Review: 'Master of None' Season Is Wall-Punching Spectacular
As Twitter is wont to say, life comes at you fast. Seeing that Master Of None was returning today to Netflix proved that point, as I thought it would be weeks until the show actually returned. When seemingly fifteen new shows premiere each week, things like “premiere dates” can catch even the most ardent bingewatcher off-guard.
Having seen the entire season, here’s a non-spoiler Q&A.
What was the bar that the second season of Master of None had to clear in your mind?
The first season might have been my happiest surprise of 2015, so yeah, the bar was pretty high. Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang crafted one of the most consistently surprising series of that calendar year, and while I looked forward to more stories told in this world, I wouldn’t have exactly been upset had this been a near-perfect one-and-done season of TV.
So did it clear the bar or not?
Recency bias is a tough thing to work past. But having consumed the full second season in two sittings, I can say that it’s equally amazing, familiar yet traversing new ground at the same time. It’s a show made by two men who learned from some of the first season’s more experimental storytelling techniques and felt empowered to truly let loose even while telling a smaller story this time around.
That’s super vague. Can you be more specific?
Honestly, it’s a bad idea. I know this review is late to the party compared with other sites, but having NO CLUE about what would happen in this season resulted in me going on an unexpected journey, full of side roads and apparent detours that end up painting a more complete picture for their presence.
That didn’t help in the slightest.
Let’s put it this way: Did you enjoy season one? If so, I have no reason to think you won’t love the second season. Ansari and Yang are more confident this time around, taking narrative and structural risks that organically arise from the stories they are trying to tell. In lesser hands, this would seem like art school navel-gazing bullshit. Here, as in season one, everything is driven by a single question: “Why not?” It’s an open-ended question that not only fuels the worldview of Dev Shah, but also serves as a statement of purpose for Master Of None as a whole.
How does this play out?
Functionally, it means that you never have a clue what you’re about to watch when a new episode starts. Some are in black-and-white. Some have overt structural conceits. Some barely have any regular cast members. Some are flashbacks. Some are twice the length of other installments. There are no rules: Ansari and Yang constantly question what’s interesting, vital, strange, and/or wonderful about life, and then explore it in their own way. It’s a show to savor, and that food-adjacent word isn’t used without purpose.
Is this show in Smell-O-Vision?
At times, it feels as if it is. This show is a feast for all the senses, its own form of a tasting menu, in which plate after plate (or in this case episode after episode) is brought out to the surprise and delight of the customer. Sometimes episodes compliment each other. In other cases, episodes serve as palette cleansers. But they are all crafted with sensory experience in mind. You can almost taste the food that’s lovingly prepared onscreen. You can feel the wind rustling across your face while viewing a wide shot depicting an Italian countryside. The attention to detail in this show’s camerawork and editing is designed to make you as inquisitive as Dev, drawing you in to places you normally might not think to venture.
What’s the biggest compliment you can give to this show’s cinematography?
It made this native Bostonian think that maybe New York City would be a fantastic place to live.
How much did it pain you to say that?
So, so, so much.
Do I have to watch the first season to understand the second?
I’d say so, not only because the first season is only five hours long, but the Dev in this season is wholly formed by the events of the first, and his journey in both his professional and personal life over these ten new episodes is filtered through those previous events. (And like I said, that first season is freakin’ spectacular, so why not watch something awesome?)
Is there a romantic subplot driving things along this season again?
I’m not sure if I truly made the connection in the first season, and it’s possible that Ansari and Yang would balk at this comparison, but this second season feels like what Richard Linklater would do if his Before Sunrise trilogy was set in a multicultural melting pot. That’s not a slam on Linklater’s casting choices, nor is it meant to reduce what Master has accomplished. But there’s something about both the camera’s curiosity and the characters’ hyper-literate conversations that makes these two pieces of pop culture resonate at remarkably similar frequencies. These are people hyper aware of the clichés they potentially embody, and yet are romantic enough to risk looking like fools in becoming them anyway.
Are there any episodes that made you want to punch walls because they were so good you couldn’t control your jealous rage over the sheer genius of what was unfolding?
That happened three separate times, and now I need to call a handyman to re-apply drywall in my home office. Damnit this season is good, you guys. Stop reading this and go watch it.
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