‘Insecure’ Looks to Deliver Laughter and Tackle Social Issues in Second Season

HBO comedy “Insecure” strikes a brilliant balance between cringe-inducing, awkward comedy and honest, complex, dramatic relationships between its characters. Most of the humor comes from the embarrassing interactions of star and co-creator Issa Rae, who plays  a fictionalized version of herself in Issa Dee. On the other hand, most of the drama centers around Issa’s five-year romance with Lawrence Walker (Jay Ellis), which last season fell into a rut and left her questioning who she was outside of the stability of the relationship. Toward the end of the season, Issa cheated on Lawrence in an act of self-realization, but simultaneously blew up the relationship in the most indelicate manner imaginable. As we embark on season two, then, the question morphs from how to break free from the bounds of a commitment into what to do with that new found autonomy.

You might have already guessed that there’s little to no chance of Issa doing this with any modicum of dignity, resulting in much face-palm inducing humor. Specifically, we’re invited to watch as she fumbles to define her sexual desires after her long-term relationship ends. In the new season, she spends the first two episodes pining over her ex, even attempting to inspire jealousy by planning a singles’ mixer on the day that he’s supposed to retrieve his mail. Leading up to the party, we’re treated to a montage of her trying on several different outfits and personas as she determines the best way to win him back. It’s as humorous as it is poignant, as we realize that Issa zips up a different attitude with each dress – ranging from fierce seductress to god-fearing reformed sinner. The montage is also a prime example of the dramatic contrast between her mirror fantasy confidence and her real world awkwardness. Time after time, we watch Issa’s Ally McBeal-esque imagination run wild, only to see her confidence crumble moments later under such innocuous scrutiny as being asked, “Hi, how are you doing today?” It’s a simple gimmick, but its charm never wears off.

The new season also looks to develop the individualized story lines of Lawrence and Molly Carter (Yvonne Orji), Issa’s lifelong friend. Viewers are accustomed to questioning Issa’s ineptitude, but they’ll soon become conditioned to scrutinize these other two crucial characters just as much, since they frequently wind up in untenable predicaments as well. They, like Issa, have no real idea who they truly are, so they set out on crash courses of misguided impulses and passing desires for self-discovery. Take, for instance, a solo moment from Molly, where she picks up a bookshelf from the CB2 warehouse. The warehouse worker asks her if her husband is going to carry the heavy box, referring to a black man who happens to be standing nearby. When Molly spots the man, she shoots the employee a look of disapproval for assuming that they were together merely because they have the same skin color. As Molly carries the heavy box down a flight of concrete stairs wearing a pair of high heels, she sees the man leaving with a white woman and shakes her head in disbelief.

This is not the show’s only honest look at the complex expectations of race both from in-groups and out-groups, but it always seems to handle these potentially problematic situations with the same tongue-in-cheek aplomb. But the series’ main draw remains it story-telling prowess, which will have audiences identifying with every last character – in some cases even rooting for both of their conflicting goals. The cerebral discussion is there to be had for anyone that’s interested, but the humor is transcendent and welcomes all comers. The end result is a show that equally rewards compulsive watching and complex analysis.

Insecure” season 2 premiers on HBO July 23 and airs on Sundays at 10:30 p.m. ET.