Art has many functions. It inspires, teaches, and perhaps most importantly – sparks discourse. Sunday’s season finale of HBO’s Insecure did just that, with men and women firmly entrenched on opposing sides. A quick perusal of my Twitter feed on Monday revealed a spate of tweets with the hashtag #TeamLawrence. How did we get here? Let’s take a look back at the inaugural season of Issa Rae’s Insecure.
Admittedly, this series grew on me. It usually takes a few episodes for a show to hit its stride, and Insecure is no exception. Its authenticity is undeniable, as Issa mirrors our own awkwardness, social ineptitude, and yes – insecurity. From “code switching” between work and home, to being the Black spokesperson for her White co-workers, Issa’s experiences were spot-on and aren’t often fodder for television. She isn’t Olivia Pope or Cookie Lyon, and the average woman isn’t as fabulous as the former or as formidable as the latter. Issa is just real. She’s human and thus flawed, evidenced by her foolish decision to cheat on her boyfriend Lawrence (Jay Ellis, The Game). That moment of indiscretion and its aftermath led to an unforgettable finale that struck a chord in many viewers.
Issa and Lawrence’s relationship exemplified what happens when resentment rears its ugly head, as she grew emotionally and financially weary of carrying Lawrence year after year of him failing to live up to his potential. However, it takes two to make it and two to break it. I was unemployed for a mere four months this year, so I can understand and empathize with Lawrence, to an extent. A person begins to question their worth and purpose when unemployed, and one needs a mate who understands that. On the other hand, empathy has limits. Issa was probably empathetic in years one and two of his joblessness, but Lawrence’s ostensible complacency took its toll.
Insecure featured only eight short episodes in its first season, but the writers took us on an authentic journey. When we first meet Lawrence his appearance reflects his circumstances: he’s clad in sweatpants, in desperate need of a fresh haircut and his demeanor is forlorn and defeated. By the time the finale rolls around and he finds a job, he looks like he stepped out of the pages of GQ. I re-watched the entire season, and although I saw a relationship in decline, I also saw two people who love each other very much. I’d rather not fall into the battle of the sexes dichotomy I’ve seen online, as there are a myriad of factors that contributed to the couple’s demise.
Viewers shouldn’t fault Lawrence for hooking up with Tasha. Issa is more blameworthy because she cheated, but Lawrence bears some responsibility for allowing his relationship to falter in the wake of his professional shortcomings. Life is messy. It’s not a fairy tale. Insecure reminds us of this fact in brutal, humorous fashion. We are all perfectly imperfect, and each character reflected that to varying degrees. If I can laugh and cry at the same episode, if that episode stays with me days later and inspires such spirited debate – I’d say HBO has (yet another) hit on its hands. Season 2 can’t get here fast enough.