Disclaimer: spoilers are listed in this article
Master of None has finally returned for another season after the last episodes were released on Netflix in May 2017. Despite its popularity, the show’s return for a third season seemed unlikely for a number of reasons. Many of the stars had gone on to pursue other projects with tremendous success. Lena Waithe (Denise) has become a trailblazer in directing and producing Black entertainment. There was also uncertainty about the continuation of the series after allegations of sexual assault against the show’s star, Aziz Ansari. Nonetheless, the show has been revived again.
The season itself wasn’t bad, but Waithe and Ansari (who wrote this season) did not stick to previous plot lines for the characters. I believe this season would’ve worked better as a limited spinoff series. The entirety of this season — from the plot to the cinematography — is out of place compared to the rest of the series. Denise (Waithe) shifts from a supporting role into the main character, whereas Dev (Ansari) — the former lead — only appears in a couple of episodes. Aside from these characters, none of the original cast members are seen in the season. It feels as though Master of None never got the follow up it truly deserves.
That being said, I thought this season was amazing plot-wise. It’s clear that Waithe and Ansari have evolved in their craft. This season does such an amazing job invoking empathy from the audience by having the characters show their feelings rather than saying them. Waithe is well known for including striking visuals in her work. So much of the plot was expressed through pauses and moments that the characters had with themselves, which created a genuine bonding experience between them and the audience. Ansari pointed out in an Instagram post that their visual inspirations were from cinematic classics like Greetings from Africa (1995) and Yi Yi (2000).
The narratives for Denise and her wife Alicia felt so real. As a couple, their ups and downs showed real vulnerability. As individuals, we were able to see how they processed each situation they were in. Seeing how they handled Alicia’s pregnancy — and eventual miscarriage — provided clarity about just how honest Denise and Alicia were being with each other. Some of their moments were reflective of their current situation, like when Denise sat in different rooms of their house as it gradually became more empty. Other scenes showed them simply existing and trying their best to get through their daily tasks, like when Alicia was waiting for her laundry to finish after in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments.
The way they documented Alicia’s experience with IVF in the fifth episode was phenomenal. The intersectionality of her queerness and being a single woman during the process was beautiful. Going back to showing rather than telling, most of that episode showed Alicia in solitude and sadness. It also documented how trauma can compound (i.e. her previous miscarriage). A lot of shows cover “social issues” by centering mainstream commentary in the characters’ lives, but this episode showcased the humanity that is often dismissed. They didn’t have to say that the emotional toll of Alicia considering a single pregnancy was made worse by the financial burden, or that the healthcare industry’s prioritization of profits exploited her sexuality and decisions for her womanhood. It was all made clear in the moments that Alicia had with herself and other characters.
Waithe and Ansari created authentic characters and built relatable plots around them. They highlighted the complexities of intersectionality for Black women as individuals and in interactions with other people. But the most impressive part of this season was their ability to make the characters personable. Many of the scenes were one-on-one interactions with little to no people present for the scenes and conversations except for those participating. The show was filmed during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, so it’s reasonable to assume that this contributed to these types of scenes. Regardless, it added power to the interactions that characters shared with each other and the moments they had to themselves. It was nice to see each character getting their own moment to feel their emotions and respond to what was happening around them.
Unfortunately, this is the final season of Master of None. This leaves us with several cliffhangers, like how Denise and Alice will navigate their future or if Dev and his girlfriend Reshmi will stay together. We may not see how their relationships play out, but we see Denise and Alice doing what they’ve always done: defining their love on their own terms. The relatability of their unconventional connection is why their love is so powerful.
Connection to show: 6/10
By Aminah Jenkins, News Editor