“I don’t want to be here, but my ex won’t take me back,” Issa raps in an aside during several more anonymous dates with several more anonymous Tindermen—a composite set at different restaurants that are dimly lit and romantic in feel and, effectively, the same place. “So my broken ass is here, small-talking over apps.”
Insecure, overall, is a show that is deeply interested in the here—in the way locations, and circumstances in general, shape people’s lives. The tension that results, one place chafing against another, is where the show’s title itself comes from, Rae once explained—“we wanted to kind of paint that this character is in between two worlds and is just in a constant state of discomfort”—and it’s one that manifests not only in Insecure’s storylines, but also in its production values. That’s one of the elements that make Insecure such a stand-out series, one of the best TV shows in an environment crowded with great ones: the attention it pays to geography, and architecture, and interior design, and the physical spaces its characters inhabit. Many of the show’s scenes begin with quick-cut montages that serve not only to locate their action within particular settings, but also to emphasize the constraints of location itself: Whatever action is about to occur will to some extent be shaped by the spot where the scene is set.
In its Season 2 premiere, Insecure extends that idea: Singleness here, too, becomes a space that characters live in. “Single” is, Insecure is suggesting, not merely a status, in that reductive, drop-down-menu way that Facebook—another omnipresent space in the show—conceives it. “Single” is instead a space to be navigated and negotiated. It carries certain expectations. It makes certain demands.
That’s already been the case for Molly (Yvonne Orji), Issa’s best friend, who began Season 1 reeling from the engagement of a coworker—and who spent much of the rest of the season’s episodes worrying, in various ways, that coupledom might not happen for her. But now, after her breakup with Lawrence, Issa has joined Molly in that space—and her singleness has become for the moment, it seems, the salient fact of Issa’s life. It takes over her conversations with Molly. It leads her to throw a party, and to ask each guest to bring a plus-one. It crosses over into her efforts to bring We Got Y’All, the educational nonprofit she works for, to a new school that seems to have no interest in its services. (“Sometimes you just have to know when to give up,” Frieda (Lisa Joyce), Issa’s co-worker, says; she’s talking about the school, but the show allows the observation to adopt a kind of doubleness—as a commentary about Issa’s relationship.)
And: Issa’s newly single status becomes a matter of physical space, as well. Issa, still, sleeps on a single pillow, on her half of the bed she used to share with Lawrence. She sits on the couch she and Lawrence bought together—the piece of furniture that once symbolized the renewal of their relationship. She keeps dating apps constantly fired up on her phone, ensuring that men flexing and ab-revealing and smiling in bathroom mirrors runs like a visual refrain as she watches TV, gets ready for bed, and lives her life—even though she rejects almost all of them. And when Issa does swipe right, she returns, again and again, to that dimly lit, composite restaurant: Different outfits, different men, but otherwise—place-wise—the same. She’s meeting new guys, but she’s not getting to know them; she is going on dates, but she is not really dating. She’s there, but she’s not really there.