By now you’ve undoubtedly devoured Master of None’s terrific second season. From mesmerizing cinematography to a dazzling array of theatrical performances, Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang expanded upon a sensational first season to deliver a top to bottom storytelling marvel that’s as unique in structure as it is impressive in scope. The ten-episode season can be thematically broken down into three disparate, uniquely entertaining sections that combine to make one exceptional season of television.
Master of None is a dish best savored, not binged, and you can enjoy Season 2 in three delectable portions:
Dev’s Italian Adventure (Episodes 1 & 2)
One of the many breakout performances of the season came from child actor Nicoló Ambrosio, who played Dev’s little buddy Mario. Show of hands, who would’ve loved to see more buddy cop-esque misadventures from Dev and Mario? I’d be 100% on board with a Bored to Death-inspired series revolving around these two quarreling buds solving capers and slurping pasta on the mean streets of Modena.
One of the funniest bits of the season is Dev’s insistence on treating Mario like one of his New York City pals, even going as far as to invite the little guy to a wine bar to celebrate his birthday.
“Well, damn. You can still come and hang out.”
Shooting the first two episodes in Italy provided Ansari and Yang with the opportunity to creatively deviate from the norm. Shot in black-and-white, the first episode is a beautiful homage to Vittorio De Sica’s film The Bicycle Thieves. Name me another show that possesses the confidence to begin the sophomore season of their comedy series with an ode to a 1948 Italian film. Maybe Community? And much like the beloved Dan Harmon comedy, the unpredictable narrative nature of Master of None is what makes the series such an immersive delight.
Dev’s New York City Narrative (Episodes 3, 5, 7, 9, & 10)
Half of Season 2 follows Dev’s professional and romantic travails back home in the Big Apple. Now the host of a successful competitive cooking show, Clash of the Cupcakes, Dev is financially secure but creatively stifled. He rejects a long-term contract from COTC and instead embarks on a risky new venture: co-hosting a new food travel show, Best Food Friends (BFF), with Chef Jeff (Bobby Cannavale). While Dev’s vocational woes and his season long romantic arc with Alessandra Mastronardi’s Francesca (which I covered in detail here) are major plot points of the season, the genius of the show is its ability to communicate heart and empathy in small, relatable moments.
Scene-stealer extraordinaire Shoukath Ansari (Aziz’s real life dad) reprises his role as Dev’s affable pops in “Religion” and “Door Number 3.” Following in the footsteps of the rightfully lauded Season 1 episode “Parents,” Master of None not only provides a cogent take on the generation gap in regards to religion, but it also highlights the sad but true fact that many of us don’t really know the specifics of what our parents do on a day-to-day basis. But at the same time, do our parents really know what we’re up to?
“Just play along, man. You’re an actor,” Dev’s dad says to his son when he asks him to pretend that he’s been fasting for Ramadan. “Or you were an actor. I don’t know what you do now.”
When Dev decides to spend some quality time with his father at the hospital, he not only gains some valuable insight into his dad’s professional life as a doctor, but it also offers him a fresh perspective on his own dilemma. Sure, he still hates Clash of the Cupcakes, but it’s a lot better than dealing with a toothbrush in the keister.
Master of None excels at giving underrepresented characters and fresh stories an outlet to shine.
Three Stand-Alone Episodes (Episodes 4, 6, & 8)
The seven episodes that begin with Dev mending his broken heart in Italy and conclude with him pursuing a new romance in New York are some of the best episodic offerings of 2017, but what elevates Master of None to a whole new strata of entertainment is the three stand-alone episodes peppered into the season. Master of None’s indie movie ethos is best represented in “New York, I Love You” and “Thanksgiving.”
In a season filled with bold swings, “New York, I Love You” is the most audacious. In what amounts to a beautiful short film revolving around the lives of a group of heretofore unseen New Yorkers, the principal cast only briefly appear to bookend the episode as we follow a day in the life of a doorman, a young deaf woman, and a cab driver. Handled with a deft sensitivity, the engrossing half hour is an unpredictable trove of humanity. The slice of life that centers on Maya (Treshelle Edmond), a deaf bodega employee, is told in complete silence. Maya’s story, which is shared through the use of subtitles and American Sign Language, is a fully immersive look into a world not often represented on TV.
Combined with “Thanksgiving” — which centers on the challenges Denise deals with when coming out to her family over a series of Thanksgivings — and “First Date” — an episode that follows Dev as he goes on a medley of painfully relatable first dates — these three stand-alone episodes are some of the best short films you’ll see all year.
No show best exemplifies the old showbiz adage “always leave them wanting more” better than Master of None. I want to see more Denise! More Arnold! More Mario! But Ansari and Yang understand that sometimes less truly is more. All three of these wholly original chapters add a new layer of depth to the show and combine to make Master of None Season 2 a unique masterpiece.