Master of None Presents: Moments in Love
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Instead of the life-in-New York adventures of Aziz Ansari’s Dev that Master of None used to be, this season is focused on Lena Waithe’s Denise and her messy relationship with her wife Alicia. Like its subtitle suggests, it captures individual moments of married life, including arguments, struggles with fertility, triumphs and heartbreaks, and spontaneous dance parties while doing laundry.
The season is entirely written by executive producers Aziz Ansari and Lena Waithe and directed by Ansari. Waithe stars alongside Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker actress Naomi Ackie.
Almost four years to the day since the previous season came out, dramedy series Master of None returns for a third season that’s totally different from the previous two. This is the first season of Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang’s show since Ansari was at the center of a Me Too scandal. Whether or not that scandal was a big part of the decision to keep Ansari mostly behind the camera, it was a good choice creatively, as it allows Master of None to evolve into a new form that feels spiritually connected to the Ansari-centric first two seasons but stands on its own, telling a singular story worth telling.
If the first two seasons felt personal to Aziz Ansari, Season 3 could have only come from Lena Waithe, who recurred as Ansari’s character’s friend Denise in the first two seasons and won an Emmy (along with Ansari) for writing Season 2’s Denise-centric standout episode “Thanksgiving.” Season 3 is an incredibly intimate story, both physically and emotionally, about Denise’s relationship with her wife Alicia (Naomi Ackie, a BAFTA winner for her performance on Netflix’s dark comedy series The End of the F—ing World).
As Season 3 starts, Denise is now a successful author who’s working on her second book. She’s married to Alicia, an interior designer. They bought a beautiful old house in upstate New York and live a pleasant life in their own little world. But beneath the perfect exterior, there are big problems. Alicia wants to have a baby, and Denise isn’t committed to that. There are unspoken resentments and secrets that there’s no coming back from when they finally are said aloud.
Every decision in the show was made to maximize the sense of intimacy. Four of the five episodes take place almost entirely in the house (this is very much a COVID-era production). It’s shot on warm, rich film in a 4:3 aspect ratio, which makes the frame smaller, so people take up more of it. The scenes unfold naturalistically. Ansari sets up the camera and doesn’t move it for the entirety of a scene. The scenes are long and occasionally capture truly mundane moments, like Denise eating a sandwich in her car and listening to music for 90 full seconds. It gets self-indulgent sometimes, like Ansari and Waithe are trying too hard to make capital-A Art, but the writing and performances and creative direction are all so good (seriously, you’ll want to move into their house and wear Alicia’s clothes) that any dud scenes are easily forgiven. You’ll feel grateful that these two smart, funny, complicated people gave you so much access to their lives.
Moments in Love is an impressive reinvention of Master of None that gives a beautifully shot look into the most intimate parts of life. It has a lot of style and a lot of substance.
Master of None Season 3 is very specific about the particular relationship issues of queer Black women while exploring univerally resonant themes of love and loss. Queer people may relate hardest, but the show is for anyone who loves talky indie movies in the vein of Richard Linklater’s Before triology. Watch it with your partner.
The standout episode is the fourth, which follows Alicia on her journey to get pregnant via in vitro fertilization. Naomi Ackie is remarkable, giving an incredibly vulnerable performance that runs the full range of emotions, from deep despair to pure elation.