Sunday, September 30, 2018

REVIEW: 'Insecure' - Issa Finds Herself Recommitting to Her Own Goals on Her 30th Birthday in 'Ghost-Like'

HBO's Insecure - Episode 3.08 "Ghost-Like"

After facing numerous obstacles, Issa gets discouraged about her project. Molly helps give Issa a drama-free 30th birthday.

Insecure started on Issa's 29th birthday. It closes its third season with Issa celebrating her 30th birthday. This was such a busy and chaotic year for her. She started it trying to figure out if she was actually happy with the choices she had. She only realized too late that she messed up a good thing. And now, she only wants a low key, no drama birthday. She places all of the planning onto Molly. It's up to her best friend to make this day memorable. It is exactly that. It's a good friend trying to do what's best to honor Issa's wishes. But it's still dramatic because Issa is still just figuring out what she wants in her life. She was committed to this block party idea. She saw it as something that her community really needed. She didn't want to drive across town to be surrounded by people of color celebrating people of color. She wanted to be that inspiration in her own neighborhood. It's just so scary and daunting to try to put on an event like this. She has gotten nothing but support from the people in her life. Nathan encouraged her to pursue this idea and quit her job. Lawrence introduced her to an entrepreneur workshop. Molly supported her completely. And yet, Issa was still the person responsible for all of the hard work. She was the one asking businesses for donations for a worthy cause. She was the person faced with all of the rejection. All of those no's really made her question if this was something that could actually be achieved. She is pretty much defeated at the start of the finale. She would much rather just put her resumé out there and get an interview with the non-profit that inspired her in the first place. That could still be an absolutely amazing job for her. It would combine her love of non-profit work with music. But it's still not as passionate as the idea she had for her own project. That's meaningful. Right now, it seems as if she is giving up on her dreams. She would settle for another job that isn't too different than the last one. She'll work it for several years before once again yearning if there is actually something better out there for her.

And so, Issa is once again faced with questions about her life. She is surrounded by nothing but love and appreciation. Molly and Kelli are there for her to help her celebrate her big day. They take her to a screening of The Last Dragon in a cemetery. It's an event pretty similar to the idea that Issa had with the block party. In fact, this event is such a success that it inspires Issa to take action. She loves the idea of people of color just being able to gather and appreciate art together. It's fun when Lawrence gets heckled because he is blocking the screen. In that moment, he just wants to see what the connection with Issa is like now. But to Issa, it's inspiration because she is seeing the passion of her community. It's because she reaches out to the organizer of this event that she finds her inspiration once more. Condola also happens to be one of Tiffany's friends whom Issa met at the baby shower. That allows a connection between them to blossom right away. Issa and Condola are essentially cut from the same cloth. They are both intrigued and passionate about hosting events like this to actually engage the community around them. They want to create opportunities for people like themselves to thrive. This movie night in the cemetery is a massive success for Condala. And now, she is willing to help Issa get her block party going again. It's only after this inspirational birthday that Issa feels confident moving forward. It's not because some boyfriend is pumping her up with platitudes. Instead, she is fully aware of how difficult it is going to be. And yet, she is moving forward with a sense of direction. She is prepared for the challenges and now has someone to bounce ideas off of. Her friends are supportive but they don't always understand the work she is doing. If she can make this block party a success, then it would be so satisfying for her. Condola represents a way forward with that.

That's what makes things so heightened and intriguing when it's revealed that Condola is going out on a date with Lawrence. Earlier in the episode, he is talking with his dad about wanting a relationship with no baggage. That's impossible. Everyone is going to be bringing something into a relationship. Everyone has a past. Lawrence was scared of Condola after learning that she is divorced. He didn't think he could handle that. And yet, him reaching out proves that he is willing to take that first step. This season has been really fascinating for Lawrence. There were serious moments where it seemed like he and Issa were going to get back together. There is no longer any animosity between them. Sure, Lawrence says that that relationship is done to anyone who asks. And yet, he seems intrigued by the idea after learning that Leah took Chad back despite the cheating he previously did. Lawrence's best friend hurt his fiancé in such an extreme way. He was there living through all of it alongside him too. Lawrence believed that he could never take Issa back like that even though he is welcoming to the idea of them being friends. But it's no longer out of the question now. They are getting along great. They have their old chemistry and banter back. They appreciate this movie. They can quote it back-and-forth with each other. It's appreciated when Lawrence makes an effort to reach out and wish Issa a happy birthday. He is there for her. And yet, it's still eye-opening listening to her talk about her block party. At that moment, she is still defeated. She believes it's not going to work out. It was simply too difficult. That moment may be a reminder to him that Issa doesn't have her life figured out. He doesn't either but he has more stability now. As such, it may just be better to look at this relationship as something that was real and loving but contained to a certain part of their lives. They were just out of college and didn't have a sense of independence. Only now are they starting to ask what they are truly searching for to be happy. All of this just happens to be going on without Issa being aware. And yet, she's bound to learn that Condola and Lawrence are possibly an item sooner than later.

