We all know him as one of the funniest stand-up comedians, but Aziz Ansari also has an incredibly artistic and deep side. On May 12, Netflix released the second season of his acclaimed show “Master Of None.” Cinematically appealing and thoughtfully written, the series follows the romantic exploits of Aziz Ansari’s character, 30-year-old actor Dev Shah, and incorporates Ansari’s criticisms of love in contemporary society while interweaving his signature charisma.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with “Master of None,” it is a comedy-drama that centers around modern love in New York City and all that this entails for a still-youthful Indian American man who is trying to make it as an actor. While it mainly focuses on Dev’s love life, the show features episodes about other people and themes too—such as family, race, gender, sexuality, religion and work.
As a huge fan of Aziz Ansari’s comedy, I expected “Master of None” to be similar to one of his stand-up routines, but I soon realized that the show was constructed a little differently. While there are parts that are funny, I found the main qualities of the show to be thoughtful and cynical. It has profound messages about the themes it addresses, in addition to moments filled with sadness and drama. It seemed to me that with “Master of None,” Ansari is trying out a new way to uncover truth; rather than always using humor, he conveys his ideas through drama and acting.
The first season of “Master of None” centered on Dev’s relationship with Rachel, a cute and peppy music publicist. Their story begins with an awkward sexual encounter but ends in a full-on relationship in which the two struggle to stay together through their differing lifestyles and conflicting work commitments. It is realistic and poignant, which you cannot say about most popular shows.
Along the way, the show features episodes on the topics of immigrant parents, being an actor of color, sexual harassment and objectification of women. The first season was entertaining and refreshing, as it played up the drama in Dev’s relationship while at the same time trying to broach important topics that are usually ignored in the media.
While the first season was charming, the second season was even better. I felt that the episodes of the second season were composed even more carefully, and the little moments of intensity embedded in each show were particularly striking.
The first episode, “The Thief,” makes a powerful statement about how dependent we are on technology these days when it comes to pursing romance. Dev and a stranger hit it off at a restaurant and make plans to hang out again after he gets her phone number. However, right after he scores her digits, Dev’s phone is stolen. Only knowing the stranger’s first name, he has no way to reconnect with her.
This episode is filmed in black and white in Italy, where Dev decides to live for a few years. It is cinematically alluring and interestingly tragic, yet relevant—a good, unexpected way to start the show. It also provides a window into the difficulties of dating in a modern world. Would we actually be able to function without Tinder or our phones? Probably, but not easily.
The main plot of Season Two, however, is about Dev’s budding romance with someone he meets on his Italian adventure, Francesca. However, the story is complicated as she is engaged to someone she has been dating for 10 years. Moreover, their relationship is an interesting commentary on modern love, conveying a relatable point about how relationships these days are often uncertain and hindered by complicated external circumstances. While this plot is loaded with drama, I thought that the best parts of the show were the episodes centering around other people or social issues. My favorite episode, entitled “New York, I Love You,” is a short vignette exploring social realities. It interweaves scenes from the lives of a doorman who works for a resident who cheats on his spouse to a deaf couple with a flawed sex life and a taxi driver who is an immigrant. The show speaks to the diversity of New York City and shows the intricate ways race, class, gender and ability play out in people’s personal lives.
What I like about “Master of None” and what took me a long time to truly understand about the show is how it didn’t always have a happy ending. Ansari’s statements about social issues aren’t always simple. Many times the episodes end on a sad note in which everything falls apart. Other times, the topic changes, or there isn’t really any resolution to the issue presented.
At first, I perceived this messiness as plot holes, but then I realized I was very wrong—An- sari’s open-ended conclusions were part of his message. These bigger themes about complicated love lives, career success, issues of sexuality and race aren’t easily resolved. Life is filled both with moments of clarity and moments of ambiguity or despair over these issues. In other words, the show did an excellent job of conveying this up- and-down nature of life, something that can make the show seem wishy-washy at first but actually made for a very beautiful, tragic and relatable season.
One small criticism of the show has to do with the acting. I felt that Ansari definitely improved in Season Two, but his parents in the show. who are actually played by his real-life parents, were noticeably bad actors. However, I must say that despite their bad acting, the fact that Ansari incorporated his real parents was kind of endear- ing, as it made you see how personal the show is to him.
Overall, I definitely would definitely recommend “Master of None.” It is relatable, dramatic yet cute, nicely composed and presents a refreshing perspective. If you check it out, make sure to stay tuned, because Season Two is even better than Season One.