Issa and Molly focus on boundaries in Insecure’s strongest premiere yet

HBO's hit show Insecure comes out swinging, literally, in the Season 3 opener 'Better-Like'

“Better-like” is an incredible episode of Insecure. While it takes place only a few weeks after the events of season two, it sets Issa and Molly on new paths that make me excited for the show’s future. Opening with slick overhead shots of Los Angeles set to Ravyn Lenae’s “Sticky,” Insecure feels more polished than previous seasons. The dialogue is sharper and the characters feel more defined. Insecure has come back with laser-like focus and a clear theme: boundaries. “Better-like” is all about the ways Molly and Issa use boundaries to get what they think they want. Even though Insecure’s voice has matured as a show, its two stars are still messy af.

Let’s address a huge boundary the show’s writers put up this season: no more Lawrence. It makes sense to remove him from the narrative. Issa’s story has moved beyond him and, well, in the end, the show is about the insecurities she faces. Lawrence isn’t a part of that equation right now and his relationships with other women aren’t something that seem to concern Issa right now. I barely noticed Lawrence was missing from “Better-like,” although that’s not to say Jay Ellis isn’t great. Issa Rae’s scripting has just found more interesting ways to dig deeper into Issa and Molly and doesn’t need to engage in the “#LawrenceHive” drama that made earlier seasons fun. The door is still open for Lawrence to return to the show someday, but for now, we have more than enough to work with when it comes to Issa, Molly, careers, dating, and struggling financially.

Issa, for example, is still sleeping on Daniel’s couch and driving Lyft to make ends meet. She’s been staying there long enough for Daniel’s sister to ask questions about it, but not long enough for her and Daniel to have a “sock on the door”-type arrangement. I was hoping the show wouldn’t immediately pair Daniel and Issa up after the conflicts they had last season, so it was great to see that they aren’t hooking up again. Issa and Daniel seem to rile up the worst in each other’s insecurities. They’re completely unable to communicate, but know they have some kind of connection. Issa wants to believe she’s fine with Daniel sleeping with other girls, but she’s clearly not. Even when she tells Daniel she might have feelings, it’s obvious she’s not sure about that either.

Maybe Issa is finally ready to meet new people and doesn’t want to rush into a relationship with Daniel. Maybe she’s grown and is really over him, but still loves how protective he is of her. Issa isn’t sure so she isn’t capable of creating clear boundaries with Daniel. To his credit, Daniel just wants to know where he stands with Issa so he can respect her boundaries. Does she have feelings or does she just like how close he lives to her job? Even though Daniel turned a lot of viewers into enemies last season, he’s clearly giving Issa time to figure it out because he cares about her.

Which is, sadly, not something I can say about Dro and Molly. First of all, HELL YES, MOLLY! Season three has her living her best life and finally getting the recognition she’s been searching for since season one. Her new job has accepted all of her terms, she’s fresh from a vacation tryst and she’s coming out the gate with clear dating boundaries to keep her life in line. She knows what she wants from her partners and she isn’t afraid to tell them (or, in the case of her poor Cleveland bae, simply shrug them off). We’ve seen Molly simply go with the flow in her previous relationships, but now she’s empowered to get what she wants out of them.

Maybe it’s because she has a new job to focus on, but it doesn’t feel like Molly is dating simply from a fear of being single. When Molly started seeing Dro, a lot of people thought she was settling simply because she didn’t want to be alone. Her request that they either act like friends who don’t have sex or acquaintances who only have sex makes it clear that’s not the case. Oh, we can also now confirm that Dro’s wife knows about Molly. They’re really ethically non-monogamous and Dro isn’t cheating. I’m glad the script cleared this up, because Dro and his wife actually being polyamorous is far more interesting than infidelity.

Unlike Daniel, Dro has no interest in respecting Molly’s boundaries. While I hope this isn’t the last we see of Dro, it would be understandable if Molly did end things with him. You don’t call someone after they specifically told you no more phone calls. You don’t let yourself into someone’s apartment when they specifically told you they’d meet you at a restaurant. You don’t get mad when someone asks for the keys to their apartment back. On top of that, Dro’s outburst when Molly brought up his wife is another red flag. Dro tells Molly she needs to figure out what she wants, but she already has and she made it clear to him. Dro is the one who’s unhappy with this arrangement. Sure, his wife knows about Molly, but is she aware of how much he cares about Molly? That remains unclear and it doesn’t seem like the New Molly wants to wait around to find out when Dro has no interest in respecting his “fuck buddy” status.

“Better-like” is a strong season opener that got viewers right back into Insecure’s momentum. The second Issa and Molly reconnected at the airport, it felt like seeing old friends again. Issa Rae and Yvonne Orji have found a beautiful rhythm between each other that makes scenes like them arguing over who broke a vase or just driving around in a party Lyft feel realistic and hilarious. With Issa flailing in her career and Molly’s taking off, it’ll be interesting to see if any of the issues they had with each other last season resurface.

Stray Observations

  • The premiere featured music from City Girls, Ravyn Lenae, and Valee. Insecure stays making amazing music choices.
  • The new show-within-the-show stars Living Single’s Erika Alexander, School Daze’s Darryl M. Bell, and Bill Bellamy. I cannot wait for all the black TV historical references in what seems to be a parody of Good Times, Martin and black sitcoms in general.
  • Haha, I’m a sucker, because Dro’s “but we love pancakes” would’ve worked on me 100%. Kudos to Molly for kicking him out of bed, she really is about these new resolutions.
  • Issa’s job was bad before, but it seems unbearable now. Frieda is keeping a close eye on Issa’s work and Issa has been taken off the field. Even though Issa still has initiative, her boss just sees her as a problem. It’s becoming clear that the problem isn’t Issa, it’s the program. Maybe Issa really is passionate about helping kids, but this isn’t the best place for her to do it?
  • I’m sure we’ll see Hot Lyft Guy again, that’s why I’m not even worried about Daniel and Issa. We’ve got better options already.
  • Dro’s reaction to the key situation was so intense. I don’t think that was the end of that.
  • I think that was Dawn from Danity Kane in the booth with Daniel killing it in those Fashion Nova latex pants? That was hilarious.
  • I’m glad we got to see Daniel’s sister. It rounds him out as a character. Also, there is nothing more realistic than your mother taking forever to braid your hair then just going “oh, I messed this all the way up” and sending you to school. I felt for that little girl.

This article originally appeared on the AV Club.

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