Sunday, August 26, 2018

REVIEW: 'Insecure' - Issa Questions the Future of Her Career and Her Relationship with Daniel in 'Backwards-Like'

HBO's Insecure - Episode 3.03 "Backwards-Like"

Issa is inspired while recruiting at a job fair with Frieda. Later, she treats Daniel to a thank-you dinner as she remains hopeful about their future. Molly starts her dream job at a black-owned law firm.

Issa has been working at We Got Y'all for five years. And yet, she doesn't feel inspired by the work that she does. She also doesn't feel like she has changed anyone's life in a positive way. Sure, she got to take a couple of inner city kids to the beach for the first time in their lives. But she had to fight in order to prove the importance of that experience. She was the only person at the office who understood because she could culturally relate. She had more opportunities than the students she is currently working with though. So, she still had to rely on Molly for the best way to handle things. But that was still a moment of inspiration that she was proud to make happen. And now, she's stuck behind a desk just doing paperwork. She doesn't believe that the organization has a direction for the future. She can't sell this organization to prospective job candidates with any kind of passion. Frieda is so happy to talk about this business and their plans for the future. She can highlight everything that is happening and how this business is best preparing for the change happening throughout the world. She sees a plan of attack that is bound to enrich the local communities. Of course, it's also difficult to talk about the work that Issa and Frieda actually do. This organization sends pairs into schools in the hopes of starting programs that will have an impact on the students' lives. They don't go into these environments with any specific instructions. They just report back to the team and they discuss the various ways that things can improve. It's a business model that could be successful if it inspires creativity and finding new and diverse ways to reach out. And yet, Joanne is stuck in the past and follows a more traditional mindset about how to help. She is still the woman in charge who wants to have her hand on everything that is being done. She can be an effective boss. But right now, Issa is yearning for more freedom and structure. She desires a program that also seems to be making a difference right now instead of through some arbitrary numbers that may mean something. She wants to do more than just believing she is making a difference in the world. She wants to feel it.

As such, Issa is looking at other booths at this job fair with envy. She is amazed at the work that one organization is doing by introducing new forms of music to the children of these communities. In fact, it's pretty wonderful to watch these kinds put on a performance. It doesn't compare to anything else happening at this event. This is mostly a lame job fair where the various non-profits are hoping to meet people who also have a passion for this line of work. It's just simple recruitment. The people behind the booths have their talking points and marching orders. Issa goes back out into the field not because she has proven her worth and is no longer being punished by Joanne. Instead, she is the public face for the organization because of the color of her skin. We Got Y'all is essentially using her heritage as a selling point. They want to be seen as welcoming to people of all backgrounds. Issa and Frieda understand the importance of getting more people of color into this workplace. It will allow for more diversity in the various discussions that happen in the conference room. That can only benefit this organization and hopefully help them find a new direction. And yet, Issa is yearning for that kind of structure now. People in her life are pointing out that she isn't happy with what she does. But she has to be very careful in actually reaching out and seeing if this new job would be substantially better for her. It's essentially just like how she was feeling at the start of the series with Lawrence. They had been together for a long time. She believed she was happy but started yearning for more. She was drawn to Daniel because he had a career that was thriving. It was only upon acting on these feelings that she realized just how good she had it with Lawrence. That stability existed for a reason. So now, she could simply be repeating past patterns. She views We Got Y'all as nothing more than a typical job. She says so with no passion whatsoever. Is this the kind of work she wants to continue doing? Right now, that's the question that she is asking herself.

It also comes at a time when Issa is really unsure about a lot of the decisions in her life. She wants to believe that there is a future between her and Daniel. They have been getting closer once more. Her friends are able to point out that every time this has happened previously it has ended badly. She gets sucked in to the appeal of the relationship not knowing that it will end badly just like it always has. She wants to believe that things are different now because they are actually talking. They are actually digging deep and getting a stronger understanding of what makes the other tick. Right now, they both feel this connection because they are both feeling insecure and frustrated with their jobs. Daniel is more than comfortable pointing out that Issa is furious with what she has to do for work in order to make enough money to keep on living. She plans on adding a third job to her rotation. She accepts an offer to be an apartment manager which will require her to be on-call all day long. That will be in addition to the work she is doing at We Got Y'all and as a Lyft driver. Moreover, the apartment Issa is getting with this job doesn't even come for free. It is still going to cost her several hundred dollars a month. It's cheaper than it would be renting without also being the property manager. But it's still an expense that she wasn't expecting with the job. She has no experience being a property manager either. She may not be cut out for this work. And yet, she is willing to accept it in order to see if there is an actual spark with Daniel that should be explored again. Right now, they may only be getting close and intimate again because they are living together. Issa needed a place to crash. And that eventually led to her sleeping in the same bed as him. As such, it's easy to see why she is suddenly consumed with thoughts about having sex with him.

