One of the most stylish and delicious comedies on TV is finally back.
Why does anyone use Tinder? Or meet at bars for first dates? Or do any number of things that we—we being city-dwelling, FOMO-fueled, generally worldly and well-educated young single people—have just sort of accepted as normal in life and romance? Across stand-up specials, a nonfiction book, and the hit 2015 Netflix series Master of None, comedian Aziz Ansari has made a career out of cultural curiosity, hilariously and empathetically examining both his behavior and that of his generation in search of….well, I’m not sure. But fortunately for us, that search has led us all to a second season of Master of None, and another ten episodes of thoughtful, delicious, and very funny television that you should clear out some time to see this weekend.
Like in its first season, Master of None continues to be of two minds. On the one hand, you have the experimental, free-form series that treats its episodes like short films, occasionally breaking from its own already-loose conventions to deliver wonderfully constructed, distinct contemplations on religion, or first dates, or dating as an older person. On the other, Master of None is about the romantic exploits of Aziz Ansari’s Dev Shah, a commercial actor who really, really, loves food. In Season Two, Master of None continues on these two parallel tracks, with its experimental half getting more experimental, and its Dev-centric half getting more focused and less free-wheeling.
This duality to Master of None is probably necessary, as the show’s tendency towards thematic, standalone episodes makes it one of the least compulsively-bingey Netflix originals out there (not to say that’s a bad thing), and the desire to have some sort of throughline isn’t inherently a bad one. One of the joys of Master of None is the way its used Dev’s ongoing romantic and professional struggles to build out delightful cast of friends and family, from childhood friend Denise, to lovable giant Arnold, and of course, Dev’s parents, Ramesh and Nisha—played by Ansari’s real-life parents. Having a running plot that allows all these characters to intersect with Dev at different points—and occasionally focus on them—is what helps make the show so fun to watch. It does, however, stand in contrast with Master of None‘s artier ambitions to make big creative swings in standalone episodes, which it sometimes misses (in the underwhelming “Religion”) and other times knocks out of the damn park. (Everyone is going to be talking about “New York, I Love You,” and “Thanksgiving.”)
In some ways, it’s a lot like Girls or Louie, painting a portrait of New York City that allows it to explore all sorts of ideas through the eyes of a central creative voice. In this, Aziz Ansari and co-creator Alan Yang do a lot to elevate Master of None above its contemporaries, simply because their lens is wider. This show is one that acknowledges the limited perspective of its protagonist and goes beyond it, and frequently widens its scope to wrestle with religion, family, race, sexuality and class—often all at once. But the show’s need to build itself around Dev’s romantic life often weighs it down, feeling like a long look backwards while the rest of Master of None leaps forward, eager to try all sorts of things.
Throughout the entirety of Master of None, however, Ansari has never wavered from the central curiosity at the heart of what makes the show tick, making a point to stop and look up from all the swiping, Yelping, and tapas-dating of modern urban life and ask why are things this way? There is value in asking these questions, and the perspective Ansari brings to them is a needed one. However, Master of None is more curious than critical, and while that attribute is integral to its unique voice, it might be time for the show to stop settling for asking questions, and maybe try answering a few.