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Posted: 2020-06-18 21:02:37

In early seasons, such retrograde dialogue sometimes made Insecure feel like a prompt for weekly Black Twitter debates on dating. The characters registered as symbols rather than fleshed-out people. Lawrence (played by Jay Ellis), Issa’s omnipresent ex, was less an interesting figure with hopes, dreams, and feelings, and more an angsty avatar for straight men to identify with. Moments such as the eye scene seemed written entirely to generate chaos online—but Twitter drama alone does not a satisfying TV show make. It’s been a pleasant surprise, then, to see Insecure course-correct in its most recent season. Season 4, which ended this week, deepened its two central relationships—between Issa and Lawrence, as well as between Issa and her best friend, Molly (Yvonne Orji). Though Sunday’s finale still introduced a twist that shocked Twitter, Insecure focused more on the growth of its core characters, even shading in details about them that added more gravity to previous seasons.

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This year, the show finally began to make good on its original promise: to meaningfully explore the friendship between two black women. This decision to recenter Molly and Issa, and to examine the rifts that can emerge between friends as they get older, gave Insecure a cohesion and a profundity that it’s never quite had before. Season 4 began with a revelation that upended the relationship viewers most took for granted. While on the phone with an unspecified person, Issa casually states that she and Molly aren’t really friends anymore. The show then rewinds several weeks to trace what happened—each episode revealing a new tear in the fabric of the relationship and prompting audiences to contemplate how platonic bonds can change. Molly, an ambitious lawyer, is often hardheaded at work and in her romantic dealings, but her stubbornness toward her best friend this season was most galling.

Fortunately for Insecure, as things between Molly and Issa devolved, the women grew into themselves as individuals. Molly began trying to show up fully in her new relationship, and Issa committed herself to the community-event-planning work she’d fallen in love with. Their escalating face-offs courted online chatter, to be sure—Vulture even kept a running list of whose fault any given fallout had been. But the conversations about Molly and Issa’s distance provoked more intriguing questions among Insecure’s viewership than prior debates over conventions of heterosexual dating: What does it take to hold a friendship together as two people age into different versions of themselves? When is it time to call it quits?

Issa’s and Molly’s romantic lives also changed, but these shifts took on more significance when framed through the women’s dissolving friendship. The biggest heartbreak of the season, after all, was the one caused by their separation. That chasm made their respective successes feel hollower, and their low points much deeper. How exciting can reignited love be if you can’t share it with the person who’s been by your side the longest? Season 4 explored such conflicts with grace and empathy. Issa faced her shortcomings as a friend, her negative habits, and her general aimlessness. Molly, for her part, shirked accountability, up until a painful situation reminded her that Issa is the only person she wants to help her. That realization was a kick in the pants for the characters, who had thus far cruised through many key life decisions (especially Issa, the more idle of the two).

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