Celebrate Mother/Daughter Love with These Wondrous TV Episodes on Mother’s Day

Written by Mimi Anagli, Claire Bahorski, Kara HeadleyAlexandra Hidalgo, and Allison Simpson
Developmentally Edited by Alexandra Hidalgo
Copy Edited and Posted by Iliana Cosme-Brooks

Mother’s Day can be judged as a Hallmark holiday concocted to fill the commercial gap between Valentine’s Day and the Fourth of July. For us at agnès films though, it is an opportunity to celebrate our mothers and the radiant, prickly, and indispensable bond we share with the maternal figures in our lives—whether they’re still with us or have passed on. This year we bring you our favorite episodes about the mother/daughter bond. You can binge these shows or savor them slowly, but they will help you see your mother and your own mothering in new, infinitely delightful ways. Do let us know what your favorite mother/daughter episodes are and what you think about our picks on our Twitter, @agnesfilms, and our Instagram, @agnes.films

Georgia is standing behind Ginny, who is (most likely) sitting in front of a mirror. Georgia has her hands in Ginny's hair and is smiling, while Ginny looks contemplative.
Georgia (Brianne Howey) Fixing Ginny’s Hair (Antonia Gentry) in Ginny & Georgia.

“Next Level Rich People Sh*t”
Ginny & Georgia, created by Sarah Lampert

By Mimi Anagli

A mother-daughter relationship that is not often portrayed in media is the relationship between a white mother and a mixed-race daughter. As a biracial daughter with a white mother, I’ve always felt that the mother-daughter relationships I saw on screen never fully captured the depth and complexity I’ve experienced in my own life. I never saw accurate representations of what it’s like to be a mixed daughter, until I watched the new Netflix hit series, Ginny & Georgia. Centered around a biracial daughter named Ginny (Antonia Gentry) and her white mother Georgia (Brianne Howey), the show touches on a wide range of teen struggles, including how to fit in when your own identity makes you feel out of place. As a young daughter, your mother is often your first model for femininity and beauty. Being a biracial girl with a white mom can cause a very specific internal conflict that leaves you desiring the straight hair and fair skin you’ve grown up admiring. Oddly enough, that internal conflict has to do with hair more than anything else. Whether it’s because of people glaring at it, asking questions about it, or mishandling it, hair always seems to be the thing that reminds biracial women that they are different, and it’s important for white moms to be aware of that and teach their daughters to love their curls, frizz, and ‘fros. In “Next Level Rich People Sh*t,” this relationship with hair is depicted in a way that resonates so deeply that it’s funny—funny because there is not a doubt in my mind that an almost identical situation has happened to most biracial girls at some point.

In the episode, Ginny goes to an all-night party at her school. She is finally starting to feel like she fits in at this new school and is sweating over any opportunity for things to go wrong, which of course, they do. Her new group of friends, who are not Black, decide to get their hair done at the party in order to have matching looks. Ginny is obviously hesitant, knowing that nothing good can come out of a stranger touching her curls. After a few seconds of begging and a couple of forceful brushes through her hair, Ginny is left with a wild mane that the hairdresser has no clue what to do with. Ginny runs to the bathroom with embarrassment where she is met with her mother who is chaperoning the event. There is an endearing moment where Georgia fixes Ginny’s hair and says, “How many times have I told you not to let anyone touch your hair?” Although it may seem like a somewhat trivial scene, it’s a small interaction that reminds me, and no doubt countless mixed daughters, of the role hair has played in their and their mother’s relationships. When I think of my mother’s love and affection, I think of the hours she spent detangling, moisturizing, and styling my unruly hair. When I would get frustrated and cry over the knots and my hair’s unwillingness to do what I wanted it to do, my mom would step in and remind me that my curls are beautiful. There is an extra component to motherhood when you’re a white mom with a biracial daughter that isn’t written in the manuals or guidebooks. That component is understanding that while they can’t relate to the biracial experience, they can make sure their daughters learn to love their blackness. Ginny & Georgia is available to stream on Netflix.

