After a four-year hiatus, the Netflix series Master of None premiered its highly anticipated third season in May. Titled “Moments of Love,” the season focuses on writer and star Lena Waithe's character, Denise, and her relationship with her girlfriend Alicia. Each episode is a mini masterpiece showcasing a queer Black couple moving through all the different stages of love.
Cowritten by Waithe and series creator and director Aziz Ansari, the script is subtle yet grand in its efforts to tackle topics and themes that haven't yet had much space onscreen—specifically, the intricacies of queer love, relationships, and fertility. Waithe’s previous writing on the show won her an Emmy, making her the first Black woman ever to win for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series. Waithe strikes gold again, and her continued collaboration with Ansari produces another impressively soulful collection of television writing.
Patience and focus
British actor Naomi Ackie shines as Alicia, stealing every scene she touches with her commanding emotional range. Episode 4 has the power of a short film, following Alicia on her solo journey undergoing IVF. The episode is altogether heartbreaking, empowering, and educational, detailing how the majority of US insurance companies don’t have a policy that covers the cost of IVF for queer people.
Artfully directed by Ansari, the entire season is deliberately patient, lingering on seemingly insignificant details, such as a still shot of a coat rack, amplifying every small moment. Watching a lot of slower cinema while putting together ideas for this season, Ansari was influenced by filmmakers like Yasujirō Ozu, a Japanese director who never moves the camera, and Belgian director Chantal Anne Akerman, he says in a Netflix interview about the season. He admires these filmmakers because they’re good at doing more with less: “It doesn’t seem like a lot happens and then at the end you get this emotional gut punch that’s a different feeling than you get from any [other] movie.”
Ansari holds the camera on the main characters, forcing the viewer to stay with them before and after climactic moments. Keeping still in these moments, the camera captures mighty juxtapositions of feeling, whether in small moments, such as Denise eating a hamburger in her car while listening to opera music, or in heavier ones, such as watching someone do the dishes after cheating on a partner.
Raw and truthful
“In this relationship, I gave you everything. I gave you everything I could. I put you before me,” Alicia says when she confronts Denise about her unhappiness. “You know what you never asked me? You never asked me, 'Alicia, what do you want out of this? What do you want out of us?' … I am not in service to you. I belong to me.”
Alongside Ackie and Waithe’s vulnerable performances, the dialog buzzes with truth and rawness, exemplifying the feeling of a relationship in which one person has taken the other for granted and an exhausted partner is at the breaking point. The scene is a stunningly accurate portrayal of truth, sacrifice, complacency, and wisdom.
The relationship rollercoaster
Master of None’s popularity has largely revolved around representation of Asian American people, and stories straying from narratives about straight white people. The latest season builds on that legacy by following the complex life of a queer Black couple living in upstate New York, for a powerful and gripping exploration of human connection in all its glory and pain. In just five episodes, this season skillfully illustrates the emotional rollercoaster of being in a committed romantic relationship—the highs and lows, temptations and consequences, honesty and lies that all lead to the small and big moments keeping people in love or driving them apart.
Image description: A scene from Master of None. Actors Lena Waithe and Naomi Ackie sit side by side in bed, wearing pajamas. Their expressions are tired.
What, When, Where
Master of None Season 3: Moments of Love is available to stream on Netflix.