not a great boyfriend. Yes, Issa's cheating on Lawrence was cold-blooded and telling him about it was as admirable as it possibly could be. However, fans immediately hoping for a reunion for the two characters got the shock of a lifetime thanks to what could only be described in code as “The Backshots Heard Around the World.”
Whereas most shows attempt to outline their creators and make viewers swallow their characters whole as good or bad people, nearly everyone on Insecure save for one (Jared) is particularly screwed up. Molly, Issa’s best friend, begins the season taking her friend’s advice on therapy, yet flips through doctors like potential Tinder or The League mates. Issa is still piloting her work with an after-school program, yet runs into a wall in order to engage more students. Lawrence, who became both a hero and an antihero with one particular choice (a very deliberate one at that), is also adjusting, both as a man with a relatively new outlook on life but also as someone who is desired. Does he want to walk back into boyfriend-ish duties with the woman who did everything to drop hints that she was into him? Do his actions at the end of Episode One change the entire dynamic between he and Issa? It’s an interesting subplot to notice.
Insecure, as a show, latches onto the little things that may drive us crazy. How we utilize our relationships with our friends to hammer out the difficulties of our personal lives. How our careers aren't perfect and still carry warts seen and unseen. How the dating scene at 30 is a routine copy-and-paste effort of your likes, location, job and more, all pushed through a few random swipes on an app. It’s a job interview where your best attributes may not be your dress on the first date but the main adjectives you use to describe yourself. All of this for a position you don’t know that you want for 24 hours, much less the rest of your life. Being single after a burdensome breakup sucks, and going through the multiple stages of grief only gets complicated when your ex sends you right back to step one. Fans still haven’t truly accepted what Lawrence did last season. After the events of Sunday’s premiere episode, he may either further endear himself to #LawrenceHive or not. That is how thin the line is.
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Still, the fun aspect of Insecure is that although Issa and Lawrence make up the main arc, their entire world feels obtainable enough for everyone to get their parts in and keep the story going. Nothing feels flat here, and even the guest spots (you'll know them when you see them) feel like part of a growing arc, not just throwaway gags and Family Guy-style cutaways.
Rae herself felt nervous about the first season, and now finds herself in a greater sense of comfort about the second. Partnering with the popular Trap Karaoke brand, HBO brought the premieres of both Ballers and Insecure to White Oak Music Hall last Wednesday evening. Where a few among the packed audience cheered at the jokes and situations inside The Rock’s HBO comedy, the cheers swelled when Insecure started up. The love from the show plus the reactions brought forth even louder responses upon the conclusion of Episode One. It’s no “Red Wedding” from Game of Thrones, but it’s enough for you to immediately react to your friends in amazement and shock.
The reason the show works, beyond the excellent curated soundtrack from Houston’s own Solange, is that everyone in the audience, whether male or female, sees a roundedness to each of the characters. “It’s going to be all right” should be a constant mantra through the season, regardless of how tangled, funny and situational everything appears to be.