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Issa, Molly And The Toxic Ghosts Of ‘Insecure’ Season 3

Season 3, Episode 8: Issa literally and figuratively unpacked three seasons' worth of bulls**t in one episode. It was a lot.
Issa (Issa Rae) celebrates her 30th birthday in the finale of "Insecure" Season 3.
Issa (Issa Rae) celebrates her 30th birthday in the finale of "Insecure" Season 3.

The “Insecure” finale was haunting. Not in the Friday the 13th way. But in the way you’re forced to look at yourself in the mirror and purge the things that are no longer serving you ― even those things closest to your heart.

 It’s Issa’s 30th birthday. After deciding to put her block party planning on hold, she’s vowed to have a drama-free celebration. Molly (Yvonne Orji) brings Issa (Issa Rae) to meet Kelli (Natasha Rothwell) at an outdoor screening of “The Last Dragon.” All of black L.A. is there, including the ghosts of dating past. Lawrence (Jay Ellis) spots Issa, and they have a cute moment before he gifts her a box of Raisinets, a nod to the fact that he forgot her birthday in Season 1. Meanwhile, Molly spots Jared (Langston Kerman), the man she stopped dating because a guy gave him head in college — and she assumes he’s gay because he’s with another man. (Spoiler: He’s not. Molly is just homophobic.)

All in all, Issa is having a good night. Until Molly casually tells her that Nathan popped up at her house earlier that day and she told him to leave. That was the last straw for Issa. She tells Molly that she’s fed up with her continued negativity. Once they fall out, she continues her block party planning and meets up with Nathan (Kendrick Sampson) to see why he’s been M.I.A. for the past month. He reveals that he’s been dealing with mental health issues that prompted him to shut down. Issa tells him that she needs some time before she can consider letting him in again.

For the first time in this series, Issa has chosen herself in a healthy and responsible way. She finally unpacks her apartment, literally and metaphorically. She’s in her own home, sitting on her own couch, absolved of that internalized failure she’s felt all season. That’s growth.

On this “Run That Back,” Julia Craven and Taryn Finley discuss how proud we are of Issa’s growth, just how gross Molly’s toxic behavior has become and how everyday black women are unfairly positioned as therapists for men’s mental health issues.  

Julia: I almost punted my television last night, and I refused to give the season finale a second watch.

Taryn: Girl, I was stressed the entire time. But, unlike the last two finales, I was really proud of Sis.

And by Sis, I don’t mean Molly.

Julia: I wasn’t as mad at Molly, but I was mad at Molly. Idk. I don’t fucking know. I’ll let you lead because EYE DON’T KNOW.

Taryn: Deep sigh. I guess we should work our way through this episode and start with Issa. I felt for Sis because I know she wanted to throw her block party for her birthday, but I really need for her to not give up so easily on herself. Getting rejection after rejection doesn’t feel great, but she gotta start giving herself time.

Julia: Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. I hate that she gave up. I think part of this is her tendency to internalize failure and the lack of a realistic timeline. Great things take time. “Lemonade” wasn’t recorded in a day.

Taryn: Hello. And Molly didn’t make shit better. Since Issa told her about the block party a few episodes back, it didn’t feel like she was being as supportive as Issa needed her to be, but this shit episode she really showed her ass. I think Molly’s negativity has stifled Issa A LOT. She’s truly been a bad friend lately. And Issa fed into that shit because, like you said, she internalizes her failures.

Julia: Molly has been wild negative this entire season. It’s really baffling how one person can have such a draining personality. She’s been incredibly toxic, and it’s overflowing onto the people around her. That isn’t fair, and I wonder how her and Issa’s friendship will progress or dissolve from here.

Taryn: So toxic. I knew they’d fall out this season, but I didn’t know it would be this bad. Like, this is bad. Molly projects so much shit onto others without turning the mirror toward herself. And that’s evident throughout this episode. She’s trying, in a way, to control Issa’s destiny. I know that may sound like a reach, but the ways she advises her, the things she feels like Issa isn’t being served by, all of her attitudes toward her best friend have been anything but healthy.