Lorelai and Rory hug each other outside of someone's house on an autumn evening. They are both wearing dark, long sleeve shirts.
Lorelai (Lauren Graham) and Rory (Alexis Bledel) share a long awaited hug in Gilmore Girls.

“The Prodigal Daughter Returns” 
Gilmore Girls, created by Amy Sherman-Palladino

By Alexandra Hidalgo

I started watching Gilmore Girls over a year ago as a way to cope with the pandemic blues. I followed my usual approach to binging—one episode a night with the rare double-feature when the cliffhanger was so intense I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep not knowing what happened next. Beyond the show’s countless charms (kaleidoscopic cultural references delivered at lightning speed, love triangles, kooky small-town festivals), I couldn’t turn away from the relationships between the three Gilmore girls—Grandmother Emily (Kelly Bishop), daughter Lorelai (Lauren Graham), and granddaughter Rory (Alexis Bledel). Like countless daughters around the world, I have a complicated yet vital relationship with my mom that, at times, resembles the unfathomably wounded relationship between Emily and Lorelai, though most of the time it’s like the close friendship between Lorelai and Rory. The first time I watched Gilmore Girls, my mom and I were undergoing one of our rare yet devastating glacial periods. 

When I made it to Season 6 and Lorelai and Rory entered their nine-episode separation over Rory’s decision to take a potentially permanent break from her education at Yale, I would drag my feet at night, not wanting to watch their agonizing pain over the separation that neither one of them knew how to fix. The wound between them was deepened by the fact that when running from her mother’s anger over her quitting school, Rory rode straight into Emily’s privileged arms, moving into her grandparents’ pool house. As the episode unfolds, Rory and Emily quarrel when Rory realizes that her grandmother has become as stifling to her as she once was to Lorelai. Lorelai finds her mother mourning the rift with her beloved granddaughter while she contemplates buying a plane. Emily tells her, “I lost her like I lost you,” but Lorelai explains that it is different with Rory because Emily was never meant to have her. Rory was supposed to be at school. As she walks away in the scene’s most tender moment, Lorelai whispers, “And you didn’t lose me,” as Emily cries softly. 

The episode closes with Rory coming back home to Lorelai, after re-enrolling at Yale. They hug and Rory says, “I love you, Mom,” to which Lorelai replies, “Kid, you have no idea.” But we, the audience, do have an idea. Those of us who have navigated tumultuous waters to get back to the mothers we love with all our beings, even when that love turns prickly, shed many a tear for the on-screen mother and daughter and for our own mothers. During my second run through the show, my mom and I were reconciled (thanks in part to the feelings that watching Gilmore Girls brought up for me) and I loved those nine separation episodes because as much they hurt, I knew there was that hug at the end of the ordeal. As it is with my own mom, I knew that reconciliation is never too far away, as long as we remember that our bond goes all the way to the core of who we are and should never be sundered for too long, or we risk misplacing aspects of our very essence. You can stream Gilmore Girls on Netflix.

Elena is standing in the center of a dance floor, wearing a white suit and tiara, surrounded by her family in a sort of group hug (they are all earing formal wear).
Elena (Isabella Gomez) and her family dancing together in One Day at a Time.

One Day at a Time, created by Gloria Calderon Kellett and Mike Royce

By Kara Headley

In the final days before her daughter’s quinceañera, Penelope (Justina Machado) is up to her ears in final preparations, running until exhausted while trying to make everything perfect. Her daughter, Elena (Isabella Gomez), is working with her grandmother Lydia (Rita Moreno) on the final alterations to her dress. Elena insists she loves it, even though her grandmother can tell otherwise. Elena came out as gay to her supportive mother, grandmother, and brother Alex (Marcel Ruiz) a few weeks prior, and reveals that she is still trying to figure out how she wants to express herself, saying she prefers suits and boots to dresses and heels. Lydia takes this in stride and continues working to make Elena an outfit she can be herself in. Her grandmother has this uncanny ability to read Elena’s emotions when even her mother and friends cannot, showing that Lydia takes great care to understand her granddaughter, even when the things she says and does make little sense to her. Meanwhile, Elena’s father Victor (James Martinez), who has not been in the picture for years, comes to visit for the quinceañera. While rehearsing for their father-daughter dance, Elena decides to come out to him as well. He gives a less than enthusiastic response, telling her she’s just confused and that this is a phase. He almost doesn’t come to Elena’s quinceañera, but Penelope confronts him, taking a stand for her daughter. Confronting Victor is clearly something Penelope does not want to do; she would clearly rather him not be around. However, she understands how much it means to Elena to have her dad at her quinceañera, so she puts aside her own feelings of discomfort and insists that Victor be present for their daughter. 

