While many Netflix shows dramatically straggle on for hours on end, Master of None takes a brisk detour from the typical nail-biting, tear-shedding TV dramas. Originally created by writers Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang, Master of None returns to Netflix for its second season.
The season initially takes place in the land of wine and pasta—Italia. The first episode opens with a black-and-white montage of Dev’s (Aziz Ansari) morning routine in the tiny town of Modena, where he works at a pasta shop. He sips espressos with his new Italian friends and trades quips with his sidekick Mario, a sharp-tongued, chubby-cheeked, local kid. Working alongside Dev in the pasta shop is Francesca (Alessandra Mastronardi), the granddaughter of the pasta shop owner and an integral story-arc character.
The cinematography is playfully reminiscent of old Italian neorealist films (Bicycle Thieves, La Dolce Vita, L’Avventura) but the dialogue and storyline remain true to the quirky modernism of Master of None. Each episode is delivered in palatable half-hour morsels, making it easy to binge-watch the whole season in two days (it’s only 10 episodes). However, it is perhaps better to steadily pace through the season and relish in the witty banter between characters. But that’s not to say the comedy series doesn’t have its tender moments.
Master of None skillfully captures the nuances and idiosyncrasies of day-to-day life. It doesn’t attempt to disguise awkwardness (or exaggerate it) or dramatize heartbreak. Instead, it embraces the natural complexities of human interaction and emotion, displaying these moments as if the viewer were merely peeking into one part of someone’s life.
Although the main character is arguably Dev, not all of the episodes revolve around him. He is in every episode, but is sometimes in the background of someone else’s story rather in the foreground of his own. One example of this would be in the stand-alone episodes, “Religion,” “Thanksgiving,” and “New York, I Love You.” Each episode tells an individualized story, and is shot and edited like a mini indie flick rather than a television series.
For instance, “Thanksgiving” tells the coming-out story of Dev’s friend Denise (Lena Waithe) through a 30-minute layout of Thanksgiving dinners that spans over thirty years. The episode explores sexuality, friendship, and family tensions, but like many of the episodes it doesn’t necessarily provide a concrete answer to anything. Rather it exhibits the various intricacies of life and subtly grapples with the broader social meanings.
Cunningly quirky and shrewdly perceptive, Master of None delivers a strong comeback for the second time around. The relationship between friends Dev and Arnold (Eric Wareheim) continues to provide laugh-out-loud comedy, and the filming and editing of the episodes are as crisp and lively as ever. The season pushes forth as an exploration of both the personal and professional moments that line our life. It doesn’t glorify milestones, rather it acknowledges the banal moments in life that are just as important—“foot-stones,” we might call them? The show swirls issues of race, diversity, religion, sexuality, and Internet dating into a well-executed season. Master of None lives up to its first-season reputation and returns with a strong follow-up.