There is a lot to unpack when it comes to Issa and Molly’s complicated relationship in this episode. From their accidental twinning to trauma bonding over getting set up and robbed, their communication is practically non-existent. Their reconciliation may have stolen the show but the season opener had an unsung hero. In Tiffany’s words, “let's not talk about Molly’s mess, let’s not talk about Issa’s messy mess”. Instead, let’s focus on Kelli (rest in peace).
Although it’s taken 5 seasons, Insecure’s writing room is finally adding depth to Kelli’s character in a similar way to Tiffany’s in Season 4. It will be a gradual process like the build up to Tiffany’s breakdown with subtle indicators but the signs are already starting to show. Time after time, fans and critics have asked for more of Kelli beyond the comic relief. This isn’t to say that her ‘funny’ isn’t needed, it’s very much the opposite. Kelli brings a humorous dynamic to the group mostly by just being herself and that is exactly why she is a fan favourite. However, that can’t be all she brings to the table. Since the beginning of the show, the characters that are seen on a regular basis are shown to be multidimensional and well as multifaceted. For instance, it's common knowledge that Molly is the ‘work hard play hard’ type with control issues in relationships. But what about Kelli’s love life and her job? There are glimpses of her dating throughout the seasons as well as Issa visiting Kelli at work in Season 4 but both plotlines weren’t really explored and were overshadowed by the jokes in the scenes. Amine’s cameo at the block party is the perfect example.
Stanford's reunion was the ideal setting to see why Kelli is the way she is and broaden the viewers' perception of her personality. Being declared dead would be a rattling experience for anyone is still breathing, including Kelli when she found her tribute in the college programme but the people around her were quick to turn it into a joke. It’s almost as if Kelli has been accepting her role as the comedic friend in life, rather than defining it on her own terms. All her memoriam quotes are random and funny comments such as “she had the best stanky leg and always carried a purse” but obituaries are usually filled with heartfelt messages.
The most telling scene is when the girls are on their way to the club in Oakland. Kelli is visibly upset to the viewers but practically invisible to the others who are having a good time. When she speaks up to tell them about the band’s lack of tribute in her name and the trombone player only remembering she was allergic to kale, they don’t take her seriously. They also brush off that she took every Mandarin test for the trombonist for a year, showing that she is clearly smart as well as caring towards her friends. Cheyenne’s presence in this scene is also very important. She joins in effortlessly with making fun of her kale allergy in a way that suggests it’s not a new occurrence and they have been laughing both at her and with her since college. It’s no wonder Kelli said “y’all are missing the point as always”, before finishing with “is everything a joke to you?”
Although the show does delve into the lives of everyone in the group, it is initially through Issa’s lens. It’s possible that the reason there isn’t as much depth to Kelli as a character is because Issa and the others are yet to fully acknowledge her other aspects and traits. Is this justification? Absolutely not, but it could explain why there is a disconnect and why the fake memorial ceremony in the diner meant so much to Kelli, as it could symbolise how they all move forward together. Either way, a more nuanced Kelli means a happy Insecure fanbase.