The episode comes to a head when Lydia changes Elena’s dress to a suit, which is finally the perfect look for her granddaughter. Her father, unfortunately, does not see it that way, and silently leaves the venue before the father-daughter dance. When Elena steps out onto the dance floor, she desperately looks around for him, finally looking to Penelope when she realizes what has happened. Both have tears in their eyes (and I might have as well) as Penelope joins her daughter on the dance floor, whispering, “I got you.” One by one, her brother, grandmother, and two family friends join her on the dance floor. It is a touching moment that emphasizes the love between mother and daughter that shows sometimes the ones we need to support us are the ones who were in our corner all along. One Day at a Time can be streamed on Netflix.

Zoey and her mother look at each other seriously as they have a conversation in a clean, modern coffee shop. They are both dressed for the fall/winter.
Zoey (Jane Levy) and her mother (Mary Steenburgen) getting ready to get some desperately needed help from Deb in Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist.

“Zoey’s Extraordinary Mother” 
Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, created by Austin Winsberg

By Alexandra Hidalgo

One of the most poignant episodes in a show that excels at highlighting emotion is Season 1’s second-to-last entry. That season’s arc follows Zoey (Jane Levy) as she develops the ability to hear the deepest inner longings of those around her through song and dance numbers they unknowingly perform for her, all while she’s also coping with the fact that her father is dying from ALS. As the season comes to a close, it’s clear that her father is about to die, and Zoey goes with her mother Maggie (Mary Steenburgen) to make funeral arrangements at a cemetery, only to realize that Maggie is paralyzed by the task. Later, as Zoey returns to the cemetery to try to make a decision herself, she hears a woman (Bernadette Peters) sing Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good” from under an orange umbrella while leaving flowers at her husband’s grave. As the song progresses, the woman, Deb, performs an exuberant dance to the lyrics’ message of embracing new beginnings. One of Extraordinary Playlist’s most resonant questions is what to do with the pain others share with us when we don’t feel equipped to help them out of that particular conundrum, which Zoey constantly experiences when trying to help those who belt out their fears and frustrations to her. 

Like millions of daughters as I type this, Zoey is trying to figure out how to help her mother go through something she has never experienced and can’t even begin to understand. How do you help your mother mourn the passing of the man she loved for over four decades and with whom she had two children, when you’ve never been married and you’re dealing with your own grief over losing your father? Zoey’s solution is to introduce herself to Deb, a woman who seems to have figured out how to be a widow and ask for her help. After getting Deb and her mother together, Zoey leaves them so Deb can weave her magic. When Maggie explains that the reason she can’t make up her mind about the funeral arrangements is that she feels like it gets her closer and closer to Mitch’s passing, Deb replies, “It’s not up to you. It’s an awful train that doesn’t make stops and it’s going whether you want it to or not. Still, if it makes you feel any better, I’ve been on it for quite a while now and you’re welcome to come and sit next to me anytime you want.” Having someone who figured out how to overcome arduous situations lead the way can be the difference between drowning and walking out safely. As daughters, we spend much of our lives benefiting from our mother’s wisdom and experience. Sometimes we can reciprocate with our own, but often we need help from others who have lived much longer than we have. When Zoey texts her mom to see how her time with Deb went, Maggie replies “Feeling good <3.” Somewhere Nina Simone and a chorus of mothers and daughters are doing a joyous—if only temporary—dance. You can stream Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist on Hulu and Peacock.

