Fans of Aziz Ansari’s thoroughly modern romantic comedy have been craving new instalments since the first season dropped on Netflix two years ago — and this ambitious second outing is well worth the wait.
As viewers will recall, Season 1 ended with food lover Dev (Asari) moving to Italy to learn how to make pasta following his breakup with Rachel. And this is where Season 2 begins, in a stylish and charming opener inspired by the classic Italian film “The Bicycle Thief”. The episode, shot in black and white with almost all of the dialogue in Italian, sets out this season’s mission statement; to be bolder and more experimental in how it tells stories.
Fortunately, the action soon returns to New York, meaning we get to hang out with the incredibly likeable supporting cast from Season 1, including Lena Waithe as Denise, Kelvin Yu as Brian, and Eric Wareheim as the “token white friend” Arnold, as well as Aziz Ansari’s real-life parents, who play Dev’s on-screen mom and dad.
As in its first season, Master Of None eschews the typical sitcom format to tell a series of short stories about the lives of Dev and his friends. The themes in this year’s arc are similar; Dev is still trying to figure out who he is and what he wants to do with his life, and he’s still in search of love and romance. Ansari’s disarming portrayal of the character is refreshing in current pop culture; it’s not often we see the male lead showing his sensitive side. And this rootlessness is the source of some of the show’s funniest recurring jokes, from a stint as the host of a trashy competitive cooking show, to a series of disastrous Tinder dates.
Interestingly, two of the absolute highlights of the season are the episodes in which the focus shifts away from Dev, to tell compelling standalone stories. The first, “New York, I Love You” flits across the city to spend a short amount of time in the lives of immigrants working as concierges and cab drivers — with an especially hilarious chapter told from the perspective of a young deaf woman, where the humour of the story is elevated by the use of sign language and subtitles.
The second standout, and possibly the strongest instalment of the entire series, is “Thanksgiving,” which visits family dinners at Denise’s home from the early 90s to the present day. Angela Bassett is unforgettable in her scene-stealing guest appearance as Denise’s mother, who is coldly terrifying and laugh out loud funny.
The dramatic stakes in Master Of None often don’t feel particularly high — one episode hinges on characters hearing spoilers about the “big twist” in the new Nicholas Cage movie. But that’s part of the show’s undeniable charm; watching an episode is like catching up with good friends over a meal and a bottle of wine. Whether you ration yourself, or end up binging the whole thing in one sitting (as I did), Master Of None is a storytelling feast; beautifully shot with nuanced performances which build to a genuinely engaging “will they, won’t they” conundrum.
Aziz Ansari has yet to confirm whether a third season will actually happen, but fans of these warm, witty, deeply human stories will undoubtedly be left hungry for more.