Moreover, Molly finds herself trying to protect Issa as well. She wants to step up and ensure that there is no drama on this special day. She has seen just how destructive and chaotic Issa has been during the past month when Nathan just ghosted from her life. She firmly held the belief that there was nothing Nathan could do or say that would justify the way that he treated Issa. It was so disrespectful. On the one hand, it's easy to appreciate Molly looking out for her best friend. She is keeping this drama away from her when she really doesn't need it in her life. On the other hand though, this is still Issa's decision to make. She's the one who has to decide if Nathan is worthy of being forgiven. She has to handle the situation. She can't just trust her best friend's judgment. Molly has terrible instincts. When she runs into Jared again in the cemetery, she sees it as confirmation that he is actually gay. Instead, it comes back to hit her in the face when it's revealed the guy was his brother and they both have girlfriends. Plus, Molly has been so singularly focused at work. She wants to reclaim her place on the partner track. She doesn't want to stall out as an associate in this firm. She has grand career aspirations. She intends to be a big deal at this law firm. Her path to doing so just alienates everyone around her. When she is made co-lead of a big case, it's not something anyone else is willing to celebrate. It's a big deal to people who aren't in that environment with her. Issa and Kelli are happy for her. And yet, they can also plainly see that she is selfishly pursuing her own dreams and not taking responsibility for her own loneliness. That's what makes it so profound when Molly reaches out to Andrew and apologizes. It's very big of her. She is admitting her own faults. This relationship has the possibility of working but only if Molly is completely honest with herself. Right now, she's just admitting that her relationship with Dro messed her up in bigger ways than she ever thought. She is still just learning how to channel all of that in a healthy way. And yes, that means stepping up and dealing with her own problems instead of inserting herself into her friends' struggles.

The season doesn't end with Issa making a big decision about her relationship status either. Again, it seemed like the story was heading in that direction with a reunion with either Lawrence or Nathan. But instead, she has meaningful conversations with both of them while understanding that she needs time to reflect. She listens to what Nathan has to say. He explains that he became really depressed and needed to escape back to Houston for a little bit. He doesn't do a great job at explaining himself. He tries to figure it out but it's not coming across in words that Issa can understand and immediately accept. She doesn't have a solid comprehension on what happened. Nathan is back and ready to fight for her. And yet, there's no guarantee that he will stay. The possibility still exists that he could do this again. Issa was spiraling out of control obsessing over him when he disappeared. She had no answers. She barely gets them here. She listens to him and remains open to talking more in the future. But right now, she is committing to herself. This is really the first time that she is actually living on her own. She is shaping her own future. She's not just working for someone else's company. She's not just living with her current boyfriend or someone she has a crush on. She's not just working to pay her bills. She is trying to make her own life happen. That's very empowering. Right now, she has to become happy with her own life and decisions first. It may be depressing to enter a new decade and be single at the same time. It may even grow sad after awhile if she still doesn't have her life figured out. And yet, she's unpacking with a purpose. She is planting down roots here. She is determined to make the block party succeed. Sure, she may not listen to her neighbor's noise complaint about her. But that doesn't matter. She is blasting her music and making decisions about her life. She has the freedom to do exactly that even though it's scary to live in this headspace as well.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Ghost-Like" was written by Issa Rae & Natasha Rothwell and directed by Regina King.
  • Things could grow quite complicated if Issa and Molly commit to new relationships with Nathan and Andrew, respectively. The girls are such strong friends. They are as close as two people can be. Meanwhile, the guys are roommates. And so, their lives could be brought closer together. However, that also runs the risk of one of these relationships flaming out and it being awkward for the ones left behind to try to navigate that knowing how personal things got.
  • It's hilarious how Molly has to clarify to Kelli that Andrew is not really dead. He is just dead to her because of the way things went on their last date. Kelli takes things so seriously. And yet, she doesn't need to explain herself when she says if she wanted a kid she "would've kept the last one." That's such a casual line. And yet, it means so much. It proves that Kelli may not be the most responsible godparent. But Tiffany still trusted her with that title too.
  • It's also very noticeable that Tiffany is not at Issa's birthday celebration. She is in the early days of being a parent. Those can be quite tough. Plus, the kind of socializing she is willing to do has changed. The show has teased that this friend group would be affected by the new baby. That's clear through Tiffany's absence. But it should be very interesting to see how involved she remains in their lives now that she has this new priority.
  • This season really did breeze by so quickly. It continues to be the chief complaint each year. Eight episodes is not enough time spent with these characters in this world. The show absolutely has the material to cover at least ten episodes in a season. The choice to keep things at eight is very deliberate from the creative team. It allows them to tell a tight story. But there are many ways things could have been enhanced this season with the extra time - especially for characters like Tiffany, Lawrence and Nathan.
  • Of course, HBO has also already renewed Insecure for a fourth season. That doesn't come as a surprise. It has really grown as a consistent hit for the network. It makes for the perfect late summer show to watch. Moreover, it has finally gotten some much deserved Emmy buzz. Sure, Issa Rae is the only nomination so far. But there are many people who work on this show who also deserve the recognition. I don't know if they'll get it because the comedy races are difficult. But this was an incredibly strong season of television.