A portrait of a young black woman in all her gloriously gangly humanity, Issa Rae’s Insecure was one of 2016’s most vibrant debuts. Her show is even more assured in the second season, presenting a cringey-funny yet always thoughtful take on romantic breakup and desperate rebounding.
Lonely and horny after sabotaging her stale relationship with boyfriend Lawrence (Jay Ellis), Issa finds herself yearning to get him back while Lawrence half-heartedly moves on. A rash choice in the premiere catalyzes separate-but-unequal spirals. It’s much easier for sweet and smooth Lawrence to quickly score hookup sex than assertive, idiosyncratic Issa. The resonance is universal, but the lens is decidedly black. One episode finds Lawrence — vulnerable to any and all female attention — meeting two white women with some very specific assumptions and expectations about sex with a black man.
Insecure‘s timely satirical interrogations extend into Issa’s professional life working for a nonprofit serving at-risk minority kids. Her colleague Frieda (Lisa Joyce) — a spoof of extreme white guilt and privileged progressiveness — worries that their suddenly successful after-school program is lacking diversity and can’t understand why Issa is simply content with the hard-fought victory they’ve only just attained.
Rae and her collaborators produce smart, nuanced stories about being black and modulating “blackness,” about being yourself and needing to represent race and gender. As an actress, Rae is a marvel. She’s bold and open at every turn, be it scenes of blunt sexual frankness and physical comedy, bursts of hardcore rap revealing her internal world, or torrents of expression that reveal every facet of her personality in a span of seconds. It’s a radiant performance of tremendous confidence — the total opposite of insecure.