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TV CRITIC'S CORNER

A strong start to final season of ‘Insecure’

Issa Rae as Issa and Yvonne Orji as Molly in "Insecure," on HBO Max.Raymond Liu/HBO

This piece includes spoilers for the season premiere.

The final season premiere of “Insecure” was a treat. It was beautifully structured, so that we don’t find out about the status of Issa and Lawrence until the very end of the episode, after Issa, Molly, Kelli, Tiffany, and Derek have attended their 10th college reunion at Stanford. In a way, that delay of information was the answer to the question; Issa is coming into her own, in her awkward way, and being with Lawrence while he’s fathering another woman’s child is not her bag. She needs to focus on “finding her path,” to borrow from the title of the panel Issa participates in (without much glee), and not her love life.

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The delay also gave the outstanding issue of Issa’s friendship with Molly its proper due. The two have plenty to work on, after the falling out that dominated last season, so it’s fortuitous, if a little uncomfortable, that they’ve been thrown together for the reunion. At one point, amid the strangeness, Molly asks Kelli for advice about Issa, and she tells Molly not to force the old intimacy, to just show up for Issa and let the rest come naturally. “Insecure” is a romantic comedy to a great extent, but it’s also valuable as a story of friendships and learning how to maintain them while growing and changing.

The opportunity for Issa and Molly to bond comes in a dramatic twist that made me gasp a little. The gang has joyously reconnected with Cheyenne, a college friend who is filled with wild energy. When they all stop to buy liquor, Issa, Molly, and Cheyenne get held up at gunpoint by a guy outside the store. Terrified, they throw down their cash and valuables, with Cheyenne going over the top with tears and fright. Then the robber calls her “Chey” as he tells her to calm down, and the friends realize that Cheyenne is in on the theft. Cheyenne and the guy take off — she takes Molly’s shoes, and rejects Issa’s — and the pair get back into the car with a renewed sense of warmth. They tell the story and laugh, back on track.

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Kelli — played with great spirit by Natasha Rothwell — gets a more poignant storyline than usual. Turns out Stanford thinks she has died, and the memorial video for those who’ve passed includes some lame comments about her, including “She always carried a purse.” This sense of her life, of what she has and hasn’t accomplished, hits her hard, and she’s not her usual game self. Like all the main characters in this episode, reflecting on the beginnings of their adulthoods, she is assessing everything, finding her path forward by looking back.


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