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‘Master Of None’ Gets One Thing Wrong: Everything Goes Right For Dev

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Master Of None

Netflix’s Master of None is every bit as smooth and charming as its charismatic leading man Aziz Ansari, and it proficiently bounces between sidesplitting comedy and tearjerking tenderness. But now that I’ve finished the excellent Season Two (consider this a pre-emptive spoiler alert), there’s one thing that the show does wrong: everything goes right for Dev.

Season One tackled the specific and oft-overlooked struggle of Indian American actors, and Dev’s relationship with Rachel (Noël Wells) was complex and, ultimately, heartbreaking. Things aren’t easy for Dev in Season Two, as he consistently calls out racist micro-aggressions throughout the stretch of episodes. But since the show meticulously dissects real issues on the reg, it feels weird that the show continually avoids giving Dev any significant and long-lasting conflict when it comes to the show’s plot. Things just keep going right for him.

Take, for instance, Dev’s spur of the moment relocation to Italy at the end of Season One. He just…moves to Italy. Can he afford an international one-way trip? Yep. Do any of his friends or family object? We don’t know. Does he speak Italian? Surprisingly well! What happens to his apartment? It’s waiting for him. Did he sublet it? Who knows? Is he rich enough to pay for two places for an undetermined stretch of time? Apparently! There is a time jump in-between seasons, so maybe Dev struggled for money or fielded bewildered texts from his traditional parents or had to bargain with his landlord. Master of None opts to leave all of that out (in favor of a ridiculously sweet and charming black-and-white ode to classic film). When Dev returns to NYC after a two-episode Italian adventure, his apartment—and his entire life—is just there, waiting for him.

Then, literally 36 seconds after Dev returns to New York, he gets a big job hosting a competition reality show on pretty-much-the-Food Network. Not only does Dev book Clash of the Cupcakes, but they want him to sign him to a 7-season contract! It’s easy to see why this gig goes well for him; Dev is a great host. Clash makes you realize that Ansari would have been a fantastic game show host if his career had gone in a wildly different direction. Dev’s talent doesn’t go unnoticed by the show’s EP Chef Jeff (Bobby Cannavale)—who instantly becomes Dev’s friend! Yeah, Clash of the Cupcakes is kinda lame, and producer Lawrence is a dim bulb, and Chef Jeff turns out to be a horrible skeezebag, but all of those things happen around Dev.

Photo: Netflix

Dev gets fame from Cupcakes, a show known to lift the spirits of chemo patients; Dev tells Lawrence that “PTSD Warning: Pretty Taste Sweet Delights” is a horrible tagline before the network chimes in; Dev finds out about Chef Jeff’s skeeviness and immediately (and awkwardly) distances himself from him—on live TV, in one of the season’s funniest moments. Dev’s always right. He immediately books a big gig, turns down a seven-season contract, and then sells a totally new show to the same network—with his new BFF, a celebrity chef! Dev’s career drives off a cliff in the season finale when Jeff’s exposed as a serial sexual harasser, but that road was pothole-free.

Dev’s relationship with his other best bud Arnold (Eric Wareheim) is also easygoing. Arnold, possessor of the shortest shorts and the gammiest gams, is basically Dev’s hype man. He backs up all of Dev’s hunches with a hearty high five and a fresh line of Arnold lingo. There’s a scene in the penultimate episode where Dev is practicing declaring his love for Francesca with Arnold. Dev gives it one go and, boom: “Bro, that was very powerful. If I’m Francesca, I’m giving you kissies one hundred percent.” Done and done, no need for a do-over!

“Religion” takes a look at how Dev relates to his devout parents. Things get tense when Dev drops a bombshell during a family dinner. Not only does Dev eat bacon, barbecue, and other porcine treats, he’s also not that religious! This upsets his parents and his mom freezes him out for two weeks—which goes by in-between scenesThe episode ends with Dev finally opening up the Quran his mom gave him years ago, and the two reach a mutual understanding about each others’ religious beliefs (or lack thereof) via text message. Their relationship was put back on the right track super quickly.

Master of None feels alive when it allows for major things to go wrong, like in “Thanksgiving.” The episode puts the underutilized Denise (Lena Waithe) in the spotlight as she grows from a 12-year-old tomboy to an out lesbian across numerous Thanksgivings. In 2015’s Thanksgiving, we watch her mom (Angela Bassett!) meet and subtly recoil from Denise’s girlfriend Michelle, and then privately scold Denise for displaying affection for her date. Dev doesn’t have to eat pork in front of his parents, but Denise is—and will always be—gay in front of her mother. There’s no turning that off, and it’s devastating when her mother asks her to. These stakes feel chillingly high. When the episode reaches a positive resolution (at least for this Thanksgiving), it feels earned. And it gave me mad cry face.

Things do go wrong for Dev in the season premiere, “The Thief.” In the beautifully buoyant opening chapter, Dev gets his phone stolen—and it contains a cool girl’s digits! This is seemingly the only thing that goes wrong for him in Italy and therefore makes for captivating viewing. You feel for Dev, thanks to delightful performances from Ansari and the aforementioned cool girl Sara (Clare-Hope Ashitey). In the context of the whole season, though, this one hiccup of luck seems tiny knowing that the show’s OTP is Dev/Francesca.

Photo: Netflix

In Dev’s romance with the engaged Italian Francesca, the show hints that it might be aware of its conflict-free hero’s journey.The will they/won’t they push and pull between Dev and Francesca (Alessandra Mastronardi) makes “Amarsi Un Po” one of the all-time great TV romances, and it highlights the shortcomings of Dev’s P.O.V. When Francesca tells him that she can’t just uproot her life for him, that she has a job and a fiancé and a grandmother all in a tiny town in a whole other country, Dev doesn’t see the conflict. After all, he had no problem uprooting his life! His relationships didn’t suffer for it, he got jobs in Italy and New York easily, and he picked up where he left off when he came back! But Francesca knows it isn’t that easy. That’s why she hesitates.

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Of course the season ends with Francesca pulling a Dev and landing cozily in bed with him—thus continuing Dev’s winning streak.

Master of None gets so much right. The way it shifts narrative focus and offers up so many great parts to so many actors of color is legit revolutionary. Master of None’s scope is universal, and there could seriously be an entire Master-verse. Danielle Brooks’ hilariously no-holds-barred agent could hold down a series, and all three of the vignettes from “New York, I Love You” are basically backdoor pilots. Those characters, I’ll point out, also don’t have it as easy as Dev. They have thankless jobs, scrounge up money for one night in a club (that turns them away), and have serious relationship issues.

If we get a third season, maybe Dev doesn’t land a high-paying gig on a cable network. Maybe Dev’s friends don’t think all his instincts are spot on. Maybe Dev can’t keep his apartment the next time he goes on a sudden life-changing vacay. Maybe there’s something he and his parents aren’t able to agree on. There is something beautiful about the way Master of None sweeps you into its narrative, and that may be because you subconsciously know things are gonna be all right for Dev. Maybe that’s something the show could shake up for Season Three, especially following Dev’s disastrous appearance on the fictional Raven LiveMaster of None is one of the bravest shows on TV. I know it’s up for the challenge of creating challenges.

Watch Master of None on Netflix

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