lena waithe and naomi ackie in master of none

Netflix

‘Master of None’ quietly returns, no longer a comedy

Naomi Ackie provides the best moments of a slow-paced season.

 

Audra Schroeder

Internet Culture

Published May 21, 2021   Updated Jun 1, 2021, 2:03 pm CDT

In the five chapters of the new season—formally titled Master of None Presents: Moments in Love—we follow series regular Denise (Lena Waithe) and her wife Alicia (Naomi Ackie) as they cohabitate in their cozy upstate New York home. Denise is now a successful, published author trying to crack open her next book, and the first episode immediately shows how the series has changed: There are long takes with no dialogue, held shots that go nowhere. It’s so quiet. 

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Master of None Presents: Moments in Love
Two and a half stars


Release Date: May 23, 2021
Creators: Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang
Streaming: Netflix
The third season of the Aziz Ansari-helmed series looks a lot different.
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That stylistic change works until it doesn’t. Master of None is very much about one straight man’s adventures in dating in New York City, so to have it now focus on two queer Black women struggling with domesticity is a welcome move on series co-creator Aziz Ansari’s part. (And, considering the poorly written romance plot in season 2, it’s for the best.) 

Ansari directs all five episodes, and co-wrote them with Waithe, but his character Dev only shows up twice. There’s a four-year gap between the second and third season, in part because Ansari was accused in 2018 of pressuring a woman into sex, which opened up a bigger conversation about consent. Denise’s line in episode 5 about fame being like “heaven” until someone tells you it’s time to go to “hell” could be Ansari channeling his own feelings, which he also did in a 2019 standup special. But the biggest change from the first two seasons is that this Master of None is no longer a comedy.   

lena waithe and naomi ackie in master of none
Netflix
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Ackie, who recently appeared in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, is really the standout of the season: Episode four is almost entirely devoted to Alicia’s journey with IVF, and she carries the joy and pain masterfully. Waithe’s performance on the series has always been low key but she was at least funny, able to match Dev’s energy.

Here, Denise is nearly muted, and it only serves to drag the pace of the show even more. Season 2’s Emmy-winning “Thanksgiving” episode offered a more thoughtful exploration of Denise’s life. So when the final episode brings Denise and Alicia back together again, it’s a little baffling—and completely ignores the emotional weight of the episode before it. You kind of want to just keep following Alicia.

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*First Published: May 21, 2021, 3:46 pm CDT