Julia: I think you’re right. It’s weird to watch her try to be puppet master over her friends and her co-workers while failing to wield that level of control over her own life.

Taryn: It’s weird, but I’m also laughing at her clown ass. This is the beginning of a tumble down a steep hill, face first. She deserves.

I wanna root for her, but I need to see her get humbled first. ’Cause at this point, I just view her as a bad person.

Julia: Molly is 100 percent a bad person with decent intentions, which is so fucking weird lol.

Molly (Yvonne Orji), left, surprises Issa by bringing her to an outdoor screening of "The Last Dragon."
Molly (Yvonne Orji), left, surprises Issa by bringing her to an outdoor screening of "The Last Dragon."

Taryn: Right. At the end of the day, though, intentions don’t get your karmic bills paid.

Sis better tighten up.

Julia: As far as her stopping Nathan, I was like … idk if this is good or bad. I slept on it and it was both. Molly’s heart was in the right place, but she can’t play God and make those decisions for Issa.

It’s not her job to intervene. If Issa wants Nathan back in her life, then that’s her (stupid ass) decision. If she wants to tell him off, she should be able to. Molly almost blocked Issa’s closure, and that’s foul.

Taryn: I’m in that place, too, with the Nathan situation. Especially since it was Issa’s birthday. Molly was looking out because she didn’t want Issa to have to deal with drama. If I was in Molly’s shoes, I may have done the same. You been gone for how long, my nigga? And you wanna just pop up and expect my girl to give you time on her big day? Boy, you must be trippin. Had her looking dumb in these streets just last episode. I think I would’ve told Issa right after shooing him away, though. I see cons in both scenarios. If Molly wasn’t doing the most in other areas, I think Issa wouldn’t have been as mad at her.

Julia: Right as we saw when Issa’s reaction to Molly turning Nathan away bubbled up into how negative she’s been in general. And I def would have done the same thing and immediately told my friend. I’m glad Issa did tell Nathan to get the fuck but we can dissect that scene later.

Taryn: Molly just can’t sit up straight. Who knew she would become Taurean squared at work?

(Is “Molly just can’t sit up straight” some country shit to say? Cause it feels like it lol)

Julia: Country as hell. 


Molly is called into a meeting with the partners and Taurean (Leonard Robinson) at work. They inform her that she will be taking the lead on a big case with Taurean. An excited Molly thanks the partners. Later she finds out that Taurean is moving off the case because he didn’t appreciate the way she handled their last joint project in the previous episode.

The finale episode of this season confirmed something we knew all along: Molly is trash.
The finale episode of this season confirmed something we knew all along: Molly is trash.

Julia: I have complicated feels about Taurean and Molly at work. I actually think the way she’s being isolated by her peers is a bit extreme. I still feel like she should have communicated with Taurean and put her foot down to his face in last week’s episode. I also think he’s being a little bitch about it now that Molly is acting like he has been acting. I understand why the women in the office are done with her because she legitimately fucked them over. But Taurean isn’t used to a woman putting her dick on the table and it being bigger, which is telling.

Taurean is really whining and pouting because he didn’t get to fact-check and oversee Molly’s work. BOIIIIIIIIII if you don’t GET! But, again, for the ladies: I get it. I’d be done with her, too. And Issa was right about Molly being negative at work.

Then at the same time, this is corporate law. Are they not used to people being this “aggressive,” as Taurean put it? It’s complicated and, ultimately, I want Molly to figure out how to balance her ambition with being a team player.

Taryn: So a few things. Let’s start with Taurean’s bitch ass calling Molly aggressive. He’s mad because, like Molly, he’s used to being at the top, yet he got sonned by a woman who he underestimated, so now he has egg on his face. He’s well within his right to be upset about it, but by calling her aggressive, he earned a hearty “fuck you” from me. Being a black woman in a corporate workplace is tough enough without men doing their damnedest to peg us as aggressive or any other word synonymous with “angry black woman.” I’ve been called aggressive by white people at work, but there’s this extra sting that comes when a black man calls me that (which has happened recently at work). Molly is literally playing Taurean’s game, yet it’s a double standard when women play hardball. Men get away with it and are often praised for asserting themselves and getting the job done. But when Molly does it, she’s aggressive? Oh.