Maria is smiling and holding her toddler-age daughter in front of a gate as a guard looks on. She is wearing an all brown prison uniform, and her daughter is wearing a purple, floral outfit.
Maria (Jessica Pimentel) visiting with her daughter in Orange is the New Black.

“Mother’s Day”
Orange is the New Black, created by Jenji Kohan

By Allison Simpson

During the Season 3 premiere, the inmates of the Litchfield Detention Center are feeling like good things are coming their way as Mother’s Day, one of their most important holidays, approaches. To celebrate this day, the detention center is hosting its first ever Mother’s Day Fair, allowing inmates extended visitation with their children and families in hopes of better connecting them to their outside lives. In preparation for the fair, the women work together to make food, construct games and activities, and assemble decorations to ensure families enjoy the event. Although all inmates are forced to physically prepare for the upcoming fair, each woman is also mentally preparing for the upcoming event in both joyful and miserable ways. Poussey (Samira Wiley) is bombarded with childhood flashbacks of her mother who passed away and whom she desperately misses. All the while, Gloria (Selenis Leyva) and Maria (Jessica Pimentel) are nervous and ecstatic to be seeing their children for the first time in months. 

As each woman processes the approaching fair differently, collectively they are looking forward to seeing their children, to being celebrated as mothers, and reckoning with memories of the mothers they’ve lost. The characters’ excitements and anxieties are heightened by their imprisonment, which makes these vital relationships with their loved ones almost impossible to sustain. However, throughout the entirety of the episode, we are reminded of how these mother-child relationships can remain strong even behind bars, as the inmates are reunited with their mothers and children, behaving, at least for the day, as if they had never been separated. The episode displays a true Mother’s Day miracle if there ever was one. Orange is the New Black is available for streaming on Netflix.

Gina and her abuela are looking up and smiling at something. Gine hold her son, who is clearly not paying attention. They are all dressed in light-colored, slightly formal clothing.
Jane (Gina Rodriguez) with her abuela (Ivonne Coll) in Jane the Virgin.

“Chapter 42”
Jane the Virgin, created by Jennie Snyder Urman

By Claire Bahorski 

For her very first Mother’s Day, Jane (Gina Rodriguez) plans to bring her family to a celebration thrown by Petra (Yael Grobglas), who is also celebrating her first Mother’s Day. Petra and Jane both have children by Rafael (Justin Baldoni), so the relationship is tricky at best, but Jane is eager to have a blended family celebration. However, tensions flare up once again when Petra’s twin sister, Anežka (also played by Grobglas), sabotages Jane’s TA job and tells Petra that Jane thinks she is not a good mother. Jane’s family relationships become increasingly complicated as she finds herself torn between her mother Xiomara (Andrea Navedo) and her father, who only recently came into the picture. With all of these contributing factors, Mother’s Day inevitably ends in disaster. However, the episode highlights Jane’s strong relationship with her mother and grandmother, the strong women who raised and nurtured her. After the failed Mother’s Day, the three of them settle in for their real Mother’s Day tradition of watching telenovelas and relaxing at home.

This episode highlights not only how complicated family dynamics can be, but it also showcases how becoming a mother changes one’s perspective on everything, as mothers take on the worry, stress, and ultimate love that comes from raising a child. You become more than just yourself; your child is now an extension of you. Throughout its five seasons, Jane the Virgin depicts the courage Jane learned from the women who raised her, but this episode emphasizes how strong her devotion to them is and how they taught her what it means to be a mother. She experiences the bond between a mother and child and quickly learns that she will do anything to nurture and defend her son, just like her mother and grandmother do for her. Having grown up with strong bonds with my sisters, mother, and grandmothers, I continue to be drawn to this show and its portrayals of how women look after each other across generations. This is a topic that’s sadly underexplored in media, and it’s one of the many reasons why Jane and her family should keep you company as you celebrate mothers this May. Jane the Virgin is available for streaming on Netflix

Jane, wearing a white cap and red outfit, smiles and looks over at something while holding a swaddled baby in a beige, textured blanket.
June (Elisabeth Moss) with her newborn daughter in The Handmaid’s Tale.

