by Ashley Ray-Harris, AV Club
I have been reviewing Insecure for four seasons now and there is one constant question commenters throw at me: Why do you hate Lawrence? From the moment we first met Lawrence as Issa’s absolute bum of a boyfriend, I’ve been accused of hating Lawrence, a character who is perfectly fine. If TV characters were rated by likability or who niceness, I’d have no issue with Lawrence. That’s the thing. I’ve never hated Lawrence as a character, I’ve hated him as a plot device! In the first season, Lawrence had a clear purpose. He was there to show us Issa was ready to make major changes in her life. Lawrence and Issa’s relationship was absolutely necessary to the show. Then they broke up and Insecure really didn’t know what to do with Lawrence.
Lawrence (again, perfectly fine guy) was forced into meandering plots about hookups and thots of the week. It set a confusing tone for the show. For example, Insecure has shared next to nothing about Kelli’s sex life outside of jokes. Meanwhile, they have given viewers an actual visual of Lawrence in a threesome that was supposed to serve as some sort of serious character development. It wasn’t. It felt more like a moment to rile up Twitter than anything indicative of Lawrence’s growth. So, when “Lowkey Thankful” opened on Lawrence’s face, I didn’t have high hopes at all. In fact, I hope you’ll now believe me when I say: I do not hate Lawrence because this was one of Insecure’s best episodes.
“Lowkey Thankful” gives us everything we’ve wanted from Insecure since season two. It justifies Lawrence’s existence on the show. It paints a wonderful, fully formed picture of Condola. It gives us Chad, Kelli, Tiffany, and Derek in beautiful, hilarious doses. It offers a perfect example of how TV shows can use social media and texting to deliver narrative and development in a way that feels realistic. It gives us growth and acknowledgement of what these characters have experienced over four seasons. It also gives us Molly and Issa’s break-up. It’s subtle. It’s probably not the obvious moment that will drive Issa to say she doesn’t fuck with Molly anymore, but “Lowkey Thankful” is the point of no return in their friendship.
The episode beautifully uses Ahmal to deliver the episode’s central message: “You ain’t gotta do something just cuz they say you’re supposed to.” That’s it. That’s the key to adulthood, Ahmal’s therapist explains. Growing up is about doing what you want and finding what serves you. It’s not about the relationships, careers or labels other people say will make you happy. It’s about the actual people and experiences that make you happy. Ahmal knows this. The rest of Insecure’s characters are learning this.
Let’s start with Lawrence. While his motivation hasn’t always been clear, it’s obvious he still feels insecure over his break-up with Issa. It’s not just that she cheated on him, it’s that he knows why she cheated. He was a total bum. They weren’t on the same timetable. Issa wanted more and Lawrence was just figuring that out. Now Lawrence feels like he has to play catch up so that doesn’t happen again. The thing is, there isn’t actually a timetable. Lawrence thinks getting a promotion, a wife and starting a family will mean he’s achieved some kind of status. Chad might use cars to keep up appearances, but Lawrence uses his career and relationship status.
It turns out that’s the lesson Condola is here to teach him. Insecure and “Lowkey Thankful” deserve credit for their handling of Condola. They easily could’ve made her the stereotype of a jealous new girlfriend, but they didn’t. In fact, Condola is everyone’s goals. She’s the woman who recommends perfect cafes and hosts amazing events in her gorgeous house. Her friends are getting married. They have perfect tech jobs and the glow of maturity Lawrence’s crew lacks. Condola has been divorced. She knows what she wants and what she doesn’t want. She understands that life is flexible and things like status or labels don’t define things. Condola is an adult. She’s who Issa wants to be. She’s who Lawrence wants to build his future with. Sadly, Lawrence is still on the wrong timetable.
While Condola can be mature about Lawrence’s past, he spirals after a wonderfully drunk Robin Thede reveals Condola’s history. Condola is absolutely in the right here. Maybe she is just playing it casual right now, but that doesn’t mean they can’t get more serious down the line. But, the script makes it obvious that Lawrence’s insecurity has nothing to do with Condola’s ex. It’s about his own feelings of emasculation. Condola’s friends know that his job isn’t steady. They insult his shirt. He tries to fix the sink, it breaks again. Lawrence has this idea of what kind of man he needs to be for Condola and it doesn’t fit with reality. Condola rightfully calls him out over Issa and he realizes the real issue.
It turns out he and Issa might actually be on the same schedule. He’s afraid of being humiliated again. His situation with Condola isn’t as stable as he thought it was. So, he freaks out. He slides into Issa’s DMs. Mya’s “Case of the Ex” plays and a million tweets launch. This time, however, the moment feels absolutely deserved, even if Issa’s immediate text response is infuriating. This is where Insecure has always done its best work. When the show justifies the mistakes its characters make through actual emotional development instead of Twitter talking points, it produces amazing moments like this. It’s brilliant writing.