That doesn’t get Molly off the hook for me, though, because I knew this shit would happen. Molly has been prancing around this office preoccupied with playing the game so much that she lost her integrity and she began playing unfair, starting with when she reneged on her commitment to help on the case with the ladies. She was so busy trying to win that she forgot that she was shitting on folks who didn’t deserve it. So, yeah, she finally made it to the top, but now she’s by herself cause Taurean don’t wanna work with her and neither do the only potential friends she could’ve had at the office. It’s lonely at the top when you try to play a game that systemically was not built for you. You gotta shake shit up and kill that patriarchal shit if you want to make it to the top and keep your values intact. Then you can enjoy the top with others who look like you. That takes work. Molly cut corners. I don’t feel bad for her. Nobody wins when the family feuds.

Julia: 

Molly too focused on being one of the boys instead of being the womanist superhero who slaughters the patriarchy. And Sis, I wish I had a dollar for every time I was called “aggressive” or “determined” or “a go-getter.” What else am I supposed to be? Because I don’t get to be mediocre like the white girls and boys (and some of the black boys, too, but that’s a topic for another day, okurrrrr).

Taryn: Sis, I could write a whole book about it. Actually, Harper-Collins, holla at me.

Julia: There’s much to be said about slightly-above-average black men who get painted as “geniuses” simply because they are men. But, again, different day.

Stares directly at Donald Glover and sheds a tear for Janelle Monae.

Taryn: Whew. We coming with a few words today, huh, bishop?

Julia: 🐸☕️

Taryn: Even though I do think that Donald Glover is a genius, but that may be because I’m a stan. 🌚

Julia: Weeps for Beyoncé, Nina Simone & Janet Jackson.

Taryn: OK, stan is too much. A proud fan. But women NEVER get called geniuses as quickly as men — especially not black women.

Julia: Weeps for Rihanna.

Taryn: And all of the folks you mentioned surpass Kanye, Donald, Kendrick and a slew of other men when we talk about level of genius. Hell, I think Issa Rae is more of a genius than a lot of y’all niggas y’all claim to be geniuses.

Julia: WELP.

Issa, Molly and Kelli (Natasha Rothwell) each run into their old work at the same event.
Issa, Molly and Kelli (Natasha Rothwell) each run into their old work at the same event.

While attending a film on the lawn event for Issa’s birthday, she, Molly and Kelli keep running into men from their past. Issa and Lawrence bump into each other. Kelli runs into her ex, Quantrell, before Molly bumps into Jared. Molly assumes that Jared, who confided in her that he had received oral from a man once, is gay since he is attending the event with another guy. (Turns out, the guy is his brother and the two were on a double date with two women — not that that matters, aside from throwing egg on Molly’s homophobic face.)

Taryn: I really wanted Sis to have a good 30th. All these ghosts of niggas past just kept popping up.

Julia: Every. Last. One. It was a nice extension of the ghosting theme until Molly pissed me off again.

Taryn: It was till I realized they were actually in a graveyard. But I came to four conclusions. 1) Issa and Lawrence are definitely fucking next season. 2) Molly is a homophobe (previously thought it was just internalized homophobia, but let’s call a spade a spade here). 3) Kelli needs a spinoff. 4) We need to have a “The Last Dragon” showing at one of these li’l screening-in-the-park joints.

Julia: Yes to all of that. I was like …. did she really just assume this man was dating a man because he was with a man and got head from a man years ago? And if he was dating a man …….. So? She’s def a homophobe because why does it matter? He ain’t with you because you were weird about him getting head from a guy, which is nothing to be weird about. Head is head. Period.

