I love Aziz Ansari. I think he’s such a funny and thoughtful comic, and Tom Haverford (and all the misfits of Pawnee, IN) will always have a place in my heart. A few years back I read his book Modern Romance, and I was amazed that a celebrity would be interested in writing a book like that. Because while it’s in that genre of self-help book that sometimes celebrity therapist or doctors do, it’s coming from a comedian, and it’s also fairly scientific. It’s a look at how people in my generation (and a bit younger?) date and fall in love – looking at how we find each other, and the things that we do to gain each others interest and hold it. It’s a fascinating read for anyone who is out there dating now, and just if you’ve ever done the online dating thing. But that’s not what this post is about.
The first season of Master of None came out in November of 2015, and the Boy and I gobbled it up. It just felt like nothing else on television (or Netflix), and a lot of what was discussed in that first season seemed to line up with Ansari’s book, which makes sense because the book came out earlier that same year, and these were all topics that Aziz had on his mind as he wrote the show. Watching his relationship with Rachel bloom, and then fizzle, while his career had a similar sort of trajectory felt real to life. Most amazing was the finale reveal that he was going off to find himself in Italy. And that’s where season 2 picked up.
With 18 months between season premieres, the writers obviously had a lot of time to think and to think creatively. Because this season featured some of the most interesting concept episodes and artistic choices that I’ve seen in a show – especially one that is ostensibly a comedy. I didn’t feel bad spoiling season 1 up there since it’s a few years old at this point, but if you haven’t seen season 2 yet – consider this your opportunity to binge for a few hours.
Probably the most shocking concept in the series is the one that opens the season – not only is the first episode shot entirely in black and white, we spend the majority of the time with Dev and his new Italian friends. And they’re all mostly speaking Italian. If you didn’t come to your 30-ish minute comedy prepared to read subtitles, you need to check yourself. This episode really gives you an idea of how truly immersed Dev has been in his Italian life. He is living as much like an Italian in Modena as possible, and the most English we have spoken together in the episode is when he meets the lovely Sara in a restaurant where he was planning to eat a birthday lunch alone.
If you aren’t a fan of the Italian interlude, just know that Dev goes back to New York at the end of episode 2. And then we start getting even artsier. We get another episode with Aziz Ansari’s real parents co-starring as Dev’s parents in an episode about religion, which is thought-provoking in the same way that last season’s Parents episode was. There’s an episode dedicated to first dates, in which we see the various disasters that Dev goes through in having the same basic first date with many women, and how different and surprising each person can be. We found ourselves rooting for different girls over time only to have information revealed about one or the other and then go, “No, wait, nope. NOPE!”
In perhaps the biggest departure, we get an episode dedicated to ordinary New York service workers. There’s a doorman, a convenience store clerk (who happens to be deaf), and a taxi driver. The conversation between the store clerk and her boyfriend in a home decor store (done entirely in sign language) had us rolling around in laughter.
Maybe our favorite episode of the season was Thanksgiving – which tells the story of the friendship between Dev and his friend Denise. They start as children in the early 90s, and as they grow, we see their personalities start to form, and most importantly (at least in this episode) Denise understanding and becoming more open about her sexuality with her family. This episode shows how in the end, what parents really want for their kids is happiness…and for them not to be with idiots.
The main dramatic arc of the season revolves around Dev’s feelings for a woman who is in a relationship. It’s the kind of storyline that had both me and the Boy yelling at the television on a regular basis. WHY??? we found ourselves screeching multiple times. DON’T DO IT!!! YOU’RE TORTURING YOURSELF!!! It was that all-caps kind of horrified moan that escaped our lips many times. And it doesn’t help that the season ended on bit of cliff-hanger. I read an article which did an intense breakdown of that last shot, and I’m kind of disappointed. That’s not how I thought things would end.
If you haven’t watched any of Master of None yet, or if you haven’t seen the second season, take this as your call to action. There’s only two seasons so far (and there may not be more), and each season is only 10 episodes. Most episodes are about 30 minutes long. It’s easily the kind of thing you could do as a couple episodes per night over the course of a week or two. Or maybe I’m just saying that because I need everyone else that I know to be as tortured by the surprising brilliance of Aziz Ansari as I am. Ok – who else has seen it? Who needs to talk about that ending? Are you as frustrated by the tease of “no third season” as I am?
Details: Master of None, streaming on Netflix.