Ever since Issa Dee’s (Issa Rae) philandering last season, many Insecure viewers have situated themselves firmly in one of two camps: #TeamIssa or #TeamLawrence. Even though Molly (Yvonne Orji) did her best to defend her friend in last week’s episode—Issa cheated, but she’s not a cheater—Issa’s indiscretions made her the less sympathetic of the recently uncoupled pair. Moreover, it’s easy to root for the character who’s starting to get his shit together; since the start of the season, we’ve seen Lawrence (Jay Ellis) officially end things with Issa, get in better shape, and find his own place.
As well as Lawrence appears to be doing, though, season two of Insecure has begun to peel back the layers of the show’s resident “good guy” and ask a vital question: Is Lawrence really all that good of a guy or is he just good on paper? Let’s not forget this is the same person who slept with Issa while still dating Tasha (Dominique Perry), the bank teller. He’s also the same guy who was too down on his luck to celebrate his girlfriend’s birthday back in the pilot. Issa—and, one could argue, an entire audience raised on the inevitability of rom-com reconciliation—was quick to forget these sorts of flaws last week, when she was mourning their five-year-long relationship. “Don’t forget he was on your couch for two of those years,” clapped back Kelli (Natasha Rothwell). “Fuck him, move on.”
“Hella Open” suggests that there are the stirrings of a fuckboy lurking beneath Lawrence’s nice-guy exterior. But the episode more broadly asks why, particularly in the age of hookups, we put on dating-friendly airs to begin with. For Lawrence, it’s because acting like the good guy is easier than being honest. So he falls back into a routine, seeming to embrace the trappings of coupledom. Lawrence wears the helpful boyfriend persona nicely, attending Tasha’s family barbecue, bringing chairs, and assisting aunts and cousins.
When he ditches the barbeque to attend a start-up mixer, he’s not merely the casual hookup who bailed; he is, as Tasha and her family see it, a boyfriend gone AWOL. Tasha is right to drag him later that night, calling Lawrence out for his need to keep up appearances when he isn’t really invested in the relationship. For Lawrence it’s easier to act like a boyfriend than to not be one at all. His behavior, she asserts, is worse than that of a fuckboy: “You’re a fuck nigga who thinks he’s a good dude.”
The only person on Insecure who doesn’t seem to be too interested in looking good on paper is Issa.
Molly’s plotline in “Hella Open” is similarly invested in the notion of putting on appearances, particularly when it’s unclear whether or not those appearances are disingenuous. The episode sees Molly’s return to dating, in part because she’s put therapy on pause: “Dr. Rhonda was always putting her shit on me.” And hey, if you’re jumping back into dating, you could do a lot worse than Sterling K. Brown, who plays the successful and attractive Lionel.
While season-one Molly would be picking out wedding china after the pair’s brunch date, though, season-two Molly is more reluctant. She admits to Issa that Lionel is amazing on paper, but something didn’t feel right, and so she skirts his advances. “I felt like he was just checking off boxes,” she says, unknowingly pointing to an uncannily similar trait that she herself possesses. It’s still unclear whether Lionel, with his five-year plan and desire to settle down, is hiding his true colors or is just being honest with Molly.
Also up in the air is whether Molly will come around to the idea of dating, with or without the help of a therapist, or if TaskRabbits (or whoever she outsourced to build her bookcase) will continue to fulfill the need for a man in her life. What is clear, however, is the gall that Molly must possess in order turn down Sterling K. Brown and free SZA tickets.
The only person in “Hella Open” who doesn’t seem to be interested in looking good on paper is Issa, who’s jumping feet first into her “hoe phase.” Or, more accurately, stumbling feet first. Her reentry into the world of casual hookups is more awkward than sexy. But Issa’s hookup misadventures showcase just how funny Insecure can be, whether it’s Issa giggling over her date’s “weird fingers,” mumbling about the inconvenience of tapered jeans, or resignedly ordering wings at the bar when her flirting doesn’t pan out.
Issa’s first successful hookup, with her Gossip Girl-loving neighbor, Eddie (Leon Thomas), begins with a kiss that turns into a head-butt, and things don’t get much better from there. But she isn’t aiming for perfection. Issa may not exactly be “getting on her Halle Berry shit,” but she’s at least being straight about her intentions, unlike the other protagonists. She’s eschewing getting to know men and “feeling feelings.” In the middle of the episode, Issa addresses a burn mark on her ceiling, a byproduct of her house party in “Hella Great” that quite literally went up in flames. Her declaration to the blemish signifies a new Issa, one who’s ready to move on and go back out into the world: “You can’t have my joy.”
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