“Lowkey” In Love With Season 4 of ‘Insecure’ – Recap
*Please note: If you haven’t finished season 4 of Insecure, there are mild spoilers below.*
If you’re a young woman of color who has HBO, it’s likely that sometime in the last four years you’ve fallen in love with Insecure. Insecure is my favorite television show because it follows realistic and dynamic Black female leads and the relationships they have outside of stereotypical tropes. We’ve all seen enough of the “angry black woman”, the -“long suffering abusive relationship”, the “baby mama drama”, the “sassy best friend” and the “Jezebel and Sapphire” characters. Although those narratives can sometimes be accurate and valid, Insecure is not that kind of journey whatsoever.
For many Black women, Insecure is the first show where we watched and recognized ourselves – our friends, girls we went to college with – real 20-something-year-old Black women who are just regular people trying to listen to Drake and be happy in life. This makes sense because the show is in some ways loosely based on creator Issa Rae’s real life (as well as her web show Awkward Black Girl ). For the last three seasons, we’ve watched the two protagonists Issa and Molly, best friends from their days at Stanford, navigate the ups and downs of dating, relationships, friendships, career experiences, and identity as mid/late twenties Black women.
The first three seasons of the series mainly centers Issa and Molly’s career growth (or lack thereof) and relationships with men. In the beginning of the show, Issa struggles to find her niche working at a non-profit that can sometimes prove to be exhausting and a little problematic, while trying to hold together a relationship with Lawrence, her unemployed and emotionally-checked-out boyfriend of five years. Meanwhile, Molly is a successful lawyer dealing with the microaggressions that come with being a Black woman in corporate America, as well as trying to understand why even though she works hard to succeed in all she does, she can’t seem to find anything but failure in her love life.
Throughout seasons two and three, Issa and Molly deal with the trials of cheating, break-ups, affairs, hookups, career uncertainty, and friendship. The only constant that remains, is the relationship the two have with one another. Joined by their other funny and relatable friends, Kelli (that hilariously irresistible friend who fears nothing and no one) and Tiffany (the “put-together” a.k.a. friend who’s way sweeter than she looks), Molly and Issa hold each other up. However, sometimes navigating social and racial terrain while figuring out who you are and who want to be in life, can create strain and distance amongst even the best of friends. In season 4, that distance and strain present themselves and come to a head.
Season 4 of Insecure premiered at a time when many viewers – especially Black and Indigenous POC – found themselves in heightened emotional states. We are in the midst of a global pandemic that has affected every household, and, as the episodes continued to air, the death of George Floyd and the national unrest that followed brought an overwhelming feeling of heaviness over Black people everywhere. In a way, this coincided with the season; season four was noticeably much heavier than seasons prior. The previous seasons always depicted joy in spite of conflict and highlighted the humor found in naturally awkward situations, but this season immediately displayed the tension built up between Molly and Issa. In a foreshadowing flash-forward scene in episode one, the bomb is dropped: Issa tells some unseen person on a phone call: “Honestly…I don’t f— with Molly anymore.”
The exploration of a friendship “break-up” and their complexities felt refreshing and long overdue. These breakups are, for many people, the most painful to experience. The ominous outcome left looming after that phone call made viewers wonder how and why Molly and Issa would sever ties. Molly is in a new relationship and trying to figure out how that works, while Issa is finally seeing her dreams of planning events in Black spaces come into fruition. But in their interactions, there are traces of judgment and even jealousy. One of the most relatable things about Molly and Issa in previous seasons, is how much they change. The chains of old trauma being broken, old habits being challenged, and lessons being learned is how many of us relate our twenties and thirties to what we see happening on screen. But now, both women seem to be carrying old demons – especially Molly.
To many, Molly became the villain of the season, as she allowed judgement and pettiness to ruin things with Issa, and control and spite to ruin things with her new man, Andrew. Many of us saw ourselves in Issa as we watched her try to patch things up with her longtime best friend, even against her own self interest. In many scenes, conversations between the two of them are awkward and hard to watch. And, in the end, it’s Molly who both causes the deal-breaking transgression of the season and deals the final blow by being unable to forgive and breaking things off. It’s Molly’s inability to let go that ultimately ends her relationship with Andrew as well. For me (and likely many fans can attest to this), this chapter of Molly’s character development has a familiar tinge of self-sabotage. Overall, it seems that Molly can’t handle not being in control of how her relationships work, whether romantically with Andrew, or with Issa who has never been as successful as her until now. The brightest spot in Molly’s arc this season is when in the midst of inner turmoil about whether or not to let go, she reaches out for professional help and begins seeing a therapist again.
