End of Season Report: Master of None, Season 2

30 May

Contrary to the age-old proverb, sometimes absence doesn’t make the heart grow fonder. There are many times when two years between seasons of a TV show, a practice which is becoming more and more common, would cause me if not to lose interest in a show, than to at least somewhat forget about a show, and thus lower some of my enthusiasm for the upcoming season, not because of loss of quality but because of loss of momentum. Sometimes that additional time feels just about right though; a needed break to recharge, and even if you forgot exactly how much you liked a show, or had let it sip from your mind for some months, within the first few minutes you remember exactly why you loved it what you loved about it. So was the case with Master of None.

Master of None, while a clever title on its face actually misleading. Jack of All Trades, Master of None the saying goes; a show that fit that model would be a solid but not spectacular show that could be counted on to reach that set level of quality every episode. Master of None, while a better show overall than the aphorism might suggest,  is in fact a master of some while being not quite as masterful with others. The most gimmicky episodes of this season are TV at its very best while the episodes that focus on the continuing storyline are certainly more than decent but don’t quite reach the same peaks.

Master of None is from the Louie school of comedies. The show is a showcase for ideas, short stories, and vignettes that Aziz wants to tell, in whatever form, using the existing characters in whatever way necessary to get these ideas across. This formula has plenty of benefits, but what it isn’t, because it does choose to jump around so much, is a place for well developed characters and story arcs. When Master of Show brings the boldest and most interesting thoughts from Aziz’s head, it succeed wildly, when it attempts to focus on its characters it’s not bad but it’s certainly on shakier footing.

Two absolute standout episodes were “New York I Love You” and “First Date.” “New York, I Love You” which barely even contains Aziz or any of the regular characters spotlights three vignettes of regular blue collar New Yorkers; managing to in a a very short time tell full and realized stories and add the type of little character details that absolutely maximizes the very short amount of time spent with the three primary characters. “First Date” features interspersed footage of the same first date with Dev and several different women, some successes, some disasters, some in between. This is the best of Aziz’s continuing attempts to get at a modern internet-age millennial rom com. It’s funny and true to the experience; I’ve never seen a better realized example of the experience of going on first dates with people you’ve never met before.

With its ongoing season-long plot, primarily about Dev’s experiences with an engaged Italian woman, Francesca, with which he’s smitten, Master of None isn’t quite playing to its strong suit. Dev isn’t a particularly well-developed character; part of us feeling like we know him relies on our fleshed out sense of knowing Aziz Ansari’s comic persona outside of the show. The often substandard acting on Master of None doesn’t quite work as well in this setting also. While the real people play well in some episodes like “Religion” – when the show enters more traditional rom com territory, the commitment and performances are everything .

The last two episodes (“Amarsi Un Po” and “Buona Notte”) are by no means without merit;  the make up a relatively well-crafted hour and a half movie about ill-timed love and how one deal with it. However, it both hued to convention more than Master of None generally does, and more than that wasn’t even the best example of those conventions –it wasn’t the funniest, or the most heartfelt.

I appreciate Aziz’s willingness to be drawn to whatever’s on his mind, and I’d gladly take 10 more episodes of whatever he’s thinking, even if that means the ten won’t necessarily be equally brilliant, but it was a little disappointing to leave on a moment that didn’t express the very best of what Master of None has to offer.

 

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