Dedicated to the places we occupy while we fall in and out of love, “Master of None”’s third season embraces its audience with a charming display of unfiltered, genuine romance. Though this season does not centre its usual protagonist Dev (Aziz Ansari), instead focusing on the relationship between Denise (Lena Waithe) and Alicia (Naomi Ackie), the themes that previously insured the show’s success remain. Pivotal to the series integrity, the five new episodes delve into topics that are often challenged when confronted in television. The season shines blinding light onto these restricted subjects unabashedly. These episodes round themselves into intricately concentrated chapters where a character’s personal perspective, interactions and environment provide insight into varied topics. Queer and racial identity, family values, turbulent romances, career failings, and systematic sexism are conveyed without ever bluntly providing contextualization, or explanation of purpose to its observer. This approach allows open interpretation, while also providing a starting point for difficult conversations. Matched with cinematography atypical to mainstream comedy-dramas, while being fully directed by the shows co-creator Aziz Ansari, who worked to innovate from his previous creative direction, the newest season of “Master of None” is a daring piece of unconventional television that will astonish audiences.
Cinematographer Thimios Bakatakis, most commonly known for his collaborations with director Yorgos Lanthimos on projects “The Lobster” and “The Killing of a Sacred Deer”, lent his unique eye for capturing hyper focused, emotionally taxing relationship moments to this season of “Master of None”. His refined craft seeps through each scene that contains a wide shot, or an elongated moment stretched out by the camera’s still fixation on a setting during a long shot. With the majority of the episodes taking place within the couples farmhouse, much is dependent on the detail of the character’s setting; in many ways their home is the show’s third main character. Filmed entirely on 16mm film, each scene is coloured with natural tones skillfully utilized to reflect the character’s mood. This limited span of colours proposes feelings of seclusion, wistfulness and longing when shown cool shades, and ideas of reassurance, composure and personal awakening when offered warm tones.
The series unfolds almost entirely within three spaces, and the actors perform against their setting in the same way those on a stage would during a play. The choice to use wide shots within these scenes puts emphasis on the space occupied by each character; Denise finds solace on plush chairs in room corners where she reads and writes, physically pulling herself to the screen’s corner edge to demonstrate distance from Alicia, while Alicia most often shadows Denise from nearby rooms, busying herself until her partner returns. It is only when the couple separates that Alicia stands at the forefront of her setting, taking control of each environment she’s in, showing her ability to ground herself and take charge of her own life rather than being furniture in someone else’s. Throughout the series there is emphasis put onto the interior design of their house, both through dialogue and camera angles, we are told how pieces chosen by the couple hold memory significance. As the couple’s relationship collapses, items begin to leave their home; their sofa is replaced, their paintings are pulled from walls and put into moving boxes, and finally their house is sold— only the structure itself stands as a symbol of their time together.
Time as a theme is key to the narrative of the “Master of None” series, in this season time continuously jumps forward to show characters adapting to different phases of their lives. Regardless of time that passes, characters remain troubled, insecure, competitive and overwhelmed; as they age they never find a sense of perfected balance, rather they learn to adapt and overcome each new challenge they are presented with.
In episode one we are introduced into Denise and Alicia’s home in upstate New York, where
Dev and his girlfriend are invited for dinner. Years have passed since Dev and Denise’s friend group were running around downtown New York, dipping their toes into different creative fields and constantly going on dates; now they are both in long term relationships and are in very different career paths than they had been in their youth. After witnessing Dev and his partner bicker, Denise and Alicia discus where they are in their relationship, which brings them to the conclusion that they are at the motherhood chapter of their marriage. After the pregnancy doesn’t make it to conclusion, Alicia begins to question if she can bare being in a marriage she feels devalued in.
In the second episodes tensions increase, the wedge between the couple becomes more prominent, and they take time away from one another. After the loss of their unborn child, Alicia finds it difficult to communicate with Denise, they are unable to see eye to eye with one another and start to look less like a couple and more like roommates. In their despair, and inability to find comfort in one another, they begin seeking fulfillment elsewhere. By the third episode their relationship fully crumbles, and Denise is left alone in a house that was previously on its way to being a home built for three, while Alicia has fully left the picture and has begun dating another woman. Denise roams the emptying rooms of her home and turns to her mother for reassurance and guidance, and to Dev for sympathy.
Years pass and Alicia finds herself single again in the fourth episode. She calls her mother and begins to talk about her desires to be a mother herself. She begins her journey through IVF, realizing the long list of challenges she will face attempting to undergo this expensive and time consuming procedure. As a 37 year old, single, lesbian woman, Alicia discovers not only is she at a difficult age to conceive a child, but that the medical process undergone during IVF when done alone is strenuous and disheartening, and that the insurance policy does not account for queer folk. This episode extends over a year long period where Alicia is desperately trying to pave the way for her desired path, she is both trying to have a child on her own terms and build a new business; in the process she finds herself with only the encouragement of her mother, and those involved in her medical procedure. In the seasons finale, episode five, time skips years ahead again, and Alicia and Denise reconnect. Though they have separate lives with families of their own, their lighthearted humour filled and passionate connection remains. The couple revisit their old home, seeing that regardless of time, and how much their lives have developed, the memories they created in physical spaces remained unchanged.
Following the unravelling of Denise and Alicia’s marriage, and the reconstruction of their character without the other’s influence, “Master of None: Moments in Love” provides an intimate and raw perspective into the way a woman’s love is multidimensional; how it can be seen as a home for a partner and a child, how it can create everlasting space through time by memory, and finally, how it endlessly rebuilds once demolished.