Look, I gave the episode an A. We haven’t even talked about Issa and Molly or Molly’s perfect family or WENDY RAQUEL ROBINSON yet. “Lowkey Thankful” is amazing television. There’s a lot to go over.
So, Molly and Issa finally admit there’s a problem between them. Well, Issa admits it. The grocery store scene is a perfect microcosm of the issues that have always existed between them: Issa says something tactless but fair about Andrew, Molly gets mad and lashes out over Lawrence and Condola, Issa feels attacked and hits back with Dro. Finally, Issa stops playing this game and says they need to have a conversation. This is it: the very real moment when Issa and Molly have to decide if this relationship serves them.
Issa bringing up the need for a conversation hints at her wanting to give the relationship a chance. The actual point of no return that ends things is quieter. It’s Molly’s text. “Do you, girl.” Issa’s “running late” text was a vibe check; a temperature check, if you will. It put the ball in Molly’s court. Molly’s absolutely dismissive response is the final nail in the coffin. See, Molly still hasn’t learned to get over things. She still holds a grudge against her dad for confessing his adultery. She can only see bad intentions in Issa’s text because she has an issue with Issa. So, she’s rude to her dad. She dismisses Issa, even if she really did want to talk to her. It’s her brother who finally calls her out and makes her realize she needs to give people a chance. Her dad is just a guy who makes mistakes and if you love him, you have to accept that.
Sadly, this lesson comes too late for her to salvage her conversation with Issa. Following Ahmal’s advice, Issa decides she doesn’t have to force a conversation with Molly just because she feels like she owes it to their friendship. If Molly is just going to tell her to do her, then she’ll do her. She asks to reschedule, but it’s clear the conversation will never happen. This has just become another issue between them.
And honestly, that’s okay. Molly and Issa haven’t been great at communicating with each other for awhile now. It’s just that in the past, they’ve always needed each other for emotional support. Now, they’re in different places. Issa isn’t in a job she hates and isn’t floundering. Molly isn’t dating a married man and her career is on track. They’re both successfully navigating the difficulties in their lives without each other and “Lowkey Thankful” is the first indication of that. Insecure has finally convinced us that Molly and Issa don’t actually need each other anymore.
-Seriously, what a great episode. It singlehandedly excused Lawrence’s existence on the show and gives me faith that Insecure can exist without its central friendship. It was hilarious. It was sad. Kudos to Phil Augusta Jackson who wrote this episode.
-This is the first A+ I’ve ever given anything. I don’t even know if I’m actually allowed to give something an A+, but for everything Insecure has ever attempted to do, this is the best it has ever done at it. It also truly sets a standard for the modern sitcom and the use of technology and social media for character development.
-Lawrence and Issa still have chemistry, but they also still work as friends. I love that Jay Ellis and Issa Rae can play it either way. I can see them getting back together or realizing they’re just supposed to be friends.
-Loved Rae’s delivery in the cafe scene. I died when she just carried the full metal tray outside.
-Kelli and Trina are friends now! Honestly, the Lawrence/Condola plot was so good, I wasn’t filled with a secret desire to see what they were doing instead!
-Robin Thede is an icon and a hero. She is an absolute comedic gem. I would already watch a spin-off about Condola and her incredible friends.
-Issa’s mom is Wendy Raquel Robinson!!! I love that the show’s introduction of Issa’s mom is chaotic and short. We get a lot of information in very little time and it’s all amazing. She and her boyfriend Stanley, who slipped on some gravy, were an absolute delight. I hope we get more.
-Ok, I’m putting the blame on Molly. Sorry, but Issa was right about Andrew and Molly knew it was too soon! If she felt like it was the right time, she would’ve asked Andrew way before it was time to buy pie ingredients. Molly’s mom was right too, but Issa wasn’t wrong. Molly took it way too personally.
-Meanwhile, Molly is absolutely wrong about Issa and Condola. Molly isn’t confronting Andrew about what she wants while Issa IS confronting her feelings about Condola and Lawrence. She brings it up with Ahmal, no one has to drag it out of her. Issa is able to process and confront her feelings. Molly is still being passive aggressive until people force her to confront her issues. #TeamIssa
-I love Molly’s family. Every scene with them is hilarious.
-Condola has a “sink sink.” That’s adulthood. I knew Lawrence’s bum ass couldn’t fix that sink though.
-I love the joke that Chad knows nothing about Bradley Cooper after Limitless.
-So Tiffany is still pregnant, but almost a month has passed since the last episode. It was Halloween, now it’s Thanksgiving. We’re two months away from the Block Party. The timeline on this season feels condensed in a weird way. I think Molly and Andrew’s situation would have more gravity if we weren’t getting constant reminders that they’ve only been seeing each other for like two months.
-Absolute best use of a Mya song in a TV show? The second it hit I screamed.
“Lowkey Thankful” Director: Mark Sadlek
Season 4 Editor and Supervising Editor: Mark Sadlek