In­se­cure re­mains funny and top­i­cal in Sea­son 2

The Hamilton Spectator - - A&E - WIL­LIAM ROBERT FER­RER

The de­but sea­son of HBO’s “In­se­cure” was a stun­ning start, but at times it could feel claus­tro­pho­bic, in­ti­mate to a fault. There was Issa Dee (cre­ator and star Issa Rae) and there was the love tri­an­gle con­sist­ing of Dee, her boyfriend Lawrence ( Jay El­lis), and Daniel (Y’lan Noel), a child­hood friend. The rest — Dee’s ca­reer, her cir­cle of friends — was of­ten an af­ter­thought.

Judg­ing from its first four episodes, how­ever, the sec­ond sea­son is a tremen­dous open­ing-up of this al­ready great se­ries. Deeply re­fresh­ing and re­ward­ing, th­ese episodes al­low us to see the “In­se­cure” en­sem­ble fight­ing the many bat­tles of twen­tysome­things, not just the ro­man­tic ones.

The Sea­son 2 pre­mière (Episode 9 of the se­ries) is a fit­ting rein­tro­duc­tion to the se­ries. Since Lawrence has ... moved on, Dee finds her­self nav­i­gat­ing the woe­ful world of dat­ing apps.

First, there’s a mon­tage of ill-fated dates that’s ad­mit­tedly a bit tired, but shortly there­after di­rec­tor Melina Mat­soukas (the TV and mu­sic-video au­teur who also di­rected the “Mas­ter of None” Thanks­giv­ing episode) gives us Issa, stand­ing at her bed­room door, try­ing on lines she might use to se­duce Lawrence when he swings by to col­lect his jury-duty sum­mons. Its peak “In­se­cure”: Rae be­ing awk­ward and hi­lar­i­ous, imag­in­ing and en­gi­neer­ing a per­fect hand she’s never go­ing to get dealt.

But, again, what makes Sea­son 2 such a mar­vel is the ex­pan­sion of its scope. Best friend Molly (Yvonne Orji) tack­les sex­ism at work while also tack­ling her re­sis­tance to coun­selling. Mean­while, Lawrence goes apart­ment hunt­ing with Chad (Neil Brown Jr.), giv­ing rise to some of the best lines of the se­ries (“You say yes to the tour, brother. That’s just po­lite.”), and tries to fig­ure out what to do about Tasha (Do­minique Perry). Even Kelli (Natasha Roth­well) and Tif­fany (Amanda Seales) are given more to do.

The most ex­cit­ing of th­ese de­vel­op­ments is the se­ries’ new-found com­mit­ment to Dee’s work, the worst part of Sea­son 1. Dee and co­worker Frieda (Lisa Joyce) are tasked with help­ing out at an un­der­funded high school and find that ado­les­cents aren’t as re­cep­tive to their ef­forts as mid­dle school­ers.

Frieda gets to drop some more prob­lem­atic bombs (she still whis­pers “black” like it’s an ex­ple­tive and says she “stress watches” Ava Du­Ver­nay’s “13th”), but she also chal­lenges Dee’s will­ing­ness to ig­nore the vice prin­ci­pal’s tar­geted racism against Lat­inx stu­dents. It’s a com­plex plot line that re­calls Sea­son 1’s crown jewel, an in­con­clu­sive study of black masculinity and black queer­ness.

To harp on the se­ries’ top­i­cal­ity, though, would be to miss the point of watch­ing. “In­se­cure” is, as al­ways, hella funny (this sea­son, ev­ery episode ti­tle con­tains this dis­tinctly Cal­i­for­nian ad­verb).

Rae’s shock­ing lack of con­fi­dence, paired with her manic en­ergy, gives “In­se­cure” a nat­u­ral­is­tic, im­pro­vi­sa­tional feel. And the writ­ers, in­clud­ing Rae, let char­ac­ters riff, cater­ing to their dis­tinct strengths. It’s like a great sit­com, ex­cept with se­rial tele­vi­sion’s flair for buildup and pay­off. An on­go­ing gag about ev­ery­one’s re­ac­tions to a soapy, Life­time-es­que slave drama, for in­stance, is shap­ing up to be some­thing truly sin­gu­lar.

The same, I might add, can be said for “In­se­cure.”


Issa Rae as Issa Dee in episode 2 of the tele­vi­sion se­ries "In­se­cure" cre­ated by Issa Rae and Larry Wil­more.

‘IN­SE­CURE’ 10:30 p.m. Sun­day, July 23 HBO

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