During the inside look dubbed the “Wine Down” that aired after this week’s episode, Issa Rae sat down with musician Raphael Saadiq, the show’s composer. Saadiq describes Molly as a “play and go” kind of broad: She plays the field, has fun, and never sets down her worries long enough for any man to notice. Of course, that’s not the whole truth. Men only interpret her that way, which Issa Rae mentions during their conversation. What is true is that Issa’s character on Insecure is navigating her own play-and-go phase (or “ho phase,” as she refers to it in the show). For someone rebounding from a long-term relationship gone sour that dominated the bulk of her 20s, being single probably seemed like a fun respite from the taxing day-to-day struggles of her partnership, even though she clearly misses Lawrence. But Issa is quickly coming to grips with how the single life can hold as much embarrassment and loneliness as pleasure.
Throughout “Hella Open,” I found myself cringing so deeply I had to look away from the screen. This started in the very first scene with a hookup gone awry, featuring singer-songwriter Luke James as Ben. He’s obviously feeling Issa. Their conversation on his couch quickly turns into an intense makeout session. But every time he touches her she breaks into laughter as if she’s that ticklish. Perhaps she just isn’t used to another man touching her and is more nervous than anything else. It’s cute until it isn’t. “I thought this was a sure shot,” he says, obviously annoyed. She half-dresses and tries to leave only to mistakenly open his bedroom door. Her comment, “Thank you so much for your hospitality,” only makes things worse. But Issa isn’t giving up on her ho phase yet. She turns to the best woman to lead her through this brave new world: Molly.
Issa: “Can you teach me how to ho?”
Molly: “Bitch, that’s rude! And yes.”
Despite Molly’s guidance, Issa keeps screwing things up. When they go to a club, it’s one failure after another. What was that excruciatingly slow but definitely not sexy walk Issa was doing? Why can’t she just chill when she’s talking to dudes instead of running in circles or pulling out unsubtle sexual metaphors? It seems Issa’s glow-up hasn’t extended to her mental and emotional self. But I get it. Dating is awkward and weird and often involves signals that can get confusing. Maybe a ho phase isn’t what Issa needs. There’s nothing wrong with riding completely solo. If anything, Issa needs to spend time thinking about who she is and what she wants rather than figuring out what the men in her orbit desire.
Molly may say she wants to keep to herself, but she finds herself chatting at the club with Lionel (the very attractive and exceedingly talented Sterling K. Brown). Later, Molly goes out on a brunch date with Lionel. They seem to have easygoing chemistry. They joke about their jobs, interests, and love of kids (although neither is into having them quite yet). Lionel is a tantalizing option. But Molly isn’t the same person she was last season. Issa may have the flashier arc with the cheating, fresh dating experiences, and fourth-wall-breaking rap sequences, but it’s often Molly’s arc that piques my interest more. “Do you ever wish you could fast forward to the part where you’re married and life’s all figured out?” Lionel asks her. It’s the perfect suggestion, isn’t it? He’s open about wanting something serious, he’s fine as hell, and he’s accomplished. Yet even though Lionel hits everything on her list, Molly doesn’t seem interested and says as much during a phone call with Issa. “He sounds kinda like you,” Issa says to Molly. I didn’t think Lionel was pushing too hard and he seems like a great dude. That’s why I screamed internally when Molly turns down his offer to see SZA over text and then ignores him when he asks about dinner. Isn’t he exactly what she wanted? But often, once you get what you want, you realize it isn’t what you need.
Molly’s reaction to Lionel is also fueled by bumping into a couple she’s friendly with from out of town soon after her date, Candice and Alejandro “Dro” Peña (Sarunas J. Jackson). Remembering how Dro didn’t have his act together in the past but that he and Candice worked out anyway leads Molly to wonder if having a more unscripted life would be for the best. I’d say she should talk to her therapist, but as I predicted last week, she dropped her. Finding a good therapist is hard, so good luck with that, Molly. But I’m not even sure she’s ready to face her own truths and foibles quite yet.
Issa, of course, is hyperaware of her problems in some respects. So she decides to take charge and hook up with her neighbor, Eddie. I’m low-key mad about this. She really messes up having sex with Ben, but is successful with this dude? Isn’t having sex with a neighbor a really bad idea? It doesn’t even seem enjoyable! Eddie attended the party at her place in the premiere, so she takes her phone charger and brings it to him under the pretense that he left it behind in order to strike up a conversation. Inside his place, he’s watching Gossip Girl intently. When he brings up Blake Lively, there’s a pretty great line from Issa in response: “Is that the white girl? I guess they’re all white,” she says. Issa decides to go for it after psyching herself up. Their first kiss is more of a headbutt given the angles are off and he isn’t expecting it. The sex doesn’t seem all that fun. It’s awkward at first watching her inelegantly take off her clothes, turn down his offer to “titty fuck” her, and try to negotiate various positions. It ends on an okay note as she slips out of his place and takes her charger with her, noticing that he was using his real charger the entire time. She seems happy with how things are going now. Maybe Issa just needed to dip her toes in the ho life to go full throttle?
While Issa is finding a modicum of pleasure in her new life, Lawrence is watching the one he has now fall apart. Good. I don’t hate Lawrence, but like Issa I think he needs to take some time for himself to figure things out instead of dragging others along on his road to self-discovery. Tasha has settled into a comfortable groove with Lawrence. He wants to have sex. Her hair is wrapped up, she’s wearing sweatpants, and she’s far more interested in watching How to Get Away With Murder. Even though it’s clear Lawrence isn’t ready for anything serious, he finds himself attending Tasha’s family gathering. He’s carrying chairs, helping out aunties, and playing the dutiful boyfriend role. They may not be exclusive, but he’s acting like it. The fact that her family members know about him by name only adds to the image that they’re a couple even if the parameters of their relationship are nebulous. Lawrence leaves Tasha using the excuse of a work event — which is really an after-hours mixer with colleagues — promising he’ll return. Of course, he doesn’t. The moment he left, I knew he wasn’t coming back.
At “start-up Saturday,” as his co-workers call it, Lawrence seems to toy with the idea of returning to Tasha, but once a waitress flirts with him, he’s all in. One drink turns into shots as the night rolls on. Eventually, Tasha calls him. Does she forgive him? Is she worried? No. Finally, Tasha decides she’s done. She doesn’t mince words: “Quit acting like you give a fuck about what I want,” she exclaims. Tasha is upset because she knew they weren’t serious but she’s embarrassed by him ghosting on her in front of her family and acting like they had a secure relationship by apologizing for things he wasn’t sorry for. Lawrence doesn’t know how to not be a boyfriend. Instead of pulling back and being honest with himself, he ends up hurting Tasha. “You worse than a fuck nigga. You’re a fuck nigga who thinks he’s a good dude.” Damn, Tasha. Her words may be harsh, but they’re also pretty truthful. Will Lawrence really listen to what she’s saying or will he continue to make the same mistakes going forward?
• Issa’s issues with Frieda at work are mounting. Even though We Got Y’all is a success at this school, this win is clouded by Vice-Principal Gaines’s prejudice toward the Latino students. But this progress and the young students who need help don’t seem to matter to Frieda. She also doesn’t pause to think that some of the kids in the room may be Afro-Latino or that they deserve help too. Instead, she takes things out on the kids and unsubtly asks them to bring their “amigos” to the program. Frieda needs to hit pause and think about what she’s doing.
• Hearing Molly on the phone with her mom makes me wonder if the show will delve a bit more into the familial lives of the main characters.
• Insecure nails the frustration that comes when your vibrator dies, and you have no batteries, with such aplomb I couldn’t help but cackle out loud.