Insecure review: An urban reality and a daydream escape

Issa Rae’s show grows more confident even as its heroine does not

Issa Rae in Insecure: ‘Her  wry expressions and disarming smile can make even the slightest joke work’

Issa Rae in Insecure: ‘Her wry expressions and disarming smile can make even the slightest joke work’

 

It takes a winning kind of confidence to play awkwardness so well. When Insecure (Sky Atlantic, Thursday, 10.35pm) began, based on Issa Rae’s web series Awkward Black Girl, we first found her alter-ego, a bright-eyed, school charity worker also called Issa, handling an eruptive inquisition from a middle-school class into her hair style, age, career and relationship.

It looked like an anxiety dream borne with stoic good humour. It also established a well-poised comic tone, defined by Melina Matsoukas, a music video maven, that gave the show an appealing house style. It slips between urban reality and daydream escapes with a deft pace, a great soundtrack, and a camera that loves Rae, whose wry expressions and disarming smile can make even the slightest joke work.

With its second series, Insecure has grown more confident, even if Issa has not. At the top of the first episode, we find her in another kind of waking nightmare, sitting through the indistinguishable patter of several Tinder dates mashed into one. She begins rapping an imagined retort, tapping the beat with her cutlery: “I’m so dead inside n****r, I cry everyday. You should get the check, and here’s the tip – run away.”

Created by Rae and Larry Wilmore, Insecure is a comedy of embarrassment, where the fragile divisions between private and public life are knocked down with a light touch. Issa shares the show, and her confidences, with Molly (Yvonne Orji), a lawyer who is professionally together and personally at sea. The writing delights in their gabbing, whether fun, supportive, thoughtless, barbed, or all of the above, peppered with a regular epithet. “Bitch, of course I want my man back,” says Issa, when an elaborate plan to ensnare her ex-boyfriend goes up in flames.

Like Atlanta, Blackish or Dear White People, the humour is widely accessible with some references to black culture aimed squarely at a clued-in audience. “She looks like she’s working at the Pyramid tonight,” goes one catty assessment of her ex’s new beau, which is music to the ears of Frank Ocean fans.

In a similarly knowing gesture, Insecure’s characters shout back at a Shonda Rhimes-style TV show about an interracial romance during slavery: “Oh bitch,” someone remonstrates when a maid’s book is confiscated, “let the bitch read.”

If Insecure ever prompts its own admonishments, it’s because the formula demands Issa’s continual humiliations, big and small, but it’s smart enough to let Issa succeed too. Her comic progression may be one step forward to two steps back, but the show’s footing is attractively assured.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.