Insecure’s “Hella Perspective” finale solidified Season 2’s emphasis on the messiness of transition.

Insecure Season 2 Was All About the Awkward, Messy In-Between Stages of Life

Insecure Season 2 Was All About the Awkward, Messy In-Between Stages of Life

Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog
Sept. 12 2017 7:32 AM

Insecure Season 2 Was All About the Awkward, Messy In-Between Stages of Life

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Moving forward?

HBO

Long, tension-filled tracking shots, a three-part structure breaking down 30 days with each of its main protagonists, an unexpected proposal, marriage, and pregnancy: the Season 2 finale of Insecure in many ways felt as significant as we’ve come to expect season finales of prestige dramedies to be. It was ambitious in its direction, spearheaded by Melina Matsoukas, the woman behind some of the most stunning and politically challenging small screen and musical visuals in recent years (Beyoncé’s “Formation,” Rihanna’s “We Found Love,” Master of None’s “Thanksgiving” episode). And throughout much of creator and star Issa Rae’s script, each character seemed to take large strides in their personal and/or professional lives, moving forward in ways they wouldn’t have been able to when the season began.

Aisha Harris Aisha Harris

Aisha Harris is a Slate culture writer and host of the Slate podcast Represent.

But by the end of “Hella Perspective,” Rae made it clear, if it wasn’t already after seven episodes in which Issa, Molly, and Lawrence continuously made uncomfortable and sometimes self-destructive decisions, that Season 2 was all about transition and the readjustment of expectations, for its characters and for us, the viewers. Such transition isn’t always easy to watch—how many times did you cringe or yell at your TV whenever Issa encountered any potential romantic partner this season, new or familiar?—but it’s a credit to Rae and the show’s other writers that Insecure allowed its story to hang precariously in that messy in-between stage, and grow into something even funnier and more engrossing.

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In the finale, Molly seemed to be most in control. After seeing her ditch her therapist because she couldn’t handle such deep introspection (“She kept putting her shit on me,” she complained in an earlier episode) and careen ahead without much of a game plan in place for much of this season, it was refreshing to find her finally making more clear-headed decisions. She’d cut off her dalliances with Dro—being the third wheel in someone else’s open marriage, and with a longtime childhood friend at that, was probably not the best idea for Molly, emotionally—started flirting with the possibility of dating a supportive, funny colleague who she wouldn’t normally go for, and was taking interviews with other law firms after realizing that her current employers don’t value her work nearly enough.

Lawrence and Issa, meanwhile, were also making rash, stupid decisions this season, following their devastating breakup. Lawrence foolishly led Tasha to believe that she could be more than just a rebound from Issa, had a deflating threesome with two women who obviously fetishized his blackness, and had the gall, in the penultimate episode, to bring his new love interest (and colleague) Aparna to a dinner party where he knew Issa was also going to be. Issa fumbled spectacularly in her attempts at having a “ho phase” and set aside her morals at We Got Y’all by ignoring the blatantly bigoted actions of the black school principal who outright discouraged the Latino kids from attending their outreach sessions, much to the chagrin of her white colleague, Frieda. (And now it seems her job is in jeopardy due to how she handled the situation.) They were both flailing and their actions became increasingly irritating in the process—which seems to have been the whole point. Nothing about this season was supposed to be easy, but it did feel incredibly true to life. It was not at all surprising in “Hella Perspective” to see Lawrence still reeling from Issa’s cheating and exhibiting jealous behavior over Aparna’s previous relationship with another colleague, nor was Issa’s inability to be proactive in finding a new roommate (her friends and family offered their leads, and she turned them all down) out of left field.

So the emotional catharsis of that third act scene in which Lawrence and Issa have their first calm, but deeply felt conversation since the breakup, in the empty apartment they once shared, was that much more gratifying. Rae had them confess, honestly and truthfully, to being all of the things they pretended not to be, but what most viewers long knew to be true. “I feel like I’m fucking everything up right now,” Lawrence admitted. (True.) And later, “I realized sometimes I set these expectations for myself and I shut down if they don’t go how I—I’m sorry for not being who you expected me to be. Who I expected me to be.”

Issa: “I wanted to be better for you, because of you. But somewhere along the way I depended on you to be better for both of us … And I didn’t even know how to do that for myself …” (Also true.) “What I did, it was the worst thing I could’ve done to you. And I wish I could convince you that it wasn’t about you.”

In that raw emotional state, Insecure effectively dissolved the notion of #TeamLawrence and #TeamIssa that has existed among fans from Season 1—there was never truly a reason to root against one in favor of the other, because both had their hands in the dissolution of their relationship, and both made selfish, immature attempts to move on (attempts that directly affected others within their orbit). It also suggested an new direction for the show in the future, one that didn’t seem quite so obvious throughout the rest of Season 2: the possibility that Lawrence and Issa just might try to make things work again after all. This being Insecure, where everything is constantly hanging in the balance, “Hella Perspective” still found a way to keep things ambiguous. In the way that Season 1’s finale provided the infamous fake-out cut that revealed Lawrence had moved out of their apartment, this conclusion took it a step further and created a fake-out montage, with Issa imagining that as they part ways, Lawrence suddenly proposes, and their future—marriage, amazing sex, an adorable baby—flashes before her eyes.

It quickly became clear what it really was as it unfolded (in each moment, Issa broke the fourth wall and looked toward the camera), but was still nevertheless enticing to witness—did she imagine just the proposal, or was that entire conversation in the apartment a fantasy? In the end, the former was true, and thankfully so. The characters really had taken a step towards making themselves better.

And yet—the last we see of Molly is her greeting Dro at the door in lingerie; Lawrence, for the moment at least, still has friends who are a terrible influence on him (it’s also not clear if he and Aparna are officially done); and the final shot of Issa is her arriving not at her brother’s place to crash until she can find somewhere permanent to live, but at the door of Daniel, her former flame and the one she cheated on Lawrence with. “I’m sleeping on the couch,” she tells him, sheepishly. A few steps forward, and one step back? Maybe, maybe not. But at least Insecure is committed to challenging our assumptions that any character on the show has to be constantly making the “right” decisions, while forcing them to face the consequences. That’s the way life often is when you’re making big, unfamiliar decisions for the first time—hella thorny.