In many ways this season is a great one for Issa as an individual. After years of searching for what exactly her career should be, she is finally able to find something that combines her love for her community and the rich Black culture Los Angeles has to offer by planning her community “Block Party” event. Seeing Issa accomplish a professional goal, be tactful and mature when confronted with working alongside her ex’s new flame, and truly honor her instincts and feelings by rekindling with Lawrence in a healthy way, is truly a celebration of how much she has grown since the first season. Issa and Molly’s friendship is the lifeblood of the series, and even when Molly tarnishes her big event with drama, Issa is still the one who really tries to make amends.
This season, by far, feels like the best and most impactful. The writers incorporated the examination of real issues Black women face today. There are deeper conversations about racism and allyship in Molly-centered episodes that are very appropriate for today’s climate. Tiffany struggles with life as a new mom throughout the season, and brings to mind the ongoing conversation about Black women and postpartum depression in the finale. There is even a scene in the finale that in a lot of ways makes the wounds Black Americans are feeling right now really sting, as the women have an encounter with the police being called on them for no reason. The acting this season is very moving, in both the hilarious and poignant scenes. The directors this season are mostly new for the show aside from returners Kevin Bray and Prentice Penny, and feature the talents of actress Kerry Washington and cast member Jay Ellis.
The only episode that didn’t really hit the mark for me was the finale. The episode starts out really great by answering a lot of open questions from previous episodes including whether Lawrence and Issa will actually be able to make it work even if he moves to San Francisco for a job. It’s easy to be proud of Issa for her willingness to be brave enough to pursue a long distance relationship with Lawrence. However, at the same time, this is when the issues between Molly and her boyfriend Andrew come to a head about her uncompromising nature. The episode takes a turn when Kelli makes the calls to gather everyone together and look for Tiffany who, under the influence of postpartum depression, has disappeared. The gang eventually follows Tiffany’s trail and finds her. The scene where she reconciles with her husband was so beautiful because although their storyline is a bit shallow and we don’t get to see much of their marriage, seeing a Black woman be embraced and comforted without questions is empowering. He doesn’t ask “why” or blame her, he just hugs her, and we all deserve that.
In contrast the following morning, the breakup we’ve all been waiting for emerges as Andrew calls Molly out and asks her to let him go. Although it’s sad to watch Molly fight for this relationship way too late, she ultimately needed this breakup as a wakeup call to continue her self-improvement journey. The episode gets even sadder when immediately after, Lawrence confesses to Issa that his ex, Condola (who also happens to be the business partner she worked with), is pregnant…with his baby… and keeping it. I’m sure everyone watching this screamed. That being said, this scene was honestly a little predictable. There was almost an audible exhale amongst viewers because we all saw it coming in a way. Things between Issa and Lawrence just couldn’t be resolved that simply. Hopefully she cuts her losses and gives her old flame Nathan a call, as he has a barbershop and not a baby. The season closes with Molly and Issa both carrying the weight of their respective heartbreaks to meet at Merkato, the restaurant in Little Ethiopia where their journey first began during the first season; leaving the question of whether they reconcile open.
This season, we saw the cast grow in a lot of ways that we, and the women we know are growing (or need to). Despite their differences, Molly and Issa both had to confront a lot of their old ways, and they’re both a lot less insecure – pun intended. My only critique of the season is: where are the Tiffany and Kelli storylines?! We get a peek into Tiffany’s life as a new mom, but it almost didn’t really fit because we don’t know much about her overall. Kelli’s fate has been even worse. Kelli is an easily loveable and relatable character because she’s absolutely hilarious, but it almost feels like she’s been reduced to the “funny fat friend” trope because she only seems to come on-screen to make people laugh. We need to know about Kelli’s life! Overall, the fourth season of Insecure did not disappoint. Season 5 is already in the making and I’m really excited to see where the journey goes, and forever grateful to Issa Rae for the representation in what feels like a love letter to Black women everywhere.