[Warning: The following contains spoilers from Sunday's episode of Insecure, "Lowkey Movin' On." Read at your own risk!]
The fight we could all see coming for weeks between Issa (Issa Rae) and Molly (Yvonne Orji) finally happened on Sunday's installment of Insecure. And now, not only is their friendship in tatters but Issa's career might be as well.
Titled "Lowkey Movin' On," the episode reunited Issa and Molly at Issa's toil-filled block party in downtown Inglewood. The two even Wobbled together on the dance floor and laughed like they hadn't in quite some time. But the joy proved short-lived when Molly learned that Issa had defied her wishes and used Andrew (Alexander Hodge) to help her secure a block party headliner. A rage-filled Molly confronted Issa and as the argument grew louder and more hurtful, a panicked bystander falsely accused Molly of having a gun, prompting partygoers, the two besties, and all of their friends to flee in opposite directions.
But before fans take sides, showrunner and executive producer Prentice Penny wants viewers to consider both friend's missteps during the heated dispute and all the occurrences leading up to it. For instance, Molly called Issa a shady liar during the argument, but she wasn't entirely wrong.
"You could argue that when Issa cheated on Lawrence (Jay Ellis), that was lying. When she isn't upfront with Molly, those are lies of omission. And it is shady for Issa to go around Molly and get Andrew to help her. She used Nathan (Kendrick Sampson) to go to Andrew," Penny told TV Guide during a recent phone interview. "She purposely left out information after Molly asked her to respect a relationship boundary. Issa didn't respect her friend's relationship. Molly tried to make gestures of friendship by coming to the block party and giving her chicken wings. Molly tried to get past the weird place in their friendship, but felt disrespected, and she was mad so she said hurtful things. They're both hurting right now."
Molly's grittiness also emerged when she rolled up on Issa and put her finger in Issa's face.
"She said she was from Florence and Crenshaw. I mean, that's the hood," Penny said with a chuckle. "Issa is the one who grew up in Windsor Hills. Through the trajectory of their careers, they've ended up in different places in life. You look at Molly's clothes, and her apartment, and her car. She's had to drive herself in a different way than Issa has."
In the previous Season 4 episodes leading up to this, fans on Twitter have seemed to be more sympathetic with Issa than with Molly. Unlike the breakup between Issa and Lawrence, which spawned two distinctive camps -- the #IssaHive and #LawrenceHive -- there doesn't appear to be a strong and outspoken #MollyHive.
Penny says while social-media hives matter little to the show overall, he is surprised that more people aren't understanding Molly's perspective.
"I think that Molly gets a lot of unnecessary backlash," Penny said. "That's not how we think about her in the writers room. We always talk about the totality of their friendship. Not just right now. And so when we were looking at their friendship, we always look at the first season. Issa talked badly about her friend onstage ("Broken P*ssy") and when Daniel (Y'lan Noel) popped up at the We Got Y'all fundraiser while Lawrence was there, Molly ran interference."
Molly's loyalty didn't stop there, either.
"Molly drove Issa back home from Malibu when she was trying to get back with Lawrence," he added. "When Issa was doing Lyft, Molly drove around with her to help her out. At the wine down, Molly was there to have her back. Issa has always tricked Molly into doing things. There hasn't had to be a Molly hive until this season. That's not where the show is going in terms of its longevity. Then again, we aren't the ones creating hives on Twitter. So, I wouldn't quantify that as a barometer. That's the point of Insecure. It shows everyone's point-of-view."
Perhaps because Issa is the show's heroine as well as its underdog, she is easier to root for compared to Molly. The Season 4 opener was told from Issa's perspective, but the following week's installment came from Molly's perspective.
"More people are like Molly than they are like Issa," Penny said. "And no one likes to see that, even if it's subconscious. I think it's interesting. I no longer try to predict what people are going to do or how they will react. We just try to tell good stories."
Penny also wants to make sure Insecure fans realize that Orji, the actress behind Molly, isn't Molly in real life. So, when Orji's HBO standup comedy special premieres on June 6 for instance, everyone who wants to watch it should watch it because Orji is a funny comedian regardless of how fans might feel about Molly.
"I hope people are able to tell the difference. Molly isn't Yvonne and Yvonne isn't Molly, and I think fans know that. I want to give people credit. But we're living in a weird time when people are doing weird things," Penny said. "I actually think people have a harder time separating Issa Rae from Issa Dee because Issa is the character's name and also her real-life name. But Jay Ellis has been out and people treat him like he's actually Lawrence. People have lashed out at him on Twitter. Those who don't like Issa the character probably still saw The Photograph. By and large, I think Yvonne's special will be fine."
On the show, it is the Season 4 reversal that has the real love story behind Insecure - Issa and Molly's friendship - suffering the same fissures and vulnerabilities that often occur in romantic relationships.
"Issa and Molly's friendship is the soul of the show. They've been such good friends for so long, they know where the bodies are buried," Penny said. "They have so much history on each other. In some ways, that's obviously great because they're friends and that's what you want. But the flip side, even when friends see you grow, is that it can be hard for them to see you in new ways."
Molly's actual romantic relationship is the source of a lot of the tension between the two friends, but just because Issa isn't used to the new dynamic doesn't make the fallout Molly's fault.
"Issa hasn't ever seen relationship Molly. That's why she is discounting the relationship and says, 'If things don't work out with Andrew, it's not gonna be because of me, girl.' That's a harsh thing to say but we've never seen Molly prioritize anyone over Issa," he continued. "Issa's never been No. 2. I think that's what Molly was trying to say. 'I have another person in my life right now and that relationship takes precedence even if you don't believe that or respect it.'"
Issa is rising professionally and that is new territory as well.
"At the same time, Molly has never seen Issa with a successful work life," Penny said. "She's always seen Issa be a mess at work. These are two people who are not used to seeing new versions of each other. Like a couple that's been together for a long time, they've hit a fork in the road like people do when these things come up. Are they going to grow together or grow apart? We'll see."
Insecure airs Sundays at 10/9c on HBO.