On ‘Insecure,’ a character grows and a friendship fractures

Issa Rae (left) and Yvonne Orji in "Insecure."
Issa Rae (left) and Yvonne Orji in "Insecure."Merie Weismiller Wallace - SMPSP/Associated Press

I finally caught up with the fourth season of “Insecure,” just as it is about to end (on Sunday at 10:20 p.m.). It’s among the HBO series’ best, thanks to a very clear arc structured around Issa’s block party — from the anxious buildup and the crisis with Molly during the event to the fraught and yet joyous aftermath. Issa is striking out on her own, and the block party has been a symbol of her self-realization.

She succeeded beautifully, ultimately, and the party — her effort to highlight the work of local people of color — was a hit. But her triumph has been cut with sadness as her friendship with Molly has simultaneously fallen apart — a rift that the writers (as well as actors Issa Rae and Yvonne Orji) have portrayed with sensitivity and a full awareness of each character. Each step forward for Issa, professionally and, now, with Lawrence, has been met with a step backward in her intimacy with Molly.


Change and growth is great and all, and Issa has gradually earned her evolution; but it’s often followed by the need for social adaptation, as friends learn to accept — or, alas, begin to resent — that their friend has changed, even if it’s for the better. Sometimes, those who love you want you to stay the same, to protect the bond, afraid you might leave them behind. And the friend who is undergoing changes sometimes feels as if the old friendships are holding them back. It’s a common phenomenon that “Insecure” has captured well.

Issa’s friendship with Molly has always been one of the show’s strengths. They’ve both struggled with romantic chaos and their roles in it, but throughout they’ve been able to lean on each other. Do they need to drift apart in order to grow up? Oh I hope not.


Matthew Gilbert can be reached at matthew.gilbert@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewGilbert.