Forgive the length but this is ten episodes worth of review!
Season four of Insecure concluded earlier this month after ten weeks of drama, comedy, and a killer soundtrack that I Shazamed over the entire season. I expect nothing less from a show that has had The Solange Knowles as a music consultant. Insecure gets cinematography so right from the music choices, to the wardrobe, to the scenic overhead shots of Los Angeles and artful mastery of lighting darker skin. It’s a joy to watch on multiple levels, from concept to aesthetics.
Season four had a large focus on friendship, namely Molly and Issa’s. As they began to grow apart it made me evaluate the roles each of them played in their ultimate separation. A lack of communication between the two allowed a build-up of smaller grievances to manifest into a bigger outburst. It lay a shaky foundation for the rest of the season when things normally said in jest to a friend, were perceived as snarky and condescending. Molly jokingly calling Issa “messy” and Issa playfully warning to avoid becoming the “old Molly” became catalysts of war, and the girls were ready to fight. As the season progressed, trivial things became arguments such as a parking space and specifically Andrew’s hook up with the block party.
What was Molly’s real issue with Issa using Andrew’s connections? Was she being territorial of her relationship or did she not believe Issa could pull off the block party and didn’t want Andrew to bother his colleagues? Was it a form of revenge to express her disdain for Issa’s recent treatment of her? It appears hypocritical to put up these boundaries for her relationship when Molly inserted herself by telling off Nathan on Issa’s behalf. It can be viewed as a form of control, as Molly is used to being the more ‘put-together’ friend and is sensing a shift in their dynamic. Controlling elements such as a dating partner (Nathan), new friend (Condola) or ability to network for Issa was perhaps an attempt on Molly’s behalf to maintain the status quo that she is accustomed to. Issa’s growth, professionally and romantically challenges this status quo and led to Molly concluding their lives no longer fit together. Does this mean that their friendship was co-dependent and toxic? If so, do we even want them to be friends again, as the final scene implied?
Friendships on Insecure can’t be discussed without looking at the roles of Tiffany and Kelli in the wider friendship group. Kelli can always be counted on for laughs and I was beside myself when she pretended to be British. My concern is that Kelli is not given enough dimension aside from comic relief. It would be nice to see what she is dealing with outside of Molly, Issa and Tiffany. We generally get to meet extra family/spouses from the lives of other characters, but Kelli’s life remains unexplored, which is something that will hopefully change next season. Meeting Issa’s mum, for example, gave her another dimension. We as the audience can relate to having that conversation with our parents’ generation and comparing our milestones with theirs.
Last season we got to see Kelli’s angst over losing Tiffany to motherhood, and this season gave us the countering insight of Tiffany’s spiral into post-partum depression. Tiffany, as the only married member of the group, now feels further isolated as the only mother. Season 3’s Coachella episode saw Tiffany feeling as though she missed all the fun due to being pregnant. She has to go through this new phase of parenthood without the understanding of her girls, hence why she got her mommy-friends to plan her baby shower.
I appreciate that the show incorporated mental health issues such as Nathan’s bipolar diagnosis and Tiffany’s depression, however they dedicated a lot of time to finding Tiffany when there were other loose threads that needed tying. The scene with the police in that episode felt like it was shoehorned in, but thankfully the show tackled racism in an earlier episode in a way that is not regularly portrayed on TV. Molly’s experience with the Mexican towel lady and Andrew’s Asian-American brother was an example of racism perpetrated by other ethnic minorities. It challenged the idea of ‘people of colour’ solidarity while exemplifying the different ways, black women specifically, experience prejudice and discrimination.
Another way in which Insecure comes through for black women is with the intentional hairstyles of Issa. Insecure hairstylist Felicia Leatherwood has twenty years of natural hair styling experience and has stated that the styles selected for the show are easily duplicated without professional skill or training. This, in my opinion, has done so much for the representation of natural black hair on black women in the media. We are used to seeing sleek, straightened, looser curl textures on black female celebrities but Issa normalises and promotes kinkier natural styles without much effort at all.
A final theme which needs to be addressed is the idea of maturity in relationships, which affected nearly every character this season.
Molly finding out that initially Andrew was not exclusively dating her was met with a childish reaction. Molly can come off as entitled and lacking self-awareness and this is further evidenced by her being unsatisfied with Issa’s response at the news of Andrew, even though Issa was busy working at her mixer. Andrew could have opened up more, but he was doing all the bending when it came to his and Molly’s relationship. Molly’s inability to sacrifice her comfort or convenience even marginally just to appease Andrew was the beginning of the end. An attempt on Andrew’s behalf to address it was shut down with defensiveness and refusal to self-reflect.
Condola and Issa’s friendship worked on paper, but the presence of Lawrence complicated things. All three parties tried to do the grown-up thing and make it work, but can you really be friends with your ex with no feelings attached? To quote Christina Elmore, the actress who plays Condola, “It’s possible, it’s not probable.” Condola saw that Issa and Lawrence still had chemistry, coupled with the knowledge that they’d probably still be an item if Issa hadn’t cheated, it was a hard pill to swallow.
My favourite episode was number 8, Issa and Lawrence’s date. The date allowed them to finally have a mature and retrospective conversation about their relationship. They were able to be honest and vulnerable with each other in a way that other elements of their lives prevented before. Condola asking ‘what if Issa hadn’t cheated’ spurred Lawrence to initiate the date. He wanted to find out the answer.
Reflecting on their relationship, Issa confessed she would sometimes drive around to avoid going home, and Lawrence admitted he had bought a ring. Maybe if they had shared these things with each other, things could’ve gone differently. I like Nathan but there’s an ease and familiarity with Issa and Lawrence and I can’t help but feel the time apart has strengthened their potential. Condola’s bombshell was heart-breaking for Issa, but beautifully shot as we experienced both Issa and Lawrence’s reactions to the news simultaneously. Will these two star-crossed lovers work it out? Season Five awaits…
FUN FACT: Potential Donor in Episode 1 was Issa Rae’s actual mother in real life!
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