Master of None Season Two
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The following review contains full spoilers for the first season of Netflix's Master of None and vague story details about the newest episodes.
Master of None's second season succeeds in a way that most other shows can only dream of: it somehow improves on the first season in every conceivable fashion without ever losing the charming qualities that made it not only an acclaimed hit, but also writer/creator/star Aziz Ansari's breakout work since the end of Parks and Recreation. In terms of writing, direction, and conception, there's nary a misstep in the ten-episode arc.
Yet while the series is firing on all cylinders, its endearing lead, Dev, is struggling to focus himself. After a fearful revelation that his long-term relationship with girlfriend Rachel was threatening to put a halt to all his dreams of travel and adventure, the thirty-something actor ended the relationship and hastily traveled to Italy for a three-month pasta making apprenticeship.
The first two episodes of this season chronicle his serene Italian escapades, but the memory of Rachel and looming worries about the return to New York reality still preoccupy Dev. And don't worry: love is still Master of None's bedrock. Modern romance has been Ansari's staple theme through several stand-up specials as well as an entertaining and informative book. The show continues his quest to simply understand the labyrinthine and, if we're being honest, baffling journey to love. There aren't any grand statements here, and Ansari and co-creator Alan Yang don't make any general assumptions. This is a story specifically about the experiences of Dev, and yet, his frustration and elation can strike a chord with anyone.
An overarching romance dominates the season's final episodes, but what still makes Master of None special is its interweaving of the romantic, familial, personal, and professional life. Dev's friends, coworkers, and parents are just as important to his character as his potential partner, and several episodes flesh out these characters. His and Arnold's bromance is consistently hilarious, and Ansari's actual father has an absolute blast portraying his on-screen one, with an energy and attitude that is simply infectious. These are also outlets for the show to approach topics like religion, race, and sexuality with genuine care.
Even though the show's conversational humor and presentation seem effortless, it's obvious that Master of None was carefully crafted to perfection. For one, it's one of the most aesthetically pleasing series in recent memory. From stunning nature shots to impeccably designed interiors to creative lighting in otherwise normal locales, the creators make sure to present the most picturesque elements of both Italy and New York. Plus, it's commitment to conveying food culture makes for mouthwatering dinner scenes, and the music curation is utterly peerless.
But what makes this show truly stand out in the competitive field of television is its bold departures from episodic norms. This season is riddled with dynamic, standout episodes: the premiere is a black-and-white homage to Italian cinema; First Date follows Dev as he takes his matches on a Tindr-like app as they go to the same exact bars, with varying and humorous outcomes; Thanksgiving chronicles the namesake holiday over decades as Dev's friend Denise struggles to come out to her family; and the stunning New York, I Love You tells small stories about random people in a movie theater, reminding us that the faces in a crowd are experiencing life as much as we are.
There's very little to dislike in Ansari's and Yang's work. It doesn't try to answer any big-picture questions, because it knows that nobody has an answer. What it does do is tell very specific stories about generally overlooked demographics, while reminding us all that the human experience is just as mystifying, frustrating, and glorious for others as it is for ourselves. Sure, Dev may be a Master of None, but this show seems to have mastered everything.