“The Word”
The Handmaid’s Tale, created by Bruce Miller

By Mimi Anagli

Although the dark and upsetting plotlines of The Handmaid’s Tale may not be the joy and happiness you’re looking for this Mother’s Day, there is, at least in my opinion, no better TV representation of the power of a mother’s love than in The Handmaid’s Tale‘s Season 2 finale. June (Elisabeth Moss), the show’s protagonist, has lived through a mother’s worst nightmare. While the US was in the process of being overtaken by the totalitarian government of Gilead, June was brutally taken away from her husband Luke (O.T Fagbenle) and daughter Hannah (Jordana Blake). She is forced to be a Handmaid, clueless as to where her family is or whether they are even alive. A few years, a couple hangings, a car-hijacking, and an underground resistance later, June learns that Hannah is alive and lives a short drive away with a new family that calls her Agnes. This ground-breaking information fuels a fire in June, and the only thing on her mind is her daughter’s safety. In the season finale, June has the opportunity to escape with her newborn baby girl (who is not seen as her own in the eyes of Gilead) that will otherwise be taken by her commander and his wife. In the last few minutes of the episode, June focuses on her newborn’s safety and decides to give the baby to a handmaid named Emily (Alexis Bledel) so she can take her to safety and stay behind. 

As a mother, June would rather continue to endure the despicable punishments that women face in Gilead than leave her daughter Hannah behind. Her decision reflects the selflessness that is at the core of the most admirable versions of motherhood. For June, there is no hesitation in knowing that her daughter’s life is more important than her own, and that is something many mothers can relate to. After that moment, June’s maternal instincts kick in, and the revolution’s priority is turned toward Gilead’s children, who deserve a better future. With the recent release of the fourth season, The Handmaid’s Tale has opened the door to a whole new side of June that will not disappoint, because there is nothing more badass than a hell-bent mother doing everything in her power to save her daughter. The Handmaid’s Tale is available to stream on Hulu.

Anne and Marilla are sitting on a log together, looking at each other seriously as they discuss something. They are both dressed in simple historical clothing. Anne's hair is messy while Marilla is wearing a hat.
Anne (Amybeth McNulty) and Marilla (Geraldine James) from Anne with an E.

“But What Is So Headstrong as Youth?”
Anne with an E, created by Moira Walley-Beckett

By Kara Headley

Anne (Amybeth McNulty) is still adjusting to her new life at Green Gables, after having been adopted at age 13 by siblings Marilla (Geraldine James) and Matthew Cuthbert (R.H. Thomson). Anne with an E is an adaptation of Anne of Green Gables, Lucy Maud Montgomery’s beloved novel that takes place in the 1880s. Anne’s first day of school does not go quite how she imagined when she sees an older classmate, Prissy (Ella Jonas Farlinger) and her teacher Mr. Phillips (Stephen Tracey) holding hands and standing entirely too close in the supply closet. She repeats something she once heard while living in foster care about “intimate relations,” which makes her classmates giggle. Anne, feeling like she’s making a connection with them, continues on, accidentally spreading a nasty rumor about Prissy and the teacher while not entirely understanding what she was saying. Meanwhile, Marilla is invited to a progressive mother’s group, where she begins to worry that, since she never planned to be a mother to a young girl, she might not be up to the task. 

