×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

TV Review: ‘Master of None’ Season 2

The Netflix comedy from Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang returns for a second season with even more storytelling confidence for 10 poignant, lovely vignettes

With:
Aziz Ansari, Eric Wareheim, Lena Waithe, Kelvin Yu, Lakshmi Sundaram, Alessandra Mastronardi, Zach Cowie

Netflix’s wonderful “Master of None,” despite its push toward a narrative arc at the end of its Emmy-winning Season 1, does not have much more of a story for Season 2. Or to be exact, it does, but it’s a rather subtle one. The auteur-ish half-hour comedy created by Alan Yang and Aziz Ansari was consciously created in the style and mold of “Louie,” FX’s groundbreaking comedy following the nearly true adventures of its lead actor/writer/director, Louis C.K. As such, “Master of None” is a collection of magnificent, semi-autobiographic, loosely connected vignettes. To use its lead character Dev (Ansari)’s favorite pastime as a metaphor, it’s an elegantly presented, thoughtfully created, and sublimely delicious 10-course tasting menu.

But in the manner of high-end restaurants, it’s not exactly filling. “Master of None” is a feast for the senses but not always a satisfying one; nothing really ever happens. And unlike “Louie,” a show designed around interrogating the odd lull of middle age, “Master of None’s” characters are young, active, and actively searching: Dev, at its center, is looking for some combination of romantic love and career fulfillment, while trying to process the fact that he is privileged enough to prioritize the highest echelon of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. In the second season especially, “Master of None” is a tour of upper-class existentialism — albeit a particularly beautiful one. There already was a similarly cinematic show called “Looking,” but “Master of None” could be called that, too. Especially in this second season, as Dev travels to Italy to find himself, only to find the same problems that plagued him in New York — loneliness, missed connections, existential confusion, and the persistence all the while of great food.

The show’s use of food — and its importance to Dev — continues to be decadently central to the show. The creators share their lead’s enthusiasm for food, and have both joked that making “Master of None” is a wonderful opportunity to sample food in some of their favorite places: New York City’s numerous dives and fine dining, and in Season 2, Modena, Italy. Sometimes the food is so central that it is almost distracting: The lush food porn of something like “Chef’s Table” (called “Jeff’s Table,” tongue-in-cheek, in the show) takes up much of “Master of None’s” visual storytelling. It’s scrumptious, and a little sad: The food, no matter how indulgently enjoyed, can never quite be enough to fill the void of meaning that Dev so lightheartedly struggles with. The rich food is both an example and a stand-in for the incredible luxuries available to Dev, as an up-and-coming young creative. But it’s not enough for happiness — and in the second episode, Dev gets a new job hosting a cooking competition show that underscores the vast gulf between the aesthetic sensibilities he’s been busily refining and what shells out a good paycheck from week to week.

The story of “Master of None” is one of Dev’s continued becoming, which is both fascinating and strange in its sustained anticlimax. In the second season, both Yang and Ansari seem more confident of their talents: The direction in particular is much more engaged and considered, in what appears to be homage to the creators’ favorite films. It’s not exactly groundbreaking to nod to the French New Wave or the golden age of Italian cinema, but it’s lovely: The premiere episode, “The Thief,” is shot entirely in black-and-white on the sunlit streets of Modena. Poignantly, the choice of film both heightens the homage to a bygone era of filmmaking and exacerbates the contrast between Ansari’s dark skin tone and the largely white Italians around him.

It may sound simplistic to say that above all, “Master of None’s” successes are in the realm of its aesthetics. But by centering a sincere love for the art forms of the past around the experience of an American-born Indian immigrant, “Master of None” offers the kind of implicit commentary about universal life experiences and shared humanity that “Hamilton” made so popular on Broadway. What the show is best at is finding a surprisingly accessible language of the incontrovertibly beautiful and definitively cool — whether that is the ‘70s funk that scores the credits, the dishes that accent its meals, the cinematic grammar that it uses for its storytelling, or the self-deprecating but astonishingly intimate lens it turns toward its characters.

