TV review: Insecure: Season Three is beginning to get repetitive

Issa Rae's series could probably coast on its wit, social commentary and cast, but its characters seem stuck in the same situations


INSECURE: SEASON THREE (Melina Matsoukas, Kevin Bray, Prentice Penny). Premieres Sunday (August 12) on HBO Canada and streams on tmngo.ca. Rating: NNN


“I’m on some know better, do better shit,” declares Molly (Yvonne Orji) early in the third season of Insecure, a comedy about the often awkward experiences of two Black women navigating life in L.A. But if you’ve been following the show from the start, you know that Molly’s declaration couldn’t possibly be true.

Insecure is one of TV’s best comedies of errors and it has worked (and has reliably lit up Black Twitter every week) because best friends Issa (the show’s creator/writer/star Issa Rae) and Molly keep making mistake after mistake despite their best intentions.

The first four episodes of season three promise more of the same, but at this stage in the characters’ development could more of the same signal the show’s undoing?

Fresh from last season’s breakup with Lawrence (Jay Ellis), Issa has moved in with Daniel (Y’lan Noel), aka, the ex she cheated on Lawrence with. She’s temporarily crashing on his couch until she finds her own place, a challenge in L.A’s high-rent market. But that’s the least of her worries. She seemingly can’t maintain the platonic boundary she’s laid down with Daniel, which is confusing for both of them but great for viewers since it sends Issa to seek advice from Molly and her other close friends, the newly pregnant Tiffany (Amanda Seales) and the perpetually single Kelli (Natasha Rothwell).

There isn’t a scene that Rothwell can’t steal. With every one-liner, she’s proven to be living, breathing GIF material. When Issa fills her in on the rent-free, (so-far) sex-free situation at Daniel’s, Kelli gives her an earnest piece of advice, handed down from her grandmother: “Never look a gift horse in the dick.”

That kind of muddled reasoning is at the heart of why none of Insecure’s characters can actually “know better, do better,” and it has reliably set viewers up for hilarious and awkward outcomes (the show did start as a web series called The Misadventures Of Awkward Black Girl, after all).

For example, Issa is at a crossroads at her job at We Got Y’all, a white-led non-profit that serves underprivileged Black and Latino kids. School participation is declining and Issa has been taken out of the field after she covered up racist comments made by a Black principal in season two.

As the team brainstorms freshening up the logo, founder Joanne (Catherine Curtin) can’t understand why the design, which features tiny Black kids being carried in the palm of a large, white hand, is problematic. “But it’s not a handout,” she explains sincerely. “It’s my hand… out.”

Meanwhile, Molly continues to set and immediately cross her own boundaries with Dro (Sarunas J. Jackson), the childhood friend she’s sleeping with despite her unwillingness to accept his open marriage.

Early on, she reasoned that she could order the disorder of the men in her life. Talking to Issa in episode one, she communicates this not in sound arguments but in a series of “bleeps,” “blaps” and “boops” to signal that she’s tidied up her relationship loose ends. No surprise: she was wrong.

Halfway into the season’s eight episodes, we find Issa making her own declaration: she’s done making declarations. Every time she proclaims a new self, she tells Molly, she messes it up.

This sets the second half of the season up for a more spontaneous Issa, but the entry of a new man in her life is beginning to look a lot like the same situations she’s found herself in from seasons past.

This doesn’t bode well, because although Insecure could probably coast on its rapid-fire witticisms, pointed social commentary and the all-around strength of its cast, particularly its supporting ones (can we have more of Rothwell, please?), it’ll be a drag of a season if its characters remain stuck in a state of arrested development.

chrisr@nowtoronto.com | @missrattan

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