The next day, Marilla runs into Prissy’s mother, Mrs. Andrews (Janet Porter) who uninvites her from the progressive mother’s group without explaining why. Marilla later learns of the rumor Anne accidentally spread and goes to Mrs. Andrews to try and smooth things over. Mrs. Andrews does not accept her apology, saying their small town was better off before Anne arrived. Marilla takes a stand for her child and tries to explain that it wasn’t Anne’s fault for what she had been exposed to at too young an age. She states: “It’s too bad progressive parenting doesn’t seem to include compassion.” The rumor mill turns fast in a small town, as seen earlier in the episode, and Marilla knows that potentially offending Mrs. Andrews will do no good for her own reputation, but she doesn’t care. She sees the pain this incident has caused Anne and is not willing to stand idly by while the rest of the town defames her daughter. Marilla might not know everything about Anne’s life before she came to her, but she does understand that she was exposed to more than any young girl should, and she treats her with love and understanding when her past experiences make her act in ways that others don’t approve of. While Marilla never pictured herself as a mother until Anne came into her life, she takes the role in stride and does her best. Marilla shows us that being a mother is about far more than giving birth, it is in the way you choose to care for your children, biological or not. Anne with an E is available to stream on Netflix.

Gloria and Claire smile and talk with their hands as they walk on a nature trail with four of their children. The moms are dressed in athleisure clothing with puffer jackets, while the kids look incredibly bored and are dressed in neutral, junky clothes.
Gloria (Sofia Vergara) and Claire (Julie Bowen) hiking with their children in Modern Family.

“Mother’s Day”
Modern Family, created by Steven Levitan and Christopher Lloyd

By Allison Simpson

Being a child of divorced parents, I am not always able to spend every waking moment with my mother. However, my mother’s love continues to play an impactful role in my life, even when we’re apart. Modern Family spent 11 seasons inviting us to broaden our understanding of what family can be, and because of that it resonates with viewers who, like me, grew up with familial configurations beyond living with both parents. This episode of the popular mockumentary reminds us of the role a mother’s love can play in their children’s lives, even after they are no longer with us. This Mother’s Day, Gloria (Sofia Vergara) and Claire (Julie Bowen) wish to spend their day out in nature on a hike with their children. After only a few minutes on the trail, the kids begin complaining about the mothers’ chosen activity. Frustrated, Claire and Gloria continue the walk without them. While their families are out hiking, Jay (Ed O’Neill) and Phil (Ty Burrell) are preparing a special home-cooked meal for dinner that Jay’s mother used to make when they stumble upon a recipe for “the perfect mother,” which Jay wrote as a poem for his mom as a little boy. As Phil reads it aloud, the walls Jay usually builds around himself collapse, and his emotional side is brought to the surface. Meanwhile, Cameron (Eric Stonestreet) is struggling with the idea that he is perceived as the wife and mother of his family as his husband, Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson), provides him with breakfast in bed and takes him to a Mother’s Day event. Later in the episode, Mitchell presents Cameron with a Mother’s Day card that describes a mother as someone who is warm and caring. Mitchell’s card helps Cameron to realize that mothers are not necessarily defined by gender, but more so by the ways in which they love and care for their children. 

At the end of the episode, the entire family gathers for a Mother’s Day dinner celebration, and Jay begins to cry as he shares an anecdote about his mother, causing the children to apologize for taking time with their mothers for granted during their hike. As the show closes, the characters remind us that whatever their gender, mothers can bring family together for beautiful moments of indescribable closeness through their love, which is often passed down from generation to generation and still lingers long after they are gone. Modern Family is available for streaming on Hulu, Peacock, and Sling TV.

Devi and her mother and cousin look at each other as her mother holds an urn as they stand on a beach. Devi is dressed in a pastel hoodie, the mother and cousin are dressed in pink and yellow sari, respectively
Devi (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan) With Her Mother (Poorna Jagannathan) & Cousin (Richa Moorjani) in Never Have I Ever.

