Series created by Aziz Ansari, Alan Yang
Review by Jonny Wright
If you were to watch the opening of Master of None season 1 and the opening of season 3 back-to-back, like I just accidentally did on Netflix, you could be mistaken into thinking you were watching two completely different shows. Season 1 kicks off with series creator Aziz Anzari’s character, Dev, in a high-octane one-night stand which leaves him worried he has got a woman pregnant, whereas season 3 begins with a sedate, beautiful, almost art house montage of a newly-married Black lesbian couple. Dev’s best friend Denise (Lena Waite) is now the protagonist and has become a successful novelist married to a British interior designer, Alicia, played tenderly by Naomi Ackie.
After season 2, Anzari had to deal with fallout from a real-life one-night stand, as a result of which he was accused of sexual misconduct. Netflix’s golden boy took a step away from the limelight, addressing the allegation in a rather sombre Netflix comeback special, Aziz Ansari: Right Now (2019). Anzari has remained somewhat on the sidelines since, and steps behind the camera for this latest season of Master of None, directing all five episodes and only making brief appearances in two. His motor-mouth Dev character would (and still does) speak at a million words a minute, but now, in season 3, words are very much at a premium. Instead, the focus is on the visual – the metropolis New York City setting of the opening season has been replaced with a rural upstate home, around which nearly all of the drama takes place.
Evidently, a New York minute is much slower in upstate New York, and the show perfectly encapsulates how the gentle pace and loneliness of rural life can gradually boil over into something much more eerie – to misquote the tagline from the film Alien, ‘in rural space, no one can hear you scream.’
There’s a brilliant scene in the first episode where Dev visits Denise and Alicia with his new South Asian girlfriend, Reshmi, and what starts off as a lovely double date descends into chaos. We discover that Dev and Reshmi have recently had to move in with his parents and that he isn’t acting anymore, something Reshmi blames on his refusal to get a hair transplant. So, as Denise’s career has skyrocketed, Dev’s has plummeted. Although the scenes with Dev and Denise bang, and it seems a shame not to have more of them, the season is essentially a two-hander between Denise and Alicia, and is all the better and more focused for it. It becomes a fascinating character and relationship study of a newly-wed Black couple, centring on Alicia’s desire to have a child before it’s too late for her biologically. There are many bumps in the road, and the fallout of missteps are dramatic and heart-wrenching in equal measure. The isolated setting acts as a pressure cooker, bringing a plethora of marital problems to the fore – when you are living in the middle of nowhere together, there isn’t anywhere to escape to. Master of None helped solidify the place of ‘sadcoms’ in the cultural psyche, but this season just got a hell of a lot sadder. Which is not necessarily a bad thing. As Aziz Anzari discovered in his personal life, we all need to grow up sometime – and this season of Master of None has certainly done that.