Taryn: You not only projecting that one experience onto his entire existence but, even with you operating under that assumption, why were you running away? Were you that uncomfortable with someone you once dated maybe being in a relationship with a man? Girl, secure your own love life before you go throwing your homophobia at someone else. Trash.

Julia: BIG TRASH. I think that’s a failing of the show, tbh. The lack of nuanced queer characters is allowing for this fucked-up view of sexuality and how fluid it is to run unchecked.  Even Issa didn’t check Molly, and I’m like COME ON!

Jared got one blow job from a dude in college and now he’s gay. That ain’t it, chief. Nor is that how sexuality works lol. Molly got it all fucked up.

Taryn: It really is! Like, that’s something we really need to unpack. I hope this is something that they talk more in the next season because leaving it up in the air like that without Molly getting a wake-up call that she’s homophobic is a missed opportunity for a teaching moment. And I get that this show isn’t supposed to be everything for all black millennials and is more so meant to present things that make us start conversations, but they’ve done a good job at fleshing out a lot of issues that we face that have kind of lent themselves as lessons. Sexual and gender fluidity could be that, too.

Julia: Mhm. It sure could because passive homophobia is homophobia. Anyway, I need to know every-single-thing about Quantrell and Kelli’s romance. And this isn’t gonna sound good, but Kelli’s abortion joke took me right to the fucking ground.

Taryn: Kelli’s entire dialogue had me in stitches. IT. TOOK. ME. TO. THE. GROUND. And honestly, I think that’s a nod to the fact that abortion is just a procedure to a lot of women and not this overwhelming emotional journey that you hold on to regrets about like it’s been sensationalized to be. Of course, there are women who do feel regret, but lots of folks get on with their lives like nothing happened.

I really want to know the conversation that led Kelli to getting back with Quantrell. Her ass couldn’t even tell if that was Quantrell or not!

Julia: It’s easy to get on with your life when you’re allowed to make the best decision for you and your body. Hopefully we’ll continue to be able to do that, but who knows?

Taryn: Chile. God willing. Takes a shot of whiskey.

Lawrence (Jay Ellis) finally remembered Issa's birthday, but he still ain't shit.
Lawrence (Jay Ellis) finally remembered Issa's birthday, but he still ain't shit.

Later on at the movie event, Lawrence brings Issa a box of her favorite candy for her birthday. We also find out that Leah took Chad’s dusty ass back. Bless her heart. She is so so generous.

Taryn: So Lawrence remembered Issa’s birthday for once.

Julia: OMG I FORGOT THAT HE FORGOT IN SZN 1.

Taryn: Girl. In the first episode. That was our introduction to his ass.

Julia: Wow. Time has really flown.

Taryn: I still don’t forgive him. Came in with some nasty ass Raisinets. Idc if it’s her fave. It would’ve been sweet if he gave her back the time she wasted waiting for him to get his shit together. You know what, I’m not gonna do this today.

Julia: Do it.

Taryn: They just both are still wondering what could be, and I’m not here for it at all. I mean, I know that’s common, but damn. I’m tired.

Julia: I’d rather them give it a shot at this point because the wondering is exhausting me.

Taryn: Same. Shit, I’m surprised Daniel didn’t pop back up. All these dead niggas haunting us.

Julia: Where is Daniel? Is he completely gone now?

Taryn: I doubt it. He probably just beatboxing in somebody else’s ear in the meantime.

Julia: Niggas.

Taryn: You know they gon nig. Broken promithes.

Julia: Ma’am.

Taryn: I’ma chill lmao.

Julia: One thing that stood out to me is Chad and Leah being back together.

Taryn: It stinks. I know you smell it.

Julia: I wonder what Chad had to do to convince that woman to take him back. And why didn’t Lawrence know Chad was working to fix his relationship lmao?

Taryn: Probably suck her toes on IG live while singing “Sorry 2004” by Ruben Studdard.

Julia:

Taryn: Well, it is Chad.

Julia: Fair.

Taryn: I just hope he keeps his dick in his pants. Actually. He won’t. I have no hope for him at this point.

Julia: His toes might have an STD.