“…said i’m sorry”
Never Have I Ever, created by Mindy Kaling and Lang Fisher

By Claire Bahorski 

No show illustrates the tumultuous relationship that can exist between a mother and daughter quite like Never Have I Ever. In the season 1 finale, Devi’s (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan) relationship with her mother Nalini (Poorna Jagannathan), comes to a head when Nalini reveals she is moving the family back to India following the death of Devi’s father, Mohan (Sendhil Ramamurthy). Nalini’s belief that Devi is acting out is the driving force behind her decision to leave their life in California behind for a new start. This startling news triggers Devi—who already had a falling out with her friends Eleanor (Ramona Young) and Fabiola (Lee Rodriguez)—to run away from home and move in with her former nemesis Ben (Jaren Lewison). With Mohan’s birthday approaching, Devi’s emotions are heightened, and Ben eventually gathers Eleanor and Fabiola to reconcile with Devi and convince her to go with her mother to scatter Mohan’s ashes on the beach. A tearful reunion with her mother and letting go of her father reminds Devi of the value of her relationship with her mother, and how her tough exterior is her way of showing love to Devi. Her mother’s guarded behavior, paired with Devi’s desire to rebel against Nalini’s strict ways shows just how complicated our relationships with our mothers can be. 

Often, mothers and daughters play parts to protect each other. Nalini wants to shelter Devi from her own pain, but what Devi wants is for her mother to let her guard down so they can mourn together. Devi’s eventual reconciliation with her family shows that no matter how at odds you may be, your relationship with your mother is one of the most important ones you will ever have. Devi and Nalini realize that they are essentially the only family each other has now, and they come to a newfound understanding where their relationship can only get stronger. These new discoveries remind us that there is always something new to learn about the people we think we know best. Devi had a certain idea of who her mother was, but once they become closer, she realizes that her mother is also lost, and together they can find a way to rebuild their lives. Never Have I Ever is available for streaming on Netflix

Catherine and Denise's family (five total people) sit around a heavily-laden thanksgiving table in an older-looking house. They all have big, happy expressions on their faces.
Catherine (Angela Bassett) and Denise (Lena Waithe) shares a moment of laughter with their family in Master of None.

Master of None, created by Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang

By Alexandra Hidalgo

Those of us who fell in love with Master of None have been waiting since 2017 for Season 3 of the show to grace our screens once again with its melancholy wit and philosophical explorations of what it’s like to face adulthood while navigating intersecting identities. At the center of the show, we have the friendship between Dev (Aziz Ansari), Denise (Lena Waithe), and Arnold (Eric Wareheim), who through humor and hypnotic repartees help each other navigate the confounding tribulations of dating, finding meaningful work, and keeping our parents happy with the choices we make. This episode deals primarily with the latter, as we’re carried through five Thanksgiving dinners at Denise’s mother’s home spanning from 1995, when Denise and Dev are 12-year-olds, to 2017. At each subsequent meal, Denise and her mother Catherine (Angela Bassett) try to navigate the fact that Denise is a lesbian whose life will unfold differently from what her mother envisioned for her. From the first Thanksgiving we watch the two negotiate their different ideas for who Denise will become. Catherine asks Denise to change from her overalls into a lacy white dress. Having reluctantly obeyed, a horrified Denise stares at herself in the mirror and says, “Man, this is some bullshit.” We cut to Denise walking down the steps in a colorful ensemble of loose pants, an oversized sweater, and white sneakers, topped by a backwards baseball cap. As she does throughout the episode, Catherine eventually capitulates because the love she feels for her daughter is so all-encompassing that it eventually bends to make room for the person Denise is becoming—even when that person seems to go against Catherine’s aspirations for her. 

During the episode’s last Thanksgiving, Denise’s girlfriend Michelle (Ebony Obsidian) comes to help in the kitchen. She and Catherine bond over the fact that Michelle, like Catherine, would like Denise to wear something beyond her usual sweatpants and baseball caps. When Denise enters the kitchen, Catherine tells her, “I like Michelle.” Her daughter replies, “I like her too.” Catherine grabs Denise’s hand and pulls her close, saying, “I’m happy for you,” while we, the audience, are happy for both of them. Denise did not become the person Catherine imagined she would one day be, but after their journey together she is able to see her as she really is, and she’s proud to be the mother of the woman staring back at her. That is perhaps as much as any of us mothers can ask for, no matter how many playful and not-so-playful Thanksgiving dinner confrontations it takes us to get there. You can watch Master of None on Netflix.

What are you watching this Mother’s Day? Be sure to tweet us @agnesfilms! You can learn more about Mimi, Claire, Kara, Alexandra, and Allison on their profiles.