Master of None: Season 2 – A Review

Master of None is one of those shows I pretty much forgot existed until I got a notification email from Netflix saying that season two was now out for streaming. I sat and stared at the email, trying to remember what the hell it was about, but for the life of me I could only remember three things: I remembered I liked it. I remembered that the acting was pretty lackluster at some parts. And I remembered it was funny as hell.

I dove into season two not really knowing what to expect. I’m really glad Netflix is understanding that people binge on a show and forget about it entirely until the next season rolls around. I appreciate the little ‘recap’ at the beginning of every season, just to make sure you know what’s going on. Once I was caught up, it made it a lot easier to understand where Dev, played by Aziz Ansari, was coming from. It was easier to empathize with him after watching it, and it made the season, at least the main story arc, make a lot more sense.

But season two would’ve been just fine as a standalone. There weren’t any moments where you had to know everything that happened in the previous season. When his past relationship was brought up, it’s made clear that he was hurt, so you get the gist of it. It’s just like your past – you can remember the really important parts, but everything else just kind of blends together.

Not only could the season itself have been a standalone, but many episodes could’ve been taken out of the show and stood on their own. Episode four focused completely on Dev’s (and everyone else’s) use of an online dating app, wittily named ‘the app.’ As a person who’s only dated one person for the last eight years, I’ve gotta say that this episode really put the whole ‘modern’ dating thing into perspective for me. It perfectly encapsulated what I imagine dating to be like nowadays, and it made me kind of feel weird about the whole process.

Regardless, the entire episode was just nonstop laughter. From the “I’m going to Whole Foods” line to the racist piece of americana at his one hookups apartment, It was a really great look into modern dating and life in the tech age.

Same with episode eight, titled ‘Thanksgiving.’ This story was beautiful. It was so complex, but so simple. It centered around Dev’s Thanksgivings with Denise’s family, but he wasn’t the main character. Instead, it followed Denise’s discovery of her own sexuality and how her family and friends reacted to it. It did so beautifully. I’m neither black, nor a woman, nor am I ‘Lebanese,’ but this episode gave me a window into a world that I can never see myself.

I feel like Master of None does something that a lot of other shows try to, but don’t ultimately achieve: accurately depict what it’s like to be alive right now. Even from the very first episode of season one, when Dev and his one night stand stop during sex to Google if you can get pregnant from pre-cum, it actually takes its time and setting seriously. It tackles real world issues like coming out to your parents and making tough life decisions about whether or not to take a job that you might not enjoy. Even if you can’t directly relate to these themes, the episodes help you relate to them in their own weird way.

And the show actually respects its viewers. It has all these moments and characters for comic relief that in other sitcoms would be viewed as a joke, but in Master of None, it’s all serious. You know they’re being funny because you laugh, but it’s supposed to be that way. It’s just like real life. Not every moment is serious; not every moment is a joke. Friends sit with friends and have real conversations. Sometimes they’re funny, sometimes they’re not. The writing and character development are all seamless, and it really shows in the end product.

But possibly the thing I respect most about Master of None is the camera work. It’s not shot like a sitcom; it’s shot like an art film. Even the beginning credits are depicted in such a unique, old-timey way. A lot of sitcoms think that they need to change camera angles ever 3 seconds or the viewer will get bored, or that they can’t give to wide of a shot or the viewer will be confused about what they’re supposed to look at, but not Master of None. Each shot is well-thought-out and has a purpose. The camera works with the writing to make you feel things that you wouldn’t otherwise understand.

Take, for instance, the final scene of episode five: ‘The Dinner Party.’ It’s one shot, one song, and zero dialogue. But you don’t need words to tell you what’s happening. You get everything you’re supposed to get out of it just from the music and Dev’s face. You feel all the emotion, all the disappointment, and all the sadness with the simplest camera shot.

The soundtrack, too, works so well with the direction. I get kind of a Wes Anderson-y vibe from it. Most of them are songs you probably haven’t heard because they’re too ‘cool’ (or because they’re foreign), but they work so well with every event they accompany. A lot of soundtracks are just background music, and an equal amount are too overpowering and take over the scene, but the soundtrack for Master of None feels like it’s part of a whole: the music, the writing, and the camera work. Each bit works with the other, not fighting for center stage, but instead wrapping its arms around the other features of the show, embracing each piece to produce a wonderful piece of art.

But for all my praises of Master of None, there are a few negatives. It felt like they were just trying to cram as much story as they could into the final two episodes just because they didn’t do it earlier in the season. Especially episode nine. If they would’ve split that into two parts, I would have felt a lot better about the story’s resolution. It was just such a heavy bit of storytelling that I almost couldn’t handle it towards the end. I really wish they would’ve given some time to take it all in. There was a lot of filler earlier and mid-way through the series that could’ve been cut or shortened (if they were only limited to 12 episodes), but I guess they did what they could with what they had. Can’t complain about that.

And then there’s the acting, but that’s something I can get past pretty easily. The characters are still there, and it doesn’t exactly take away from anything. The dialogue still makes sense, and the characters are all still there. It’s just that sometimes facial expressions don’t match lines, or emotions don’t match the voice that’s going with them, but you can still figure it out without too much effort. I guess that’s what happens when you get your actual parents to play your parents. But that’s part of the charm of it. The characters all seem to know each other. Real life isn’t perfect. We have awkward moments. We don’t say everything perfectly in one take. There are some mess ups, but there are also some really funny bits.

While Master of None has a few hiccups, they’re easily passed by. When I look back on season two as a whole, I hardly remember the bad at all. What I do remember is the humor, the storytelling, and the amazing soundtrack that tied it all together. I’m excited to see what the future has in store for this inspiring show (but I’m sure I’ll forget all about it by the time season three rolls around).

 

Reed’s Review Corner:

Master of None: Season Two

Score:

9.7 pieces of bacon out of 10.

Pros:

Camera work, writing, and soundtrack work perfectly together to form not a television show, but a piece of art.

The setting for some episodes in Italy is superb, and the contrast with New York is fantastic.

Thanks for reminding me what happened in season one.

Cons:

Acting is lackluster at times.

Show seemed off balance. Too heavily weighted on the end of the season.

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