The season finale is a pivotal moment for any freshman series, and it’s especially important for a show like Insecure, which isn’t inclined toward plot twists or rug pulls. As a slice-of-life sitcom and a shrewd, subtle character study, the show’s easygoing nature makes it harder to put a period on the sentence. Then there’s the issue of the downright stingy eight-episode season, a length that would seem to preclude an ending that feels satisfying and tonally appropriate while leaving more story to explore in season two. But if flop sweat was dripping out of Issa Rae’s invisible pores, it certainly didn’t show. “Broken As F**k” is a stellar finale that delivers an emotional wallop while hinting at a fascinating path forward for Insecure.
“Broken” is Rae’s best script yet, a sharp, insightful, and cleverly structured half-hour that flies by while leaving a lasting impression. The episode begins with Issa brooding in the mirror, sick over the fact that she’s driven away the two most important people in her life. It’s a moment so simple as to belie its significance. All season, the mirror has been Issa’s safe space, the place where she can be a bolder, more brazen version of herself. This time, the mirror isn’t a fantasy world where Issa can be the second coming of MC Lyte. It’s an actual reflection of Issa’s sadness and sense of helplessness over a situation she can only do so much to fix.
No one can accuse Issa of not trying to mend her fractured relationships. After procrastinating as long as possible, Issa calls Molly to thank her for her donation at the fundraiser. “Bitch, you still mad?” she says, hoping Molly will answer in kind like she did in the pilot. Instead, there’s only starched silence, and when Molly does start talking, what she has to say is far from what Issa wants to hear. Issa follows that awkward moment with a visit to Lawrence at his fancy new tech job, and that goes even worse than the phone call with Molly. Issa’s Rite-Aid care package isn’t enough to smooth things over, and Lawrence demands she stop calling him with the same anger that was in his voice during their initial blow-up.
The only bright spot in Issa’s world is a girls’ trip for Kelli’s birthday, complete with a carefree cruise up the Pacific Coast Highway and a swanky rental home. The weekend is all about celebration and camaraderie, but Issa and Molly still can’t figure out how to fall back into their groove. They sit in silence in the backseat on the way up, and even after the festivities are in full swing, they can’t muster up anything more than loaded side glances. A game of Truth or Dare — “We Did Say,” in the girls’ parlance — escalates quickly when Molly aggressively comes on to a much younger man, then brings him back to the house for a quick-and-dirty tryst. It’s a two-birds, one-bone situation for Molly, who gets to have a weekend fling and needle Issa at the same time.
Meanwhile, Lawrence is enjoying some quality time with his boys, who we’ve only seen in passing all season. Lawrence is the Girlfriend Guy, and he’s been so wrapped in his relationship cocoon that this is his first opportunity in a while to cut a fool. He almost does just that during a trip to the strip club. His boys convince him that the single life will be rife with opportunity with gorgeous, desperate women clamoring for an opportunity to bed him. Lawrence, who apparently has never seen a quality stripper before, thinks he’s about to get his first glimpse of his new life in the Champagne room, but has his hopes shattered when the dancer asks for cash up front. The proposition is yet another instance of Lawrence finding out that people see him as a milquetoast.
In a moment of desperation, he goes back to his comfort zone, calling Issa just to hear her voice when he’s clearly not prepared to confront what she did. He suggests they talk “at home,” and Issa, presumably hoping to catch Lawrence before he reverts back to righteous fury, immediately packs and asks her friends for help. After initially dismissing Issa, Molly caves and drives her back to Los Angeles. Molly even helps Issa rehearse her apology speech in a tender moment that shows how deep their affection for each other goes. (However, a more pessimistic reading of the scene would note that Issa and Molly still haven’t directly addressed why they were upset with each other, which only exacerbates the emotional bottleneck that led to the argument.)
Issa arrives home and finds Lawrence’s keys on the counter and smiles to herself. It’s a start. But when she walks back into the bedroom, she discovers that the keys are just about all Lawrence left in the apartment. That and his work shirt from Best Buy, the job Issa pushed him into getting instead of following his mobile app dreams. It’s a serious gut punch after an earlier scene that showed Lawrence arriving back in the apartment with a wistful smile spreading across his face. We find out at the same time Issa does that he was only coming to clear out his stuff. Molly consoles Issa on what’s left of the unclaimed “bouch” in front of the apartment building, and to twist the knife, the episode cuts to Lawrence laying waste to Tasha’s backside. Seriously, I’m not entirely sure the episode title doesn’t refer to Tasha’s box spring, or perhaps her L5 vertebrae.
The lengthy shot of Lawrence and Tasha is among the most explicit sex scenes in a show that hasn’t been bashful about frank sexuality. It’s even more raw than what led up to it, namely Issa’s indiscretion with Daniel in the studio. But the scene isn’t gratuitous. Lawrence had something to prove to Issa, to Chad, and to the enterprising stripper. If Issa can transform into Miss Gives All the Fucks and Molly can emerge as New Molly, Lawrence can be the guy who screws the flirtatious bank teller. It’s tough to watch, of course: As Issa sighs uncontrollably, the audience knows she’s wondering where Lawrence is and imagining the worst. Little does she know the reality is worse than anything she might dream up.
Surely Rae and her team considered a rosier ending, with Issa managing to get everything she wants without sacrificing anything. But to its credit, Insecure is not that show. Rae wants to hold her character’s feet to the fire, and if the show carries such bravery into season two, the best is yet to come.