Over the course of just 10 episodes, the first season of Netflix’s “Master of None” won over audiences’ hearts with its relatable and genuinely funny musings on love, loneliness and the all-encompassing struggle of being a millennial.
A year and a half later, the second season of “Master of None” is, surprisingly, even more engaging and downright funny than the first, expertly leveraging the show’s wonderfully unique characters to create new twists in the classic TV sitcom formula.
Season two picks up a few months after Dev’s (Aziz Ansari) harrowing breakup with Rachel (Noël Wells) at the end of the first season. Now living in the small town of Modena in Italy, Dev befriends bubbly art enthusiast Francesca (Alessandra Mastronardi) and her fiancé Pino (Riccardo Scamarcio), perfecting his pasta-making skills as an apprentice to an actual Italian grandmother.
Continuing the standard set by the first season, “Master of None” remains the vision of sophisticated storytelling entwined with timely humor. In a homage to classic Italian films of the mid-20th century, the season premiere is presented entirely in black and white. Blissfully riding a bike down the cobbled alleyways of a town lost in time, Dev is the embodiment of an existentialist European hero — except for the fact that he’s Indian.
This tiny deviation gives viewers a glimpse into the theme of the show’s second season — that identity is necessarily intricate. The real Dev is a complex character who remains unbounded by the stereotypes that exist on the fringe of his identity — he’s a goofy but simultaneously sincere millennial floundering at the thought of his impending future.
The remainder of the season follows Dev as the 33-year-old contemplates the meaning of his life and moves back to New York to reenter the television industry — and to try his hand at love again. Playing to its strengths, “Master of None” uses the emotional depth of both Ansari’s character and the show’s stunning ensemble of supporting characters to create meaningful conversations.
In fact, it is the subplots chronicling the inner conflicts of Dev and his friends Arnold (Eric Wareheim), Brian (Kelvin Yu) and Denise (Lena Waithe) that reveal the true genius of “Master of None,” even through season two revolves primarily around the complexities of Dev’s relationship with his new love interest.
While the first season used blunt comedy to explore challenging themes such as growing up as an immigrant or having an LGBTQ+ identity, the second season approaches these subjects from a more sensitive lens, conferring a newfound emotional depth to the show’s characters.
Where season one relied on humor to bring to light Dev and Brian’s struggles to appease their immigrant parents — or Dev’s sudden realization that racism and sexism run rampant in the entertainment industry — season two takes a subdued but more powerful approach to discussing similarly complex topics. Namely, the plot shifts to center on the emotional struggles that precede some of the show’s most hilarious moments, such as Arnold’s declaration of his love for his ex-girlfriend at her wedding.
In this way, season two scratches beneath the surface of its characters — from Arnold’s happy-go-lucky attitude to Denise’s apparent confidence in her personal identity — to reveal the deeper motivations of each character
Nearly every joke or funny moment in the season takes on a previously unseen depth, cementing the relatability of the show’s realistically flawed characters. With a new level of emotional complexity that was somewhat absent in the show’s first season, Dev’s diverse band of friends use humor to get through issues ranging from upholding spiritual beliefs to appeasing the looming fear of growing old alone.
It’s this rare diversity represented in the characters that grace “Master of None” that allows the show to surpass a slew of TV sitcoms, creating a story that is both funny and meaningful. In its second season, the show hones in on this unique perspective, using it to develop a space in which an Indian-American man struggles to act on his feelings of love, or a black lesbian woman fights for her mother’s acceptance.
Season two remains timely and unique for this particular approach to diverse stories: the show tackles ordinary stories through the lens of diverse perspectives, accurately capturing the consequences of existing outside of the norm but from an often hilarious angle.
“Master of None” is not a comedy surviving on the backbone of subpar tropes: the show is a sophisticated and beautiful amalgamation of unique comedic elements that reaffirms the genius of the writers Ansari has brought together as showrunner. A talented writer, actor and producer, Ansari brings his characters to life in a timeless manner, cementing the show’s success once again.
Manisha Ummadi covers video games. Contact her at [email protected].