I may be biased because I tend to love everything Aziz Ansari does, but Master of None Season 1 was such a treat in the often repetitive TV universe that I was definitely apprehensive going into Season 2. What if Season 1 was the peak? What if riding on the success of Season 1 they took things too far?
Thankfully, my worries were quickly alleviated. Season 2 continues to take subtle risks that match what the viewer has come to respect and appreciate from the show’s creators. For instance, the entire first episode takes place in black and white, a bold choice considering they’re in Italy and the city of Modena would translate beautifully in color. Aziz’s character Dev is the main character, however, there are episodes where he gladly takes the backseat and allows other story arcs to shine. Most importantly, the show doesn’t shy away from uncomfortable topics such as religion, sexism, dating in the world of too many choices, and race.
I could go into an episode by episode play but I think one episode in particular, the New York, I Love You episode, is a great example of why Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang’s storytelling is so phenomenal and important. As titled, the episode is a love letter to NYC and the many people and experiences that give it life. I’m as much a victim of the classic ‘millennial girl trying to make it in NY’ storyline as the next person, but let’s be real – there’s an abundance of opportunity for diverse storytelling that Hollywood and mainstream media just doesn’t take full advantage of.
In fact, this episode artfully pokes fun at this trend multiple times. The first story arc focuses on the doormen of one NYC apartment building. We see how the doormen are often confused for each other, overlooked, or simply taken for granted. However, when taken away from the lens of their residents, we see their personalities shine.
We then smoothly transition to a young deaf women named Maya who works at a Bodega. The eyebrow raiser here is that her entire storyline takes place without any sound. That’s 8 minutes of a 28 minutes episode that has absolutely no sound. I love that as the viewer we did not get score music to make us more comfortable. The story was her’s and it was told through her lens. I also appreciated that the story did not focus on her deafness per-say, but we instead watch her take on an embarrassing but very relatable challenge in her established relationship: tackling the expectations of her and her boyfriend’s sex life.
Our conflicted couple take off and we are next introduced to two white females entering a taxi. Here’s where the show again pokes fun at the Hollywood norm. Our assumption is that these two girls are the next story arc, however, the sound in the episode does not resume until the girls are settled in the taxi and the first person to speak is the taxi driver. The girls begin their aimless chatter and we see how the taxi driver is frustrated that passengers forget an actual human is driving them places.
We go home with the driver and are introduced to his roommates, a group of immigrant men working miscellaneous jobs throughout the city as they try to find their footing. We follow them through an unsuccessful night out that eventually takes a turn for the better when they end up at their roommate’s burger shop with some new friends. The story arc ends on a high note as we’re all reminded that the best of nights are often the ones that go unplanned.
The group ends up at the movie theater to see Death Castle, the film that’s teased throughout the episode, and we are reunited with every story from the episode as the characters are all in the theater. Everyone is watching the same movie, showing no matter who you are or what you’re doing, there’s always a shared experience that comes with living in New York.
The sentiment may be cheesy and overdone, but Master of None brings it forth in such an honest and elegant way. This elegance and honesty is repeated throughout the series to the point where as a viewer, I’m left slightly uncomfortable with the realities I’m forced to face, but not uncomfortable enough to miss appreciating the beautiful depiction of humanity. And it helps that the soundtrack and cinematography are kickass. If you haven’t watched the show, I highly recommend it!