‘Insecure’ Is Coming Back Strong

Ken Tucker
Critic-at-Large
Insecure (Photo: HBO)

Issa Rae’s very funny, great-looking HBO sitcom Insecure is back for a second season on Sunday night, and it’s even better — more assured and finely detailed — than its excellent first season. It’s easy to re-immerse yourself into the life of the fictional Issa, who continues to struggle in romance, struggle at her job, and have some laughs and lots of fierce loyalty with her girlfriends.

Following last season’s breakup with her boyfriend Lawrence (Jay Ellis) — Issa was a naughty girl — she is both open to new relationships and pining for her old one. Rae, who created the show and does much of the writing, has made her Insecure character the sort of person who is often the most intelligent person in the room, but this Issa too modest to flaunt her smarts and too (yes) insecure to assume that anyone will appreciate her as the thoughtful, charming soul she is.

As a result, Issa seems to attract egotistical cads and goofballs by the score — men who aren’t worthy of her who feel she’s not worthy of them. Rae is so good at portraying the little awkwardnesses of first dates and spontaneous hookups that you find yourself wincing while you’re laughing. Issa’s best friend, Molly (Yvonne Orji), the high-strung corporate attorney, is back and feeling stressed at work and in her social life; you get the sense that Issa and Molly may only relax and be themselves when they are together, joking but also being honest with each other about themselves.

Insecure is filmed in a way that makes Los Angeles look like a constantly tempting invitation to have fun, and the show makes the most of guest stars such as Lil Rel Howery (Get Out; The Carmichael Show) and This Is Us’s Sterling K. Brown. The show isn’t timid about letting in serious moments. There’s a scene in the fourth episode in which Lawrence gets pulled over by a cop for making an illegal U-turn, and it seems to capture perfectly the fear and heightened confusion that a young black man can endure during an interaction with authority that many of us never experience.

Insecure was criminally snubbed in the Emmy nominations announced earlier this month. It’s almost shocking: Rae gives such a good performance; the writing is unique in tone and full of funny lines (I liked Molly’s description of a guy she turned down: “He looks like a strip-mall dentist”); and the show is beautifully directed with, as I said earlier, an eye for Los Angeles that is rare. I hope Insecure attracts solid ratings this season; I worry a bit that its audience and the audience for its lead-in, Ballers (also starting a new season on Sunday), don’t overlap much. Tell your friends to watch Insecure, willya?

Insecure airs Sundays at 10:30 p.m. on HBO.

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