Taryn: He still funny as hell, though.

Julia: I want Thug Yoda back tbh lol

Taryn: Same!

Julia: One thing I want to add about all these damn ghost niggas is that, if nothing else, this speaks to the success of the event. Come along with me as I reach.

Taryn: Buckles up.

Julia: The fact that all these guys keep popping up is a huge extension of the ghosting theme. It also shows us that the event was def a bop and a jam because all different types of niggas showed up. Sure it was also to be messy in the (pointless) way that “Insecure” is messy — but I was also watching like: “Damn, this is like that poppin ass house party that EVERYBODY show up to.”

Taryn: Right. All of black L.A. was there. It just makes me feel like Issa’s event is gonna bring out even more Caspers.

Julia: Lawrence and Nathan gonna run into each other at Issa party.

Taryn: Daniel gon pop up, too. Minus whale make it a shrimp trio.

SN: The shrimp trio at Red Lobster KNOCKS.

Julia:

Niggas gonna be like ^

Taryn: I can’t wait, actually. 

Nathan and Issa finally have a conversation after he ghosted her for a month. He shares that he suffered from a depressive episode and that he didn’t want to wrap Issa up in what was going on. But Issa, finally putting her foot down, explains that it isn’t fair to her that he disappeared for a month simply because he was going through something. Nathan expresses that he’s in L.A. for good now and that he’s ready to make things work with Issa, who tells him that she has to think about it.

Julia: After the block party, Issa hip checks Molly. We’ve already went over that, but I wanna stop and really praise Issa for doing it.

Taryn: Yes. More Molly drag, please.

Julia: Issa stood up for herself for the first time against Molly this season, and I’m proud of her for that.

Taryn: Cause usually she just shrugs it off and tells Molly “you right” when the bitch be wronger than the sun setting in the east.

(Wow, the country really been jumping right on out of me today.)

Julia: .,mre klngjrjbubirhkfehfb. Wronger than what now? Oh Lord. You country as fuck, my God.

Taryn: I’m leaning into it, chile. I think I get countrier every time I turn on my crockpot.

I’m slow cooking greens, at the moment. Can’t wait to get home to em. 😋

Julia: I need the recipe.

Taryn: Chile, it’s just collards, chopped onions and peppers, veggie broth and a gang of seasonings to your liking. Keep it real cute and simple.

Julia: HOW LONG YOU COOK EM. Sorry I didn’t mean to have caps on lmao.

Taryn: LMAO It’s fine. I’m passionate, too. Bout 7-8 hours on low.

Julia: I like that. Gonna make that.

Taryn: Let me know how they turn out. Hopefully they leave a better taste in your mouth than Nathan did for me when he popped back up.

Julia: GIRL. I was watching his monologue like, “This emotionally stunted ass nigga.”

Taryn: He had a depressive episode, which is super unfortunate, and my heart goes out for him. But that doesn’t give him the right to unpack all that shit on Issa. Mental issues don’t give you a pass to mistreat people. I’m glad Issa didn’t welcome him back with open arms. Because what would happen is him using Issa for healing when he needs to redirect that energy to a therapist. A lot of black men look to black women in their lives who aren’t certified therapists to help them cope with their mental issues, and that shit just won’t cut it.

 WAIT BITCH. WAIT. WAIT. WAIT. STOP THE PRESSES!

1. 

 2.  

Andrew better stop playing with me before I end up in Burbank.

Julia: Biiiiiiiiiiiiiiitch! Go to Burbank! WHY YOU STILL TALKING TO ME?! BYE! GET ON A PLANE!

Taryn: BITCH I’M GOING THROUGH TSA NOW!

Julia: I just followed him. Let’s be sister wives!

Taryn: LET’S! I know he got a girlfriend in real life, but it can be all three of us in a townhouse in Burbank living a happy life. I don’t mind.

Julia: I don’t either. California is nice year-round.

But to go back to what your cute ass — because you right in yo tweet, you is cute — said about Nathan.

