Hulu’s Queenie Might Just Fill the Insecure-Shaped Hole in Your Heart

4 minute read

Hulu’s wonderful new dramedy Queenie opens with an overhead, medium close-up shot that puts viewers face-to-face with the show’s namesake heroine. Twenty-five-year-old Queenie Jenkins is staring at the ceiling, her braids spread out on a white pillow, a tangle of necklaces grazing her clavicle, and an expression of idle bemusement twisting her features. In a voiceover, as the camera zooms out and we see that she’s in the midst of a gynecological exam, she enumerates the many “things I should’ve done today”—a bikini wax, for instance.

It’s hard to imagine a more intimate introduction. And that’s fitting. Based on the celebrated 2019 novel of the same name and created by its author, Candice Carty-Williams, Queenie (streaming June 7) delves deep into the subjectivity of its title character, a Londoner of Jamaican descent who works in social media at a newspaper but dreams of earning a byline. While the pace of the eight-episode season is uneven, the show is comfortably conversational, often witty, and insightfully attuned to the frustrations of a smart, ambitious, young Black woman living in a racist world in a way that recalls Issa Rae’s Insecure. Dionne Brown, who had her first big role earlier this year, in Apple’s Criminal Record, gives a marvelously natural lead performance that honors the protagonist’s distress without negating her considerable charm.

When we meet Queenie, she’s in the early stages of what she identifies as a quarter-life crisis. At work, where her photo hangs in the lobby to advertise the paper’s diversity but the security guard still makes her dig out her badge every time she enters, her boss Gina (Sally Phillips) rejects her social-justice-minded pitches and urges her to “keep doing what you’re meant to be doing.” At home, she can’t stop arguing with her boyfriend of three years, Tom (Jon Pointing). Oh, and that doctor’s appointment? The upshot is that Queenie had a miscarriage, which has her fretting about the future of her relationship—until, at dinner with Tom’s entirely white family, she accidentally blurts out what she’s thinking about his grandmother’s casual racism. Soon, he’s demanding space and she’s looking for a new apartment that fits her miniscule budget.

Queenie’s crisis clearly has something to do with her mother, Sylvie (Ayesha Antoine). Theirs is a tight-knit family. Queenie’s grandparents, the domineering Veronica (Llewella Gideon) and her laid-back husband Wilfred (Joseph Marcell, best known as Geoffrey from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air) emigrated from Jamaica with their elder daughter, Maggie (Michelle Greenidge), decades earlier, when Veronica was pregnant with Sylvie. The Jenkins have remained in London; while Maggie gently mothers her niece along with her own teenage daughter, Diana (Cristale De'Abreu), Veronica is always berating the younger generations for some perceived transgression. But Sylvie is, at first, out of the picture. Queenie ignores her calls. She also keeps a lid on her own emotions, telling no one about her miscarriage and making arbitrary rules for her romantic life intended to prevent her from ending up like her pathetic mom.

Brown’s performance aside, the Jenkins are Queenie’s greatest asset—a loving family who drive each other crazy in ways both universal and specific. (Veronica is horrified, for instance, to learn that Queenie discusses the family’s private problems with a therapist.) With only eight half-hour episodes to flesh out what is an unusually large cast of characters for this sort of show, the family members’ vividness can overshadow the personalities of Queenie’s core group of girlfriends, co-workers, and the parade of suitors who await her post-breakup. One hookup is so cartoonishly evil, it’s baffling to see Queenie return to him even once. Her pal Kyazike (R&B singer Bellah) is mostly a cheerleader for Queenie’s single era and a conduit to a love interest.

There’s room to go deeper into these secondary characters if Queenie is renewed, as Insecure did after a first season tightly focused on Rae’s Issa and her best friend Molly (Yvonne Orji). And I hope we do get to see more of it. Carty-Williams sketched out a fine arc for the debut season, guiding Queenie through her crisis, surveying the realistic psychological fallout of her rift with her mother, and making mostly subtle observations about her experiences with racism grounded in who the character is. But the finale feels a bit abrupt. One problem after another is too easily resolved, as though every aspect of Queenie’s life has suddenly clicked into place. She may deserve her happy ending, but Brown’s star-making turn deserves an encore—and some of us are already craving another season of Queenie’s age-appropriate young adult mess.

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at