Heartbreak and Reality Revisited
Release Date: May 12, 2017
After a successful first outing at the end of 2015, Master of None returned to Netflix on May 12th for its sophomore season, and it is wonderful television.
In the context of the bimonthly superhero movie and episodic TV dramas we’ve been blessed with over the past handful of years, Ansari and co-creator, Alan Yang’s, creation is as much a breath of fresh air as ever. And in Season 2, Master of None remains an homage to three of the mundane, everyday experiences of the average single millennial: work, food, and relationships.
Things pick up a few months after the end of Season 1, and Dev (Ansari) remains the central figure of the show as he deals with the fallout from the end of the first season (which I won’t go into here to avoid any Season 1 spoilers). Strangely, however, the events of the first season seem mostly disconnected from those of the second, and I felt it entirely unnecessary to revisit the plot of the first season to understand 99% of what takes place in Season 2. And ultimately, it felt rather strange to me for the returning cast of characters to receive so little screen time, almost casually discarding much of those characters’ development from Season 1 in exchange for a more singular focus on Dev in Season 2.
Nevertheless, Season 2 itself does not suffer all that much from this break, even if I was slightly disappointed with the disjunction between the two seasons, and this goes down well enough mostly thanks to Ansari’s and Yang’s imagination and ability to craft and to adapt experiences that are charged with raw emotions that are deeply relatable for their target audience – i.e., millennials.
For example, although certainly an undertone throughout the show, in one particular episode, Ansari challenges modern dating (read: hook-up) culture head-on. In this episode, Ansari questions dating apps like Tinder and echoes the concern held by some that deep-down this modern dating culture is ultimately unfulfilling, even if it has now become a fixture of our time.
Emblematic of the more experimental nature of Season 2’s storytelling, Ansari’s critique of the modern dating scene comes in the form of an episode that splices together a handful of dates into one, cohesive experience for the viewer, subtly jabbing at the formulaic and uniform nature of many romantic experiences in this context.
Though this particular episode’s unorthodox presentation comes off the best of the three or four seen over the course of the season, Ansari’s alternative storytelling methods almost all work well for what they’re used for, whether that be to evoke a certain emotion, focus the viewer’s attention on a specific thing, or something else entirely.
While the experimental ways in which Ansari presents his storytelling may be mostly new to Season 2 (with a few exceptions), much of what was so good about Season 1 remains, and even in the moments where I realized how awkward and mundane the conversations of its characters sometimes are, I quickly forget this again, and am entranced by the realism and authenticity apparent in the show.
In this sense, though Master of None is the TV equivalent of a rom-com, it is quite a mature one, and if you’re like me, you’ll experience the full spectrum of Dev’s emotions, both personal and professional, over the course of the season. For example, though an unrequited love is as cliché as it gets, Master of None feels different, and maybe that is because Ansari’s particular flavor of romance connects so well with my own experiences at such a visceral level.
My only substantial complaint about Master of None: Season 2 is that the overall trajectory of the plot feels nearly identical to Season 1. Though the scenery may change on occasion – as Dev and his best friend, Arnold (Eric Wareheim), scooter through the Italian countryside in one episode – the deep structure feels the same, in particular the romantic arc of Season 2. Again, I don’t want to spoil anything, but if you’ve seen the first season, you’ll be able to perfectly predict what will happen to Dev throughout Season 2, though it hardly diminishes any of the tension in the build-up.
All in all, because Master of None sticks so closely to what it did well in Season 1, Ansari and Yang are able to refine exactly what made Season 1 so great (that is, a mature storytelling that resonates with its viewers), and Season 2 may even surpass its predecessor along this dimension. That, as well as an endearing addition to the cast in the form of Alessandra Mastronardi (Francesca), makes Master of None well worth a watch, even if it does oddly dwell simultaneously too little and too long on Season 1.
The bottom line is that if you loved Season 1 of Master of None, then you will also love its second season for all the same reasons, and if you completely missed Season 1, that’s okay, since you might find that you enjoy Season 2 all the more for it.