May 19, 2017 by Devan Suber
The rise of streaming services have provided a wealth of new shows that bring new viewpoints and ideas to the table. Netflix has been a blessing, providing shows as varied as depressed horse comedy “Bojack Horseman” to the women’s prison show “Orange Is The New Black.” But the most subtly ambitious of these was revealed to be Aziz Ansari’s “Master of None,” its second season finally dropping May 12 after its 2015 premier.
The show initially followed Ansari’s Dev, an actor trying to make a living in New York, as he fell into a relationship with Rachel, played with magnificent chemistry by Noel Wells. While their central relationship formed the bulk of the serialized plot, it was the little things that made “Master of None” such a delight: the performances of Dev’s friends (Eric Wareheim, Kelvin Yu and MVP Lena Waithe), his casting of his actual parents, the way it could confidently switch between romantic comedy and a deeper social issue like “Parents” or “Indians on TV.” Not to mention the show is consistently unique and funny. Somehow, Season 2 has gotten bolder, more ambitious and even more confident and self-assured in its voice. This is truly a masterpiece of television that can’t be missed.
Season 1 was a naturalistic, even cinematic rom com whose boldness came out in the aforementioned episodes. The latter delved into the issues of Indian representation on TV, simultaneously rebuking the idea that too many characters like Dev make it an “Indian thing.” As socially conscious as it could be, it wasn’t too dissimilar from dark comedies like “Louie” or even “Girls.”
The first episode of this season sets out to tear down any preconceived ideas the audience might have: the premiere breaks from the format by shooting in black and white, while paying homage to Italian classic “Bicycle Thieves” through a plot in which Dev gets his phone stolen.
Afterwards, it becomes the kind of show that feels confident enough to give us an episode that not only follows characters completely unrelated to the main cast; it also drops us into an eight-minute stretch following a deaf character that features no sound and is entirely subtitled. What’s even more incredible is that Ansari and co-creator Alan Yang are able to sustain their voice and make these sidestories into characters we wish could have their own show.
The magic continues in the other season standout “Thanksgiving” — co-written by Ansari and Waithe — that follows the friendship between Dev and Waithe’s Denise as the latter comes to terms with being a lesbian over the course of several Thanksgivings with Denise’s family.
The performances from Season 1 could vary from great to a little creaky in their naturalism, and Ansari’s here follows suit (though he has gotten a little more confident). Perhaps the most unexpected has been that of Ramesh, who is played by Ansari’s actual father Shoukath Ansari. It’s easy to see where Aziz’s sense of humor comes from when you see his dad on screen. Blessed with expert timing on lines like “What is this, Fox News? Why am I being attacked?!” Season 1 gave us an insight into their relationship and the trials Ramesh faced coming to America, but here, he’s free to just be as funny as he wants. This leads to some of the most laugh-out-loud moments in the series, next only to Denise.
The one low note among all this is that of Francesca (Alessandra Mastronardi), Dev’s paramour from Italy who briefly travels to New York City. She gives a pleasant enough performance, and the two have decent chemistry, but she pales in comparison to Well’s performance from last season, and one can’t help but compare the two. It doesn’t help that she never quite gets as much character as Rachel, even with an hour-long episode devoted to their relationship. Still, if that’s the only thing to complain about, there’s a pretty great series wrapped around it.
Ansari has gone back and forth on whether he wants to make a third season. If he did, it would be wonderful to see what new places he and Yang could take the show and what stories they could tell.
If not, then they’ve left a pretty great legacy in these 10 episodes. You would be remiss to not catch this while it’s hot, but any time you watch it, it’s a humanistic and frequently funny season, equally comfortable in confronting being a non-religious Muslim or the woes of the first date. Not to mention all the pasta you get to see on-screen.