Black men love to stigmatize therapy and then use their romantic partners as therapists. Girl, I ain’t got a degree in social work or psychology. So I’m glad Issa was like “Nah, that’s not how we rockin’.” She’s tired of being used and on top of that … you disappeared for a month without talking to me about your depression. You don’t get to step off from people who care about you just because you’re sad. That’s unfair. We all know people who withdraw like that — and I understand that they require patience and love. But, at the same time, you owe it to me to open your mouth and tell me something is wrong even if you don’t wanna talk about it. You don’t get to just disappear, though.

It’s complicated and, again, I know people who withdraw require nurturing. But at some point we have to be real and talk about how not communicating feelings is indicative of both a lack of emotional maturity and the shame associated with being vulnerable.

Taryn: Indeed. And Issa dealt with Lawrence’s depression in a very selfless way that ended up pushing her to the edge. Carrying that can take a toll on your own mental health. Our girl is learning. God must place something on your soul when you hit 30 because Issa is FED UP and not taking y’all’s shit anymore. This is the growth we’ve been waiting for. I stan.

Issa finally steps into her glow this season.
Issa finally steps into her glow this season.

Julia: Something def changes in your late 20s and early 30s. Look at Rihanna.

Taryn: Rihanna is the blueprint of how I need my shit to switch up.

I loved how after her convo with Nathan she finally unpacked. Literally and figuratively. All those boxes that were laying around for her to address. Her unhealthy friendship with Molly, her dependency on Nathan, her negativity surrounding her success (thank God she finally hit up The Beat Crew), finally unpacked. Now it’s just her, focused on her, and everything else will fall into place. Issa has finally decided to choose herself over the bullshit, and I think that’s the most beautiful thing I’ve seen on this show.

Julia: I couldn’t agree more.

Taryn: And I know we didn’t talk about this as much, but that word that Lawrence’s daddy gave us was a whole sermon: “Yo mama and me had matching luggage. Then we put in work.”

Julia: An entire sermon, something that everyone on this show needs to hear.

Taryn: It is quite literally impossible to meet another adult without baggage, and Lawrence is beyond naive for thinking otherwise. But you see he was out with ole girl who gave Issa the support Molly refused to.

Julia: Mhm. I did. And we’ve discussed this before with Molly — relationships take work and everybody has baggage. If you wanna make it work, you have to put in work.

Taryn: You think Molly gonna finally get that next season? What did you think of her apology to Andrew?

Julia: I thought it was a good start, and he seemed receptive to it.

Taryn: It’s wild to me that it had to come to this. When everybody in your life has turned their back on you, that’s when you look in the mirror? I guess better late than never.

You think Andrew uses Luster’s Pink Oil before he wraps his hair at night?

Julia: He def does. I know a doobie when I see one. And right! It took EVERYBODY turning on you to realize it’s you???? Couldn’t be me.

Taryn: The whole world turned its back on you. Everybody. Personally. Professionally. You really a clown, Molly. It’s astonishing.

Julia: It’s mind-blowing. Honestly. Truly.

Taryn: Smh.

Molly ain't a good friend. Like, at all. 
Molly ain't a good friend. Like, at all. 

Julia: Before we end, I would like to announce that I am glad the show is done. I’m tired of being sick and tired of these niggas. And I’m tired of sacrificing my 10 p.m.-sharp bedtime just to be sick and tired of being sick and tired of these sick and tired niggas.

Taryn: 10 p.m. on a Sundee at that.

Julia: You know how Nicki sounded when she yelled “TO FREEDOM”?

That’s how I feel right now. Also, for the record, Taryn don’t know it yet, but she coming with me to Lululemon tomorrow.

Taryn: See. Black folks always surprise inviting you to stuff. Like my period surprise inviting me to hell today. What if I had plans?

Julia: Nigga, you blocked out my cal from 11:30 until 4:30. I am your plans and we going to Lululemon.

Taryn: LMAO fair. I’ll go to rich white woman land with you.

(Editor’s note: Taryn and Julia never made it to Lululemon.)

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