And then: He steps back into the apartment. He drops to his knee, in the doorway. He tells Issa he can’t imagine his life without her. He asks her to marry him. She giddily accepts. She looks at the camera, directly. And then the frames flash forward: to Issa in a wedding dress, cuddling with a suit-clad Lawrence on the blue couch they’d bought together. Issa with a swollen abdomen. The couple bringing the new baby into the same spot where Lawrence had proposed: that doorway, that place of there and not-there, that space of possibility both embraced and foreclosed. Issa looks at the camera again.
And then the scene’s action flashes back to the current moment, to that same threshold: to Lawrence, standing on the one side of the doorway, and Issa, standing on the other. The two, so very close, and so very not. “Bye, Issa,” Lawrence says again. And then he walks away. The future(s) will not come to pass, at least not now.
I believe the critical term for the emotional arc of this series of scenes is aaaaahhhhh. Insecure has, from the beginning, made artistic use of such gut-wrenching, fourth-wall-bending fakery: The show is extremely skilled at subverting audience expectations and exploring that blunt but fine line between what is and what might be. Lawrence, at the end of Insecure’s first-season finale, in that other apartment, in that other bed. Issa, in the show’s second-season premiere, having that heady conversation with her estranged ex—but only, it will turn out, in her mind. It’s a technique that takes that core element of the literary romantic—the pathos of the paths not taken—and makes it cinematic.
Insecure’s Season 2 finale is titled “Hella Perspective,” and it’s fitting: This is a piece of television devoted, explicitly, to the exploration of points of view. The episode, in an extremely literal interpretation of its title, on the one hand uses the frame that so many sitcoms have before: the multi-perspectival one. “30 Days With Lawrence,” it begins, via title card. And, later: “30 Days with Molly.” And “30 Days With Issa.” But that frame itself, it turns out, is another fakeout: “Hella Perspective” is not an episode told, strictly, from the differing points of view of those differing characters—an act of aesthetic empathy along the lines of You’re the Worst’s “Twenty-Two” or Master of None’s “New York, I Love You” or pretty much any episode of Orange Is the New Black—so much as it is one that adopts a more sweeping sense of possibility: the kind traditionally seen in science fiction. The stuff of Star Trek and Stargate and Doctor Who. The alternative-reality impulse that has occasionally been adopted by sitcoms and cinema, but that is extremely difficult to execute in a manner that isn’t also swathed hopelessly in Sliding Doors cliche: one fate versus another, pop philosophy in action.