Cut from the same cloth as TV shows like Louie and Atlanta, MASTER OF NONE proved itself as a unique comedy with its first season, telling stories through a diverse lens and winning an Emmy for Best Writing for a Comedy Series. With season 2, creators Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang mix experimental storytelling and Euro-auteur panache that doesn’t take away from the comedic sensibilities and socially-minded oeuvre set with their brilliant freshman season.
When we last left Dev (Ansari), he had just broken up with Rachel (Noel Wells) and instead of wallowing in his lovesickness, he packs his bags and leaves New York City to Italy for an Eat, Pray, Love journey. Actually, based on the first episode of the second season, his trip to Italy is more of an Eat, Eat, Eat journey — and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Setting the precedence for the season, the premiere episode title “The Thief” is sure to draw comparisons to Vittorio De Sica’s The Bicycle Thief with its black and white neorealistic charm. Dev has made a home in the small town of Modena where he is learning to make pasta and has a new circle of friends that includes Francesca (Alessandra Mastronardi), a pinnacle of Italian on-screen beauty. Ansari (who directed this and the majority of the other episodes) still manages to build a new narrative for Dev that doesn’t get lost in the fancy schmancy European film aesthetic. In fact, much like the first season, each episode plays out like series of short films. But with this season, Ansari and Yang swing for the fences with style, making ambitious nuggets of narrative that don’t directly involve Dev, rather a tangential storyline that supports the universe he is living in.
All images courtesy of Netflix
The second season’s use of Euro-style filmmaking could easily make it a pretentious TV series that screams, “look at how cool I am because I’m referencing all of this artsy stuff”, but it easily dodges that bullet because Ansari and Yang (who also directed and wrote the episodes) are the exact opposite of that. Rather than use these techniques and style as a gimmick, the duo celebrates storytelling, film, and television with style.
Even though the season starts off with the black and white homage to The Bicycle Thief, the episodes that follow go back to Master of None form with charm, romance, and of course, Ansari’s socially-branded comedy that can be enjoyed equally by Gen X’ers, Millenials, and the bastardized generation in between. After his Italian foodie adventures with his big bud Arnold (Eric Wareheim), Dev heads back to New York and we see the fusion of his acting career and his love for food as he books a major TV gig. As he continues to get over Rachel, he confronts his life as a new singledom in an episode titled “First Date” where he goes on a series of dates. Paralleling his book Modern Romance, the episode perfectly portrays the exhausting, complicated, and sometimes rewarding world of dating in the Tinder age.
Much like the first season, the show doesn’t shy away from cultural identity and socially-minded issues, but it doesn’t shove it down your throat like an afterschool special. Like the award-winning ep “Parents”, Master of None handles relevant subject with grace and humor — particularly in the episode “Religion” which further develops Dev’s relationship with his parents (played again by Ansari’s real-life parents). In the episode, it delves into his connection with his Muslim faith as he introduces his cousin to the world of pork — a big no-no in the religion. Despite all the pork-talk the episode parallels the “Parents” episode of the first season in that it gives a well-articulated story of identity, culture, and family.
Dev may be the center of the show, but Ansari shows his utmost humility with the willingness to sit in the backseat while he gives his co-stars the opportunity to tell their characters stories — and these aren’t just side stories. They are fully fleshed-out emotional narratives that connect with the show’s diversity and intersectionality. Brian’s (Kelvin Yu) relationship with his father is further explored as he gives his dad dating advice — a role reversal that is seldom seen on TV or in the Asian American community for that matter. And in a stand-out episode, Dev’s long-time friendship Denise (Lena Waithe) is put in the spotlight over the course of many Thanksgivings as she comes to terms with her sexuality and comes out to her hesitant mother (played by Queen Angela Bassett).
Master of None delivers a strong follow-up to a season that broke ground in terms of storytelling and the ongoing need of diversity & inclusion in Hollywood. It’s not a diverse cast for the sake of having a diverse cast, the show is a reflection of the world, the people in it, and their narratives. Granted, there isn’t spectacular, groundbreaking acting, but the performances feel real, genuine, and give Master of None a distinct character in an already varied television landscape.
Ansari, Yang and the Master of None collective have really outdone themselves with this sophomore season. It’s bigger, better, and holds an authentic charm that further proves the show as a clever comedic anthropological study of the modern thirtysomething. Layered with diverse perspectives, emotional connections, and absurd laughs, the second season of Master of None will leave you hungry for more — especially with all those pasta scenes.
Season 2, Episodes 1-10 (S01E01-10)
Master of None premieres May 12th on Netflix
Dino watches too much TV, enjoys reality singing competitions and laughs inappropriately during dramatic films. He’s a fan of comedy, podcasts, and comedy podcasts. He’s a reformed comic book geek and thinks “The Goonies” is the best movie of all time. When he isn’t stuffing his face with a burrito, he’s thinking about his next trip to Disneyland.
Follow Dino on Twitter: @dinoray
Keep up with all of Dino’s reviews and stories here.
Dino-Ray Ramos | Staff Writer