It’s been over a year since we last saw Issa Dee and her friends. Issa and Lawrence reconnected, only to have their reunion interrupted by Condola’s pregnancy news. Molly and Issa ended their friendship. Molly was single after a devastating break-up with Andrew. There was a lot of plot, but season four was a high-water mark for Insecure because of its focus on character development. With the show ending after this season, it doesn’t feel like Insecure needs to compete with itself. If last season was award-worthy (and it was), this season feels like an extra lap around the course for the show to get the flowers it deserves. It’s mostly a chance for us to say goodbye to these characters and this story on Issa Rae’s terms.
“Reunited, Okay?!” is a premiere that does an excellent job of showing us exactly how Issa and Molly have changed since we last saw them. The script, penned by Amy Aniobi (who also guest stars in the episode), takes Issa out of her comfort zone of Los Angeles to Stanford. There are some gorgeous shots of Tiffany, Derek and Kelli driving up the I-5 to the bay that set up some wonderful tension: have Molly and Issa reunited? Molly’s Instagram captions might point to her reckoning with some dark times, but is it over Andrew or Issa? Issa apparently has her own “mess,” but even those details are kept in the dark. Is she still with Lawrence? Who knows? Aniobi’s script plays with these reveals at an incredibly satisfying pace. It allows Issa to be Issa and that means our first time seeing her this season is when she immediately climbs into the wrong car, as awkward as ever.
Issa and Molly’s friendship breakup last season was incredibly well-done and the show only started to get into the impact of these two splitting up. The last season could’ve been spent on the rift between them, but “Reunited, Okay?!,” gets our girls back together again in a way that feels organic and earned. Honestly, I’m thankful. I don’t think anyone wanted to spend the last season with this crew watching Issa and Molly continue to fight over the same old things. That being said, while Molly dismissed Kelli’s advice as “words,” Kelli was right: After a split like that, it takes forever to rebuild trust. Getting robbed together might’ve helped fast track their reunion, but now we get to see Issa and Molly become friends again. They’re both new people dedicated to moving forward and they’ll have to meet each other on new terms. This season feels like a chance to watch their relationship evolve.
When Issa and Molly first run into each other at their reunion, things are cold between them. This is an improvement from the passive aggressive and, well, aggressive-aggressive run-ins they had in season four. Issa is polite. Molly is overly polite. Her brief talk with Kelli confirms that Molly is the one who wants to fix things; even if it means laughing at jokes that aren’t funny. Molly became a very rigid person in her relationship with Andrew. Actually, she became a rigid person in all of her relationships. If those relationships didn’t meet her standards, she sabotaged them. At the reunion, it initially seems like Molly is back to her old ways. She’s with the guys, getting re-introduced to a recently divorced ex-friend with benefits. It sets her off on a spiral we’ve seen before: She spends all of her time overthinking things with a guy and ignores the moments happening around her. This time, it’s different.
While Issa still doesn’t feel comfortable sharing her opinion, Molly ends up talking herself out of this spiral instead. It’s a hint at the growth we need to see and Molly proves herself when she actually does ask Issa for advice. After making Molly the big villain last season, Aniobi’s script quickly gets to work doing some damage control. The girl is posting sad “Picasso-selfies” on Instagram and her shoes got stolen. I finally have some sympathy for her.
It’s also easy to see why Issa needs a friend right now. If Issa’s less-than-cool introduction at San Francisco International Airport wasn’t enough, her girlboss dreams aren’t quite what she thought they’d be. It’s easy enough to overlook the fact that she can’t remember the acronym for her own program (Don’t worry, she’ll get it), but she embarrasses herself on the panel. Molly does the right thing and makes her feel better, proving that Molly is capable of thinking about someone else now. Molly is also the one who breaks over dinner and says she wants things to be cool again.
While Kelli, Tiffany and Derek’s earlier conversation hints at Issa’s “relationship” mess, the episode’s final moments confirm she is still with Lawrence. Or, well, she was still with Lawrence. Lawrence’s reveal is brief. Issa soon realizes she needs to end things with him. While we don’t spend a significant amount of time with Lawrence and Issa, their break-up feels just as earned as Issa and Molly’s reunion. It’s sudden, but I’m also thankful we hopefully won’t get a season of Lawrence and Issa playing will-they-won’t-they.
Even when Issa faces her younger self, she doesn’t bring up Lawrence. She just says it’s “complicated.” She’s at an important point where she needs to bet on herself and it’s like Lawrence is this embarrassing tether to her past. If Molly and Issa were still on terms where they could be blunt with each other, I’m sure Molly would point out that Issa can’t really move forward if she’s dating someone who still sees the Old Issa. And let me be clear, I am not hating on Lawrence (in fact, I recently became a proud member of #Lawrencehive). I just think these two are more interesting apart than they are together.
In its final season, Insecure’s premiere creates stakes that are both surprising and new for the series. What’s most exciting is that, unlike most shows of its kind, viewers really don’t know where these characters are going to end up. It’s usually easy to guess which couples will end up together or apart, but Insecure has always gone with its own flow. It’s absolutely exciting to see where the show is going to take us.
And, well, I’ll take this moment to be real (and corny and personal, a thing I do not do in reviews as a Professional): At a time when black TV shows got little coverage, Issa Rae created something that couldn’t be ignored and that opened a door for me. Watching this show come to an end feels personal and I know a lot of other viewers feel that way too. I can’t help but feel like I’ve grown with the show and these characters. Rae created a world so alive and personable I can almost chart moments in her characters’ lives to my own.
A few years ago, I moved to Los Angeles, which only made me feel more connected to the show and its story. And, like Issa, I quit my day job to pursue my dream of writing TV to varying degrees of success. It is, at least, a level of success that made TV reviewing difficult to do, forcing me to (gladly) retire about a year ago. In fact (full disclosure), I’m now managed by 3 Arts, the production company behind Insecure, something that probably wouldn’t have happened if Rae hadn’t ushered in a new era for black artists. Insecure is no longer a show that needs to prove itself through ratings or approval from critics and award shows. Issa Rae is the rare creative who has a living legacy. This last season feels more like a gift.
- I promise to keep it strictly professional for the rest of these recaps, but I had to come back to say a proper goodbye to Insecure and, well, to any readers at The A.V. Club who wondered where I went! I’m glad to be back for one last ride. Let’s have fun and I promise to be nice to Lawrence.
- I love the Penny’s Preguntas device and hope we get to see more of Kelli’s background. I don’t think we’ve seen the end of her dealing with the “They think I died” thing, but her frustration felt real. Natasha Rothwell sold the anger in the car.
- I know I said I’d be nice to Lawrence, but talking about how crazy the full moon looks is Dead Relationship Talk 101.
- I really do think Molly has changed! She’s looking inward! The mirror scene at the end was great.
- The panel was a great satire of career panels. Just a lot of catchphrases and nonsense. Diallo Riddle was great!
- Cheyenne is an instant favorite character and the fake mugging is an all time great Insecure moment.
- Why did they make Tiffany wear this wig? There’s a brief hint that Derek has been “going through a lot lately,” is it this wig?