Master of None: Moments in Love. Experimentation VS Expectation

If this viewer were to rank his favourite Netflix originals the initial two seasons run for master of none would be near the top. It did not have a great deal on its mind beyond a broad slice of life show with some light social commentary elements and a streak of broadly conceptual episodes. It was terrific as exactly that. Then Aziz Ansari effectively said that the original well of ideas for the show had run dry. Combined with the harassment allegations against him it seemed that was all we were ever going to get. Thus it came as something of a surprise when after a four-year gap it was announced that we were getting a Denise centric third season with Ansari mostly behind the camera this time. Conceptually this made sense. Pivoting the show using an established character but But maintaining the spirit of the original show. Right? Actually no.
Moments in Love is more of a tangentially related spin-off. Set at some point in time after the end of season 2 Denise (Lena Waithe) is now a New York Times best selling author. Meanwhile, her girlfriend Alicia (Naomi Ackie) is trying to convince her to start a family. They live in a cottage somewhere in upstate New York. Viewers see the breakdown and eventual reconciliation of the central relationship. That’s kind of it. All presented with naturalistic performances, a slow slice of life narrative, 4:3 aspect ratio and grainy 16-millimetre photography Certain critics will fall for the very pretentious, somewhat critic bait esque nature of this whole endeavour. Plenty already have. Meanwhile, those who expected a standard season of Master of None we will be left scratching their heads. Both of these reactions are very valid. First strong as the central performances are, getting a season that effectively functions as an experiment barely related to the original show takes some getting used to. When treated as its spin-off project the opening episode does have a distinctly cosy feel that mostly works as its own thing. This is despite Aziz’s on-camera appearance in the premiere somewhat going against the character established in the first two seasons. The lack of any narrative driving force is holding this production back from being as good as it could be. The problem comes when the catalyst for what is effectively the end of the relationship happens at the end of the first episode. This season focuses on the fallout from this event. This would be fine if the narrative had spent more time establishing why the two central characters like each other in the first place. Starting the narrative at the midpoint of the relationship and then adopting a non-linear fallout based structure hurts the emotional impact these five episodes could have even when treated as their entity. The performances range from solid to exceptional and the filmmaking is pretentious but impressive in places. Critically it will get acclaim from those who are a very easy layup for this specific brand of styles and presentation.

This is emphasised perfectly by the 4th episode focusing on Alisha’s attempts to get pregnant via IVF. The episode central performance is incredible. The emotions are sold very effectively. The problem is that the entire thing comes across like a very well performed public information film. Made by an art student desperate to show a certain type of audience that they are capable of making the material.
If this project had been a 90-minute film there’s no guarantee that some of the same structure criticisms would entirely go away. It’s possible to under develop characters even with relatively brief feature efforts. That said if this was condensed in this way it would immediately eliminate this season’s key problem. Not using the medium of five television episodes well enough in getting the audience to truly connect with these characters. That said regardless of this what-if all viewers have to judge whatever piece of media in the form it has been presented. Thus this review structural complaints about this as a season of the television stand.
Master of None: Moments in Love was an unbelievably frustrating viewing experience.

When divorced from the original show it does have some merit as a stand-alone entity. That said even when looked at from this perspective the execution is flawed Assuming that viewers aren’t already an easy layup for this style of pretentious presentation. Examination of LGBTQ themes in a way that will be an easy wash with certain critics. . If viewers were fans of the show in its original form it’s worth at least trying the first episode and seeing how they feel. That said for those that think this is some of the best TV of 2021 are playing into Aziz Ansari and Lena Waithe’s hands.
6/10

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