Warning: This post contains spoilers from the Season 2 premiere of “Insecure.”
If the second season premiere of HBO’s “Insecure” proved anything, it’s that the show is more secure in what it is.
The comedy series starring Issa Rae returned Sunday night, bringing viewers right back into the ever-tilting world of Issa Dee (Rae) and her friends.
The sophomore season picked up three months after the events of the finale, when longtime boyfriend Lawrence (Jay Ellis) finally moved out of the apartment they once shared, signaling their breakup wasn’t just temporary.
“We picked that [amount of] time because it felt like it was the right amount of time in a breakup or in your life where you’re like, ‘Okay, I should start to be over these things,'” showrunner Prentice Penny told CNN in an interview. “You know? You can’t keep complaining to your friends three months in.”
When viewers first see Issa, she’s dating but finding it hard to move forward. Lawrence is still seeing Tasha (Dominique Perry), but it’s initially unclear whether he’s in rebound mode or truly giving it a go. (By the end of the episode, Lawrence and Issa have spur-of-the-moment wordless couch sex, taking their relationship from complicated to downright perplexing.) And Molly (Yvonne Orji) is working on her emotional growth in therapy but finding it hard to open up.
Penny said the characters’ journeys this season are inspired by the concept of duality — the person we are in public versus the person we are in private.
“We figured out that it’s not just Issa’s journey that’s like that — Molly has a journey like that and Lawrence has a journey like that,” he said. “So, for us, it was, like, what do you do when these things are unresolved and you’re kind of masking things? That’s what we dive in with Lawrence and the different masks he’s wearing with Tasha, and Issa and her life. Again, people not dealing with the core of the pain. Even Molly with the therapy.”
The “Insecure” writers room returned to work the day after the first season’s explosive finale back in November.
Penny said this transition was helpful because it made the stories feel seamless and at that point have a clear view of what made the first season resonate.
“I think we’re not a show that’s like, ‘How do you make us bigger?’ I think the way we become bigger is by getting smaller and getting more specific and getting into the nuance and tinier details of [the characters’] lives,” he said.
Indeed that is what earned “Insecure” critical praise in its first season.
Rae’s character was a modern 30-something unlike any seen on television to date — she had flaws, good friends and freestyling abilities that invited viewers into the most private corners of her mind.
Early in its run, it was notable for being the only current show on television created by and starring a woman of color. But as Prentice explained, they never let the pressure of that drive the show because it’s impossible to be the voice of an entire population, nor do they aim to be.
“For us, we’re trying to show basic life on a Tuesday and not try to be all things to all black people because there’s no way we can be,” he said. “We’re just trying to say, ‘Hey, this is a person and this is what this specific person is going through. If you can relate to those things, that’s great.’ I think the things that Issa and Molly and Lawrence all go through are human.”
In fact, Rae told CNN’s Brooke Baldwin recently she has a very specific audience in mind when writing.
“I have so many amazing female friends, and they’re the ones who I think about when … I’m making comedy,” she said. “‘Cause we’re the ones — like, outside of my family obviously — my friends have crafted my sense of humor.”
‘Insecure” was shut out of this year’s Emmy nominations — much to the surprise of many critics. But many other shows representing diverse voices made the cut — like “Master of None,” “black-ish” and “Atlanta.”
Penny said he’s encouraged seeing those shows break through. But rejects the idea that “Insecure” or any of the aforementioned are part of a Renaissance of black television.
“I said I would hope that it’s not a renaissance only because that implies it can also go away,” said Penny, who once wrote for “Girlfriends” and remembers seeing a flood of television shows about black families and lives come and go. “Nobody says when a white show comes on the air, like ‘Stranger Things,’ ‘Oh, it’s a Renaissance of white shows.” It would be great for us to not be under an umbrella of a Renaissance. We can just be a cool show that exists.”
“Insecure” airs Sundays on HBO.