Last year the first season of Insecure — the HBO series co-created by and starring the magnetic comic Issa Rae — was among a constellation of bright spots. Like FX’s Atlanta and Better Things and Amazon’s Fleabag and One Mississippi, all sparkling comedy debuts of 2016, the series introduced a sharp, fully formed perspective on the world, one from outside the class of comics (often white men) who historically get the chance to create their own half hours.
In its second season, which debuts on July 23, Insecure stands on its own as the sharpest comedy of the year. The show’s early story was about the run-up to a bad decision as Issa, an office drone mired in a seemingly dead-end relationship with nice-guy Lawrence (Jay Ellis), pondered what it would be like to blow up her love life. Now, having seen her relationship come to an end, Issa’s story is yet more interesting — one tinged with as much resentment as regret. This is an utterly original character, one for whom the word insecure doesn’t tell the half of it: Issa cycles through manic confidence and the sort of crushing sense of having failed that hits hardest at the end of youth, when one first realizes that not every decision is reversible.
Rae’s performance is incandescent and would make for a worthy choice to award should Emmy voters decide that Julia Louis-Dreyfus has collected enough hardware. In a typically well-observed moment, she tries on various personae in the mirror as she prepares for Lawrence to visit her. (“I’m not a cheater anymore,” she coos. “I love how we can joke about this!”) But the show’s world keeps getting broader. There’s sharp material in Season 2 about BFF Molly (Yvonne Orji), who simultaneously tries to harden herself in a corporate law office and to open up in therapy. And there’s an ambient, thrumming sense of place, with this South Los Angeles’ low-slung apartment buildings and free-form house parties. Rae has made the first show that satisfies as wholly as did that last great sitcom about a complicated woman fumbling for love. And, just like Sex and the City, it is enamored with its setting. Give Insecure an episode and you will be too.
Insecure airs on HBO on Sundays at 10:30 p.m. E.T.
This appears in the July 24, 2017 issue of TIME.