Daniel has come to rely on Issa for support as well. He has been able to confide in her about the ongoing struggles in his business. He continues to be on the cusp of making it big in the music industry. And yet, he continually finds himself knocked down a couple of pegs by the artists that he is actually working with. He wants to believe that he should have reached the next stage of his career by now. He wants to prove to everyone that his artistry and instincts are top-notch. He believes in this radical new sound for this client who is coming in. And yet, he has to weigh the consequences of pushing that beat against the advice of a friend who arranged this meeting and simply knows the artist better. In the end, the artist loves both versions of the beat. He can't decide between them. That uncertainty only builds to more animosity between the friends. Daniel feels like he did the right thing in pushing his creation first. He believes in it and wants others to be open to the idea of a new sound as well. But in the end, his decision-making process is only questioned. Even Issa can see it from the other perspective. She sees the value in taking the advice of someone who actually knows the artist that the beat is for. That consideration has to be appreciated even when pitching something new. Daniel just wants someone to be on his side no matter what. He wants someone believing in his genius just as much as he does. Issa has fulfilled that role in the past. But now, it seems like she is moving on with her life and potentially away from Daniel. As such, he is trying to keep her close because this relationship has been so good lately. And yet, that only makes him a little mean and spiteful because he too calls into questions the decisions Issa has been making lately.

"Backwards-Like" opens with Issa and Daniel having sex in a fantasy and it closes with them actually having sex. The episode in between is all about making that journey with them as they give into these feelings once more. However, Issa interrupts Daniel during the act as well. She is able to walk away with the clarity that this isn't healthy for both of them. That is a sign of maturity. It shows she has a firm understanding of the situation. Their fight simply can't be solved through sex. That may be the easy way of doing things. But it would also be ignoring the root of their problems. It would be the two of them regressing to the way that their relationship worked in the past. That's not right. They have moved beyond that stage. They should have sex because they are both willing to be open and honest about what's going on in their lives. They can't just use it as a deflection in order to avoid talking or feeling their emotions. They both meant what they said. They are frustrated because they don't know what they want and the world isn't offering them any clarity or easy opportunities. They are 30-year-olds who are finding that they have to be comfortable taking risks and dealing with the consequences. They don't know what they are doing. They may not be any better with the new opportunities that come their way. They may still end up together. They may move in because it's easier to just accept that they belong in the same bed as a couple. That's the fantasy though. It's where they hope this journey ends. But they can't force it into happening either because that's when things go awry in their lives. They shouldn't take advantage of this time together. Issa is grateful to Daniel for allowing her to stay at his apartment. But now, they need the clarity in order to figure out if this is a relationship worth investing in moving forward.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Backwards-Like" was written by Ben Dougan and directed by Maurice Marable.
  • Molly starts her new job at an all-black firm. She struggles in her first few days because she is used to a certain way of conducting business around the office. She just sees things as so much easier the way that her old firm did it. It could highlight that she complains no matter where she goes. And yet, she is also given the freedom to blame the system instead of herself. She just sees it as another way the world is being defined by race.
  • Molly suspects that her new firm is putting these limitations on themselves because they want to be seen as successful black firm instead of one that is proudly like all of the other businesses in this neighborhood. Molly wants that uniformity. She knows how to work in that environment. This one is different though because she is learning that the experience is different everywhere she goes. As such, she needs to learn how to fit into this environment without being needlessly condescending.
  • Issa is about to be working three jobs while Molly is spending her money getting her dog pampered with items that he doesn't need. It's so ridiculous and unnecessary. But it also highlights the success that she has especially in comparison to what Issa's life has become. Issa is just completely willing to steal some of the dog treats not knowing that they are fancy food for the animals.
  • Tiffany makes her first appearance for the season. She is pregnant and already flaunting it. Of course, she is also upset with her trio of friends for having a group chat that excludes her. She also believes they all purposefully didn't respond to her request for a new getaway. Issa, Molly and Kelli confirming that they are excited about that trip also sets the stage for an episode later this season that takes them out of the city. That should be exciting.
  • If Issa looks for a new job, then that could force Frieda off of the show as well. Now, she is a more expendable character. She has only been defined through this workplace connection with Issa. And yet, she has been a strong and solid friend in that environment too. It could be fascinating to see Issa struggling to make it somewhere else. It would just mean the disappearance of Frieda.