Time is a fickle thing, or a flat circle if you’re Matthew McConaughey, as we in some way or other kind of measure our lives in time. Think back to your childhood and the innocence you had in a life that revolved around imagination, school, and the lack of bills. Think of adolescence and the riot of hormones, discovering love, and starting to find yourself while also being fully conscience of how embarrassing every little thing about you is. Then there’s your twenties and those formative years where you arguably have the most fun but also start to really learn about yourself. The twenties are the sexiest age when it comes to pop culture. If you sit back and think about it, there really aren’t a lot of stories being told about people in their thirties trying to figure out where the hell they’re going and how the hell they got there because it isn’t sexy. The thirties doesn’t carry the cache of parties and flirtation that the twenties carries. In the twenties you can make mistakes and most likely recover, or worry about it when you’re in your thirties, but when you’re in your thirties you actually have to grow up and accept responsibility. The realness of this age demographic seems to keep writers away. People in their thirties want to watch people in their twenties and remember the “good old times”, but Master of None doesn’t shy away from that feeling. In fact, it relishes in the idea that there is a large audience waiting for something to tackle life in your thirties.
I finished the first season of Master of None in the midst of a huge transitional phase of my life. I was in my early thirties, divorced, living alone while friends were having kids or staying married, sick of dating, but taking the time to find myself. Learning who I was and finding that avenue of happiness. It was exhausting, emotional hard work but I wouldn’t change that for anything. When I started watching the first season of Master of None my immediate thought was, “this show gets it. This show gets my life” and there was such a great deal of comfort in that because my universe consisted of people who didn’t get it or only got a fraction of it. Finally there was a show that was willing to tackle life after your twenties and display it honestly. Not everyone gets the happy ending or the ending they deserve, sometimes life kicks you in the groin and you have to pick up and move on. But that’s okay because as much as you feel alone there are others going through the same exact shit as you. Sometimes it takes watching a television show to clear that up.
Season one resonated so hard with me and I instantly fell in love. The humor was tight and the feels were impactful, and when the show concluded I found that there was a voice out there that represented my age demographic. I had followed Aziz Ansari through his stand-up and work on Parks and Rec, but after season one I saw him as a writer who clearly had his finger on the pulse of what it means to grow up… or attempt to.
With the release of season two I found myself in a completely different place in life. I’m now in my mid-thirties, in the most adult relationship I’ve ever been in, working towards my dream, and happy with where I am and where I’ve brought myself. Having been through a divorce I was anxious to see where season two of Master of None picked up after the break-up. Everything in the show thus far had been depicted with the reality and importance that it deserved, and we all know through experience, that going through a break-up is one of life’s most traumatic experiences. I was still curious to see how Dev would handle it. I trusted the writers, both Aziz Ansari and co-creator Alan Yang, to present me something that I had lived through with fresh eyes and perspective. Echo the feeling of not being alone.
With season two we got that and so much more. So much more. I hate to describe this season as masterful but it’s one of the few words that comes to mind. Annsari and Yang take everything that was funny/real/emotional about the first season and expand on it. They uses those experiences for their characters as a foundation to where they take themselves in season two and it is a beautiful, heartbreaking, endearing, and stunning adventure. Not just from a story perspective either. Season two is artistic in ways that season one was not.
The opening episode, “The Thief”, feels like a short Italian film as it’s shot in black and white with the majority of the episode being subtitled. We meet Dev living in Italy trying to move on past Rachel, the relationship that defined his idea of love, chasing his dream of making pasta while also establishing an identity for himself. “The Thief” is a great introduction to the cast of characters who will eat the majority of story through out the season, and they are presented so casually that they could easily be dismissed as environment characters. You know the type, the ones who show up because you’re in a new location and your regular crew isn’t around to bounce off Dev. “The Thief” is a love letter to Italian cinema and romance, and those themes clearly carry through the entire season.
If you’re looking for stand out episodes you’ll be surprised to learn that a ten episode season has six stand out episodes. I tried to talk myself out of that number but couldn’t find the heart to do so. Each one of these six episodes holds such impact and importance that when it ends you find yourself saying, “that’s the one. That’s the one that’s going to win this show another Emmy”, and then the next episode happens and you find yourself repeating yourself. Season two is story telling at it’s finest because it thrives off of it’s characters. Episodes like “Thanksgiving” (which choked me up) or “Amarsi Un Po” (which hit hard) are effin’ beautiful displays of story telling and television. “Thanksgiving” in the way that it celebrates friendship, sexuality, and family and “Amarsi Un Po” in the way it treats love as this creature that can fill you up or utterly destroy you (also while feeling, again like a small cinematic Italian film). Then you have episodes like “New York, I Love You” that reminded me so hard of BoJack Horseman’s incredible episode, “Fish Out of Water”, in the simplicity and unique way the story unfolds. Where our main cast takes a back seat to the the people that inhabit the city, and in that short time frame we fall in love with multiple new characters while learning that everyone is kind of connected in this life journey… or to Nicholas Cage movies. Expect that episode to come up again when Emmy time resurfaces.
Ansari and Yang continue to display how culturally aware they are with episodes like “First Date” which pretty much summed up what it’s like to date in 2017. That episode was both refreshing and horrifying as I’m pretty sure I’ve gone on a number of those dates. Again this becomes a case of finding solace in art, and Master of None is art, because it’s representing your voice. A voice that might otherwise go unheard because the thirties aren’t sexy enough.
The true beauty of Master of None season two comes in it’s performances/characters. Aziz is so tapped into what makes Dev tick and breath it’s uncanny, and I know part of that is Ansari is Dev, to a degree, but the other part is the man’s ability to breath life into the character he’s created. Dev is sympathetic, loveable, frustrating, and human all wrapped up in quick humor, food, and feels. While a lot of the focus of Master of None can be on Ansari’s writing, I don’t think we can dismiss his acting here. Granted he gets to chew a lot of screen time with Alessandra Mastrondri, Francesca, who is so graceful and clumsy and beautiful and infuriating and heartbreakingly sympathetic. Mastrondri just murders it with this performance. I dare you not to fall in love with her. Daaaaare you.
But that’s not all. Eric Wareheim’s Arnold is just as loveable this season and maybe a little more sage. In a lot of ways he’s Dev’s Yoda which is really interesting to behold. He’s become more than just catchy sayings and big hugs, the advice that Arnold lends is heavy and impactful. Then round it off with Bobby Cannavale’s Chef Jeff, who is the boss you always hoped to have with a performance that suckers you in from the start. The relationship you build with Jeff becomes super important by the finale. Trying not to give any spoilers here.
As far as the finale… it’s fantastic in it’s simplicity and realness. Master of None does not shy away from telling stories in the vein of real life. I don’t know if there will be a season three, I pray to the television gods there will be, but if this is the last we hear from Dev, Francesca, and the rest of the crew then it’s a fitting/frustrating/beautiful send off. Master of None has transcended that line between being pop culture and being something so much more. I think any story junkie wants a story that will make them feel. Give the audience something they can relate to so they don’t feel alone anymore. Master of None has done that for me. This is relatable story telling at it’s absolute finest and the results are beautiful, heartbreaking, and engaging to the point where you want to just thank both Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang for getting it… for getting you.
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