“Master of None” returns in title only after a four-year hiatus, with the same creative team but a completely different focus. The result, dubbed “Moments in Love,” focuses on Lena Waithe’s Denise, with a five-episode “season” that essentially plays out like an independent film, with more drama than comedy, and is divided into chapters.
It’s an intriguing creative choice for fans of the series starring Aziz Ansari, who co-wrote the project with Waithe and directs it in its entirety, if it results in a project that, aside from Ansari’s appearance, exists independently from the original. After that bit of narrative jarring is removed, “Moments in Love” stands on its own, moving at a deliberate snail’s pace to gauge the viewer’s interest.
Denise, now a successful writer, begins the story quietly living in the country with her wife, Alicia (Naomi Ackie). The first installment captures the gentle rhythms of their relationship before gradually introducing a major stumbling block into this Eden when the two begin to discuss the possibility of starting a family.
If I say too much about how the plot develops and where it leads, I risk giving too much away to those who would rather discover it for themselves. The program’s true foundation, however, is an examination of a relationship between two women of color, with a tone that is primarily bittersweet and melancholy.
It’s a strong showcase for Waithe, who has gone on to create “The Chi” and produce Amazon’s “Them” after standing out in previous seasons. Ackie, who retains her British accent, is perhaps best known in the United States for her role in “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” but she gets to show a different side in this series, taking center stage in a few episodes.
Even allowing for the indie-film sensibility of it all, “Moments in Love” is a chore to watch due to its sluggishness, which includes long scenes in which the camera is simply fixed at a distance from the actors. It’s a clear attempt to create a sense of intimacy and realism, but it’ll only work if you’re completely invested in the material and characters.
Perhaps most importantly, this season of “Master of None” highlights the creative freedom that Netflix provides artists, allowing Ansari, Waithe, and producer Alan Yang to flex their creative muscles in an unexpected but self-indulgent way while (more pragmatically) continuing the franchise.
While it’s easy to see how that benefits both parties, the reward for viewers is more hazy, feeling more compelling in individual moments than its overall impact, as advertised.