Part of what makes “Master of None” a delightful, refreshing viewing experience is how in 10 episodes, co-creators Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang continue to find new ways to surprise the audience. Whether it’s a bluntly funny song choice, the casually incorporated use of black-and-white footage, a telling change in perspective, several telling changes in perspective, or an unexpected arc in the story itself, the Netflix original series feels informally formal. It’s gorgeous, deep, and with style to spare, but the narrative flows without force, moving from topic to topic with the ease of young lovers lost in a date they never want to end.
So why spoil it?
I won’t, but suffice to say, Season 2 is as carefully constructed as it is appears to be carefree. Ansari — who wrote or co-wrote every episode and directed two-and-a-half hours of the 10 episode second season — has infused more of himself into his follow-up season, and the personal touch pays massive dividends by the time we cut to black for the final time.
That’s not to say fan favorites have disappeared — far from it. “Master of None” remains a series of short films (and I do mean films) tied together by common characters and the passage of time. Season 2 follows through on the final twist of Season 1, starting with Dev (Ansari) living in Italy and studying how to make the perfect pasta. Rachel (Noel Wells) hasn’t strayed far from his mind, but Dev is doing his best to follow through on the biggest decision of his life: Leaving acting behind, moving to Italy, and seeing where his passion for food takes him.
It’s fitting thinking of Season 2 in this fashion: Season 1 focused on the indecision plaguing Dev and how his lack of declarative choices led him down similar paths, or at least didn’t push him toward new ones. By making the leap to Italy, both Dev and “Master of None” are given ample motivation to move on. Not from the characters or their passions — Season 2 still has plenty of foodie talk, amateur app analyzation, and Aziz’s father (breakout funnyman Shoukath Ansari) — but they’re liberated from the temptation of retreading on covered territory.
For example, Ansari and Yang find a new avenue into exploring the generational rift between millenials and baby boomers after brilliantly introducing the discussion in “Parents,” Season 1’s award-winning second episode. In Season 2, they dial in on one subject. While certain moments can feel a bit pat, Ansari’s comedic stylings break up convenient summations with colorful humor. Just when something feels too cutesy, there’s a loud joke to make it better.
And Ansari doesn’t stop examining the divide after one episode, instead breaking out the theme across Season 2. The best of the lot comes in the back half when Lena Waithe takes the spotlight as a co-star and co-writer. Her story provides a varying perspective on parent-child relationships that Ansari, and many of us, don’t have. Human, moving, and cathartically funny — like a needle popping a balloon — Waithe’s episode serves as a standout of its own accord as well as a respite from Dev’s serialized story.
But for as talented as Ansari remains as a supporting actor — a role he mastered over the course of “Parks and Recreation” — what really sets Season 2 apart is his character’s through line. Dev’s Season 1 journey was aptly exploratory, and now Dev is dialed in; more aware of himself, his needs, and his desires. Ansari seems to be as well, as the Emmy-nominated actor feels more comfortable on camera when the comedy is turned down and the sincerity is left to sit.
Without giving away any of the finely placed details, Ansari excels as a tortured soul, while Dev subverts stereotypes about the onscreen allure of tall, dark (read: white), and handsome romantic leads by building one of the most honest, moving, and unpredictable love stories in recent memory. He and his partner burn down the screen with their chemistry and do so without falling back on steamy sex scenes or pandering to the audience. They build heat the old fashioned way, and it feels as authentic to reality as it does to the honored genre.
Like the art house cinema it pays homage to throughout, “Master of None” isn’t here to propagate myths. It’s striving to find truth. And what’s uncovered in Season 2 is a lot like the life Ansari and Yang expertly recreate: surprising, enriching, and oh so divine.
“Master of None” Season 2 premieres Friday, May 12 on Netflix.