You know Sterling K. Brown. Or at least, you think you know Sterling K. Brown. On The People v O.J. Simpson, he was the slightly timid, self-conscious law nerd Chris Darden who had to take a major L when — spoiler alert — the prosecution lost. Or you know him as Randall on This Is Us, the corporate over-achieving Dad who's so hopelessly uncool that he is therefore kind of cool and adorable. But to see him on HBO's Insecure... Woo goodness, is it warm in here?
We meet not-Randall — who we later learn is named Lionel — in a club, where Issa's (Issa Rae) homegirl Molly (Yvonne Orji) is supposed to be teaching newly single Issa "how to ho" (Issa's words). The night is supposed to be about Issa, but ends up being about Molly when Lionel comes over to say hello to her.
Forget a unicorn. Lionel is more like a West African Black Rhino — the one you wish you'd see in these harsh, thirsty dating plains but actually went extinct sometime in 2011. Look at him! Lionel, like the great Richie, like the beloved son from The Jeffersons. He has a fresh fade and a crisp line-up. That sweater! Those arms! Girl. GURL. This is not Randall. Lionel doesn't wear Randall's goofy vests. Lionel has initiative and swag. He has the confidence to faux-criticize Molly ("You're a good friend - not a great listener but a good friend,") and then goes in for the kill. "Can I have your number?" Which number, Lionel? Cell? Bank routing and account? Social security? You know what, it doesn't matter. Just take them all. Molly gets it. She's all teeth. She's putty, but manages to boss back up by giving Lionel her business card. She deserves kudos for not buckling at the knees when she walked away.
Their first official date — it looks like brunch? — is even hotter. They're somewhere nice, in the light of day. There is champagne, or at least a non-embarrassing sparkling wine. Lionel has the good sense — and the means — to put on a jacket, which declares, 'I have health insurance, a passport and an above-average credit score.'
Ugh, that smile. He shows Molly a pic of his niece, which COME ON, says he's sensitive and may even know how to do a black girl's hair. A less poised woman would've pretend-dropped her phone on the floor so she could send a "GIRL HE MIGHT BE THE ONE" text with her toes. He owns his own company. It's perfect.
Unfortunately, that gets to be a problem.
You want this to work for Molly, because Molly needs a win. Molly is kind of a mess, and she could use some stability. But we know this won't work. This is a comedy. Sterling K. Brown is already taken. And then Lionel starts to get pressed. He says they're vibing. OK Lionel, sure. Then he hits her with the, "Do you ever wish you could fast forward to the part where you're married and settled?'" and it's like Bruh. Slow down. This isn't The Bachelorette. You're at "happily ever after" and y'all haven't finished your omelettes.
Afterwards, Molly tells Issa she wasn't feeling it. "I just don't know what it is," she says, referring more to the "isn't," i.e. their spark. We've all been there. When you should like this one but it's just not happening. It's like finding the last pair of amazing shoes 70 percent off and they're just a half size too small. You just can't force it.
But damn, Lionel has so much going for him. He texts her to say he has amazing seats for the SZA show. She declines. Then he invites her to dinner at some fancy L.A. place, which is like, OK Lionel — now you're sliding into the Thirsty zone. Molly doesn't even respond, which is kind of cruel to be honest, and then that's the last we see of Lionel. Except it isn't. Lionel is coming back.
"I won't say how he's coming back but he's coming back," Insecure's showrunner Prentice Penny told TV Guide. He says the role came about because Brown was a huge fan of Insecure and reached out to be on, and so here we are. His fate though, will be... Interesting. "It's a very Alfred Hitchcock way we're using him," Penny says.
Oh Molly you're not going to kill him are you? There definitely no good men for you in jail.
Insecure airs Sundays at 10:30/9:30c on HBO.