Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Insecure embraces its messy side

Issa Rae as Issa Dee
Issa Rae as Issa Dee
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Insecure’s pilot introduced us to fairly forward, active versions of Issa and Molly. Issa bravely took the stage at an open mic, almost broke up with her boyfriend and took charge of a new project in her office. Molly spent the pilot confronting her broken pussy and holding Issa accountable. In “Messy As Fuck,” these plot points come nearly full circle and we get a chance to see how Issa and Molly actually react to the circumstances they create. While these two plots are handled incredibly well, the episode has the added benefit of spotlighting the flaws of its secondary characters. Insecure is proving itself to be an intelligent, nuanced comedy that has maintained impressive efficiency when it comes to building out its themes.

The chemistry in Molly and Issa’s friendship is one of the show’s best gifts. Issa Rae and Yvonne Orji play off of each other incredibly well and sell the friendship as the bedrock it is. In the opening sequence, Issa gives herself a pep rap on her relationship issues. Just as she gets going, Molly interrupts her to get food and Issa immediately stops and heads out (Rae hit this beat perfectly). Issa isn’t afraid to be herself around Molly or rap to herself in Molly’s bathroom. Their brunch talk further highlights the importance of their friendship. Molly has embraced her “broken pussy” status and talks Issa through her self-care plan. Issa shares her desire to simply be a person who isn’t scared to go after what she wants in life. Later, Issa is able to tell Molly the truth about Daniel; helping her get one step closer to making an actual decision.

While the script gives Issa and Molly strong dialogue that cements their friendship, Cecile Emeke’s direction this episode physically speaks to the importance of black female bonding. From their hangout at the nail salon to binge-watching horrible reality TV, there’s a palpable joy seen in their interactions. Emeke previously wrote and directed the web series Ackee & Saltfish that followed the casual and intimate moments of friendship between two black women in impressive brief glimpses. Emeke brings that same talent to Insecure to quickly build the connection between Molly and Issa. Insecure explores the pressures of existing as a black woman in modern society; the show doesn’t miss a beat when it comes to representing the importance of black femme friendships to that survival.

In contrast, the show also takes a brief moment to look at black male bonding. Lawrence is finally realizing he may have actually lost Issa for good and reaches out to some friends for advice. It’s clear that they want nothing to do with his whining while the game is on and they’re tired of hearing his same stagnant news. Even when he blatantly states that he’s calling because things aren’t going great, his friend hangs up to catch the game. The constraints of black masculinity don’t allow Lawrence a space to open up like Issa can with Molly. He does get a pep talk from “Thug Yoda,” but it’s hardly the same as Issa and Molly’s friendship. Highlighting this makes it easier to root for him and showcases his vulnerabilities.

Lawrence is a character that puts a modern spin on the constantly hustling, sidekick character. Perhaps it’s due to the recent passing of Martin’s Tommy Ford and the subsequent Martin-binge session I started, but Lawrence reminds me of Ford’s never-clearly-employed Tommy Strawn. They both have vague business plan, but no clear direction in life. While they’re skilled enough with women, they’re not incredibly romantic or the most exciting guy in the room. Issa might be realizing she doesn’t want to be with a sidekick, but this brief glimpse into Lawrence’s personal life really makes me hope he’ll “bling his shit up” or find someone who loves him for the imperfect, complacent sidekick he really is.

It’s not like Issa doesn’t have her own problems to work on. She’s incredibly flawed and mishandles two very important issues this week. While she refuses to confront her “break-up” with Lawrence, she also drops the ball on her work initiative. While she think she can make do with vague references to “the culture” and “arts” as the one black employee, she quickly realizes that she should’ve worked twice as hard for her coworkers to take her seriously. Her ideas weren’t completely figured out, but neither were her coworkers as they jumped to stereotype-based events like museum visits to remind the children how grateful they should be or just watching Lemonade. Either way, Issa’s boss makes it clear that she needs to step her game up.


Whether she’ll do this or not is unclear. When it comes to work and her relationship, Issa is clearly unfulfilled and she’s checked out of both situations. While she does eventually go home, the uncomfortable silence at the end of the episode hardly points to reconciliation. Issa is still maintaining the status quo in her life and if she does go for what she really wants in life, it’s unclear what that would look like. In her final bathroom mirror talk, she role-plays a conversation with Lawrence. She originally seems dead set on ending it, but eventually settles on the conclusion that she really does love him. Next week’s episode will be the first time we really get to see Lawrence and Issa interact since they’ve been separated since the pilot. It’s great that the show took time to focus on building Issa’s female friendship, but it’s time the audience got a better understanding of her relationship and career goals.

Stray observations

  • “You sell Obama puzzles at the African Marketplace and you’re going to judge me?” I loved Molly’s entire take on modern dating. I think scenes like that are fairly common in the recent slew of 20-something dating shows, but they did a great job highlighting the universally horrible experience of online dating with things that make it particularly horrible for black women.
  • “You’ve got to fuck a lot of frogs to get a good frog.”
  • “That’s the whitest shit you ever said.” I mean, really, Issa’s coworkers seem awful.
  • “Bare Bears”
  • I loved the entire Thug Yoda scene. I hope we see him dispense more wisdom in future episodes.
  • No, really, go watch all of Ackee & Saltfish. Feel free to start with my favorite episode.
  • This week’s music was done by the amazing Raphael Saadiq. This show has some serious talent doing music consultation (Solange is even on the list) and “Nail Polish” from tonight’s episode will probably be stuck in your head for the next week