There’s a phrase among South Asian immigrants — “ABCD,” for American-Born Confused Desi. Like “fresh off the boat,” it’s a phrase used by the immigrant community that is both sympathetic and derogatory (and has spawned a couple of films on the topic). It’s relevant for “Master of None,” because Dev approaches the world with such continued wide-eyed wonder — examining, this season, love and culture and religion and community with the same blank-slate curiosity. Ansari and Yang are both first-generation immigrants, and much of that is packaged into the show’s storytelling — with so much accuracy that, for this ABCD, it’s sometimes painful. But “Master of None” is keen to integrate this niche experience with the wider world, which is not hard in this nation of immigrants. It makes for a particularly moving second installment of Dev’s wanderings through the world, asking always the immigrant’s sad and beautiful and perpetual question: “Who am I going to decide to be?”

TV Review: 'Master of None' Season 2

Comedy, 10 episodes (6 reviewed): Netflix, May 12. 30 min.

Crew: Executive producers, Alan Yang, Aziz Ansari, Michael Schur, Dave Becky, David Miner

Cast: Aziz Ansari, Eric Wareheim, Lena Waithe, Kelvin Yu, Lakshmi Sundaram, Alessandra Mastronardi, Zach Cowie

More TV

  • Naomi Watts

    Naomi Watts to Star in Jason Blum-Produced Quibi Series 'Wolves and Villagers' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Naomi Watts has been cast in the lead role in the upcoming Quibi series “Wolves and Villagers,” Variety has learned exclusively. The exact plot of the short-form series is being kept under wraps, but Quibi co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg has previously described the show as “Fatal Attraction 2.0.” Jason Blum is executive producing the series, with [...]

  • HBO's 'Breslin And Hamill' Documentary Drops

    HBO's 'Breslin And Hamill' Documentary Drops Trailer

    “Revolutionary,” “superstars,” “the voice of true New Yorkers” — that’s how Spike Lee and other influential figures describe journalists Jimmy Breslin and Pete Hamill in the trailer released for HBO’s “Breslin and Hamill: Deadline Artists” documentary. The film, which premieres Jan. 28 at 8 p.m. ET/PT, follows the two newspaper columnists whose dedication and wit [...]

  • Riverdale Chapter Twenty-Six

    TV News Roundup: 'Riverdale' Sets 'Heathers' Musical Episode

    In Thursday’s roundup, “Riverdale” is set to tackle “Heathers: The Musical,” and Freeform has announced its second annual summit. DATES  More Reviews Film Review: 'Pledge' TV Review: 'I Am the Night' The musical episode of the CW’s “Riverdale,” featuring nine songs, will air Wednesday, March 20 at 8 p.m. ET/PT. On the show, Riverdale High School takes [...]

  • The Bone Collector

    NBC Orders 'Bone Collector' Drama Pilot 'Lincoln'

    NBC has ordered the drama pilot “Lincoln,” formerly known as “The Bone Collector.” Based on the internationally bestselling book series, “Lincoln” follows legendary forensic criminologist Lincoln Rhyme, who was seriously injured during his hunt for the diabolic serial killer known as the Bone Collector. Called back into action when the killer re-emerges, Lincoln forms a [...]

  • Netflix - Apple TV

    Netflix Turns in Record Q4 Subscriber Gains, Price Increase Weighs on U.S. Forecast

    Netflix is beating Wall Street expectations for international subscriber growth — but its recently announced price increase in the U.S. may have put a damper on its momentum in the States. For the fourth quarter of 2018, Netflix reported 1.53 million paid net adds in the U.S. and 7.31 million internationally, to end the year [...]

  • vudu-free-movies-tv-shows

    Walmart Brushes Off Reports of Streaming Development Halt

    Walmart isn’t ruling out options for a potential streaming video service, a company spokesperson says. Responding to a CNBC report that the mega-retailer had decided not to launch its own streaming entertainment service after all, Walmart would not confirm that there was any halt in development of such a platform, and did not have anything definitive [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content