HBO’s ‘Insecure’ is back and better

The third season of Issa Rae’s HBO series “Insecure” premiered on Aug. 12. Rae visited USC last spring to speak to students about her black identity and the entertainment industry. (Emily Smith | Daily Trojan)

Season three of HBO’s “Insecure” picks up where season two left off: after splitting with ex-boyfriend Lawrence (Jay Ellis), Issa Dee (Issa Rae, star and creator) has no permanent place to stay and chooses to live in tension with her other ex, Daniel (Y’lan Noel). She is still stuck in a financial hole and resorts to becoming a part-time Lyft driver after being demoted from her full-time job.

In short, Issa is struggling more than ever to find stability in her life in season three. The show is frustrating to watch whenever her character makes unavoidable bad decisions, almost never learning from her past. And it is also painful to watch Issa and her friends continuously fall into incredibly unpleasant, yet relatable situations. But this stark comic realism is precisely why “Insecure” is one of the most well-written shows on television today.

Rae, who is currently nominated for an Emmy for her performance of Dee, told NPR that “Insecure” is a show about “regular black people being basic.” The show prides itself for its normality and is skillful in its portrayal of life’s painfully awkward situations.

Last season, Issa’s presence as the only black voice at “We Got Y’all,” a racially tone deaf organization that prides itself on helping minorities, was a punchline. “We Got Y’all” is problematic, and this season really delves into why that is. This season, her presence is a political statement. One of the most poignant examples of this during the new season happens in the first episode when Issa explains to her boss Joanne (Catherine Curtin) that the schools their organization, dubbed “We Got Y’all,” works with want out on their partnership due to their lack of diversity. In response, her boss dismisses Dee while her caucasian co-worker Frieda (Lisa Joyce) uncomfortably watches. Issa is humiliated, and her co-workers’ silence is deafening. The show does this best: it takes the situations that Issa finds herself in and magnifies them, evoking inevitable emotional responses from the audience.

A shining light comes at the end of the season’s second episode, where after applying for a new job, Issa gets a call back to schedule an interview, giving the audience a sense of relief after a hopeless first two episodes. It also gives Issa a chance to break free of “We Got Y’all.”

As Issa’s life stagnates, her best friend Molly’s life is a stark contrast. Molly has left her nearly all-white-male law firm to work at a new black law firm, only to find herself still at the bottom of the company’s ladder. She doesn’t know how to exist in spaces where her “otherness” and “blackness” don’t make her the odd one out. Thus, she finds herself constantly disappointed with herself and in her life — both professionally and romantically — and decides to take charge of what doesn’t please her. She cuts ties with her on-and-off lover, and finds comfort in her friendship with Issa. Their differing situations ignite conversations surrounding race, class and money, an integral plot point of the newest season.

Issa’s ex- boyfriend Lawrence is left out of this season — and for good reason. Without him, the show now explores Issa’s relationship dynamics with other characters as well as herself. Episode 2 finally begins to unpack her relationship with Daniel, with whom she cheated on Lawrence. Their characters are similar: They are both struggling in their careers and trying to find their place in the world. On a club outing, Issa spends her time supporting Daniel and pushing him toward advancing his career and his life goals, yet she rarely does the same for herself. This is both one of her biggest character flaws and also and most relatable. In the upcoming episodes, it would be refreshing to see Issa put Daniel down and distance herself from him until she can find stability in her own life, especially as his life is seemingly just as off-balanced as hers.