The new season of Netflix series Master Of None has debuted to a mixed reception in the first reviews.
The new five-episode season focuses on the relationship between Denise (Lena Waithe) and partner Alicia (Naomi Ackie), with co-creator and star of the first two seasons Aziz Ansari only popping up on screen this time around as he directs and co-writes.
It comes after sexual misconduct accusations were levelled at Ansari in 2018, which he has denied, insisting that the sexual activity was ‘consensual’ – though he has since kept a lower profile. He later addressed them in 2019 in a stand-up tour and Netflix special Right Now, saying about the accuser: “Ultimately, I just felt terrible that this person felt this way.”
The reception to season three has so far been pretty polarised, though in a glowing five-star review, The Guardian‘s Ellen E Jones wrote: “What does feel like a radical departure is seeing the slower, observational pace of Ansari’s favourite 70s American auteurs lovingly applied to the ordinary lives of two queer Black women.
“These kinds of semi-autobiographical, standup-about-town series have – from their origins in Woody Allen’s Manhattan to their apex in Louis CK’s Louie – perhaps tended to indulge the male viewpoint to solipsistic extremes. Whenever auteurs are then involved with real-life incidents with women, the oft-repeated advice to ‘separate the art from the artist’ rings especially hollow.
“For conflicted comedy fans the solution might be to stop worrying and start watching. These 192 minutes speak more directly to the shifting status of women on screen than any public statement could.”
Variety praised Ackie’s turn, though suggested that the stylistic choices wear out their welcome pretty quickly, Caroline Framke writing: “It’s undeniably jarring, in a good way, to see a story about a queer Black couple given the kind of treatment typically only bestowed upon white couples. And yet the stylistic gambit quickly wears out its welcome in the season’s first meandering chapter, which runs a solid 50 minutes long in fits and starts.”
In The Hollywood Reporter‘s review, critic Inkoo Kang also notes how slow it can be at times, writing: “Denise and Alicia undergo fertility issues, the deaths of family members and the aftermath of wunderkind success. And then the season opens its heart again, to expand its ideas of romance and love to rousing, even provocative, heights. It also takes its damn time getting there.”
Vox‘s Emily VanDerWerff wrote: “Master of None builds Moments in Love atop the assumption that the happiest life for Denise and Alicia is one of monogamous bliss in a beautiful cabin in the woods, and that having a baby might very well add to that bliss (though on that question, at least, Denise and Alicia don’t immediately agree).
“But what if it isn’t? What if there are other ways to organize a life, to raise a child, to consider oneself successful? Moments in Love flirts with those questions, but it never really engages with them, because it ultimately can’t think of another way to see the world. The tight frames of this season don’t imprison the characters. They imprison the show itself.”
In a mixed review, IndieWire‘s Ben Travers added: “To follow one couple for a half-season (or a full season, since five episodes are all we’re getting) is an admirable idea for these young filmmakers with old souls. (Ansari is only 38, Yang 37, and Waithe 36, with the former two sporting the patience and film taste of octogenarians.)
“But Season 3 tries to forge new ground and ends up on a familiar path instead. It’s a de-evolution of the series’ wide-ranging ethos, trading dozens of unexpected moments in order to refashion just one.”
On Twitter, fans also had a mixed reception, one writing: “#MasterOfNone season 3 pacing is sooo slow. My gosh.”
Meanwhile, another viewer wrote: “Leave expectation of laughter and humour behind and get ready for a slice of life show about Denise n Alicia and the issues they face. Not about Dev.The writing is brilliant but too much stress packed in the five episodes without much comic relief”.
A third viewer said: “Well this once light hearted and fun show got dark real quick. Still a great watch though!”