Entertainment » Television

'Insecure' Season 3 Is Good. But it Should be Great

by Jason St. Amand
National News Editor
Saturday Aug 11, 2018

Over its first two seasons, the HBO comedy "Insecure" proved itself to be one funniest and most modern shows on TV. Created by Issa Rae, who also stars and writes on the show, and comedian Larry Wilmore, "Insecure" burst onto the scene in 2016 with breathtaking confidence. Featuring a stellar cast of mostly unknowns, and considered aesthetics, the show's sharp writers helped craft a bold and daring comedy that's not afraid to tackle topical issues when it comes to race, relationships, sex, friendship and careers young people navigate in today's complicated world.

Most of that is true for "Insecure" Season 3, which debuts on HBO Sunday. The show explores the new changes in the lives of its main characters, specifically Issa (Rae), who is coming off a huge breakup with her long-term, live-in boyfriend Lawrence (Jay Ellis) - a major character who will not appear in Season 3 at all. Issa is in a transitional phase, crashing with her ex- Daniel (Y'lan Noel of "The First Purge" fame), the cause of her split with Lawrence, as she figures out where she's going to live and where her career is headed. When Daniel has women over, Issa partakes in her part time job of being a Lyft driver. During the day, she's wondering if she's still satisfied with at full time job at the nonprofit We Got Y'all, where she resents being the token black person and was recently demoted.

Y'lan Noel in a scene from HBO's "Insecure." Photo credit: Merie W. Wallace/Courtesy of HBO

It's also a transitional phase for Issa's BFF, Molly, played by the show's MVP Yvonne Orji. She's starting a new gig at an all-black law firm, where she feels she'll fit in better when it comes to office politics (slight spoiler: it doesn't get better). But she's still fooling around with Dro (Sarunas J. Jackson), who has an open marriage which is, unsurprisingly, complicating things between the two of them.

Over the first four episodes provided for review, "Insecure" Season 3 is thoroughly entertaining as it has been over the last two years. But something is missing this time around - perhaps it is direction from the talented Melina Matsoukas, who set the comedy's lovely aesthetics and tone by helming the pilot and a few other episodes throughout Season 1 and Season 2. Matsoukas is nowhere to be found in Season 3. Or maybe there's something off with the pacing this season, which feels slowed down and quieter. Or it could be just the fact that we are swept up in the deluge of new TV shows in this Peak TV era, which makes it difficult for established series - especially comedies - to continue to woo viewers.

Going macro, "Insecure" Season 3 may feel like a slight step down compared to its previous seasons. A spark of sorts is missing and that x-factor that makes this show special is maybe dimming. Going micro, however, the show is providing moments of true hilarity, like in the first episode "Better-Like" when Molly tags along with Issa as they pick up hotties in Issa's Lyft. It's these small moments - when the comedy focuses on the dynamic pair - that it's at its peak and most interesting.

The "will they or won't they" push-and-pull between Issa and Daniel becomes more interesting in Season 3 as Lawrence is out of the picture and they spark some real chemistry. In one episode, Issa shows her appreciation for Daniel, who is allowing her to crash at his place for free, by cleaning his apartment. She later helps him in another way by encouraging him to put his ego aside and chase after a rising rapper to produce his music. The moment leads to interesting results and has impacts in subsequent episodes. Things also get even more complicated for Issa when another man unexpectedly enters her life.

Issa Rae, left, and Yvonne Orji. in a scene from HBO's "Insecure." Photo credit: Merie W. Wallace/HBO

"Insecure" is still a strong and hilarious show unlike anything else on TV today. Season 3 focuses on the lives of Issa, Molly and Daniel. With Lawrence not appearing this season, the show doubles down on the trio's relationships and work experiences. That strong hold, however, comes at cost as minor characters are undeveloped. The other half of Issa and Molly's squad, Kelli (Natasha Rothwell) and a pregnant Tiffany (Amanda Seales), are fantastic when they are on screen but they don't pop up often enough. The same goes for Frieda (Lisa Joyce), who was Issa's colleague in Season 1 and 2 but has since been promoted to her supervisor.

Speaking with The Associated Press about Season 3, Rae, who earned an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series this year, explained "this season was harder - just because we closed so many doors last season. It felt like we were starting from scratch in a way."

"When you get into a third season show you kind of feel like you know it. And even as writers you get a bit complacent like, 'We know this (stuff), we know what we're doing," she added. "We know who these people are. We got formula.' And that's what you never want."

"Insecure" has always been a show about taking risks when it comes to storytelling. Its biggest risk in Season 3 is Rae's decision not to give Lawrence any screen time this year. Though that may give way to a slower season, there's still a good chance the back half of Season 3 could provide fireworks for Issa, Molly and Daniel.


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