[Slight Spoilers ahead]
Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang’s Emmy Award-winning series, Master of None, somehow managed to outdo itself. Last season was refreshing and unique, introducing us to the deeper side of what Ansari is capable of theatrically. Dev Shah is far more fleshed out, and understandably so, than his previous comedic gigs of Tom Haverford (Parks & Recreation, 2009) and Raaaaaaaandy (Funny People, 2009). The series started off as a witty comedy, and towards the end of season one, it started to show signs of a millennial romantic comedy. Then, season two had me emotionally invested in a five-star dramedy. The show’s creators gave me minority-inclusive slices of life into the worlds of diverse characters, in both thought and ethnicity. Simplistic cinematography and filmmaking practices borrowed from the French New Wave makes for an easy watch you’ll find difficult to look away from.
There’s a line in the movie Knocked Up about how real life is just “Everybody Loves Raymond without the laugh track.” This means that there is nothing fun or humorous about adulthood, and when it comes to making big life decisions, serious care should be taken. However, I found even the most hilarious moments in this show to be oddly relatable, and that’s because the show doesn’t tell just one culture’s story. Take for instance, the “Thanksgiving” episode, where we Denise’s (Lena Waithe) journey from childhood while struggling to cope with her sexuality and coming out to her mom. As a black woman with Baptist parents, I was always cautioned to maintain my femininity and that homosexuality is a sin. It was not based out of ignorance, but instead in faith, so it was no surprise that while her mother wasn’t too understanding of her daughter’s truth, she was accepting. Sounds like a touching, heartfelt episode, right? It was, and that doesn’t take away from it being arguably the funniest episode yet. The runner-up for that spot would have to go to the “Religion” episode, in which Dev and his cousin decide to have a very serious talk with their traditional, Muslim parents about their deviated spiritualities, respectively. The show does not dilute the importance and impact of the issues discussed therein.
In fact, I’d like to believe that the humor is what makes this show more relatable. It’s the wry humor that exists within each of the characters that meshes them so well together, and if there is anything that I’ve learned in the professional creative world is that wry humor is a common coping mechanism and method of bonding. Sarcasm and deadpanning is the millennial code switch for intellectuals that can’t be bothered to explain what is universally understood. Which brings us to the use of hyperbolic observational comedy. This is best showcased in the “First Date,” in which the joys and distresses of online dating are the subject. We see the awkward ride home after a failed attempt to make out, and a girl being a complete dick about swiping on her hookup app while still on a date with Dev. Ansari has always been great at comedic timing, and his bold social commentary can be likened to the works of Katt Williams. He says what we’re all thinking, and puts into words that which we cannot always explain.
I was not at all expecting to see Angela Basset or Cedric the Entertainer to have cameos on a show that I assumed to focus on east Asians and the occasional white person, but with the help of a diverse production staff (from Master of None‘s own, Lena Waithe, to Insecure’s Melina Matsoukas), the show was able to accurately display an array of diverse cultures not often considered in cinema. It shows strides towards unity among all minorities, instead of the constant need to prove who’s more disadvantaged in society. In the episode “New York, I Love You” we get short glimpses into the lives of an underappreciated doorman, a deaf lady who wants to be more, er, intimate with her husband and a group of African immigrants eager to have a fun, all brought together to view the fictional move Death Castle. (It should be noted that the Nicholas Cage you hear in this “film” is voiced by the multi-talented Andy Samberg.) We all have it hard and instead of acting like others’ issues don’t compare to our own, we should learn compassion and understand how they differ.
There are so many good things about this season that I can go on and on about for far too long. so let me tell you the one thing that bothered me this entire season: Francesca had way too many episodes. For context, the series starts in Italy on Dev’s birthday, and we’re teased with a promising romance between him and a girl named Sara (Clare-Hope Ashitey). Sara misbooked her reservation at the same restaurant Dev is eating at and offers her a seat at her table. However, Dev has his phone stolen and is unable to contact her, but I had hope. I wanted Dev to go back to that restaurant and get her information, or, since she worked in New York, I wanted them to have another chance encounter and get the opportunity to start over. Nope. Ashitey is a regular character on FOX’s Shots Fired, so I understood there were scheduling conflicts. In steps Fancesca, the complicated foreign aesthetic that doesn’t know what she wants. Coupled with Dev’s hopeless romantic ways, this subplot often frustrated me, but the surrounding action is a great distraction from his character flaws.
The series, which was inspired by European cinema, has developed a style all its own. It is not disingenuous, it is honest and beautiful and comes together beautifully in a way that you wouldn’t have expected ten years ago. It almost makes you forget we had to wait an extra six months for the second season to arrive, and even when you do remember you appreciate the time they put into creating such a masterpiece.
Allore, Master of None is available for streaming on Netflix.