The first season of Master of None immediately propelled Aziz Ansari’s critically acclaimed dramedy to being my favorite Netflix original series yet, it’s that good. Though with time it’s slipped slightly from that spot – Stranger Things takes the top spot, and BoJack Horseman just manages to edge it out for number two – it’s remained at a comfortable number three. (For reference, Love and House of Cards round out my top five at a distant number four and five respectively.) Ever since I first finished season one, a day after it premiered, I’ve been eagerly awaiting season two, so when Netflix dropped it yesterday I enthusiastically binged the series in its entirety. After my first complete viewing, I can loudly declare that Aziz Ansari has managed to top the work he did in season one to deliver viewers another fantastically crafted ten-episode story.
In case you want to go into season two completely blind, I must warn you at this point that there are some very minor spoilers below, in terms of episode premises. I don’t discuss anything in enough detail to ruin any surprises, endings, or overall episodes, however.
Season two picks up where season one left off – with Dev (Aziz Ansari) living in Italy and learning how to make homemade pasta after his breakup with Rachel (Noël Wells). While there, he befriends an Italian woman named Francesca (Alessandra Mastronardi) – with whom there are clearly sparks – and her boyfriend Pino (Riccardo Scamarcio). Eventually, he moves back to New York to host a baking competition called Clash of the Cupcakes, which is produced by a wealthy, world-travelling, gourmand called Chef Jeff (Bobby Cannavale) and to obsess over the minutia of New York life with his friends Arnold (Eric Wareheim), Brian (Kelvin Yu), and Denise (Lena Waithe). The season charts Dev trying to find happiness in his life as he reenters the dating world in an attempt to find new love and get over Rachel, and to find meaning in his new reality show hosting job that he’s underwhelmed with. All of this is further complicated when Francesca and Pino move across the pond and Dev finds himself falling deeply for a woman who’s in a relationship with another man.
While season one of this dramedy focused more on the comedic aspects of the show, season two differentiates itself by focusing more on the dramatic aspects. It’s good to see that Aziz Ansari is willing to take risks in order to avoid repeating himself, and it definitely makes for more interesting, unexpected viewing. Season two of Master of None thrives on experimentation, and plays around with different ways to structure and film each episode. This allows each episode to exist as a beautiful tableau on its own, yet still work perfectly within the context of the overall season. The four standouts of the season that demonstrate this more than any other are: ‘The Thief’ – shot entirely on location in Italy in black and white, indulging in the liberal use of subtitles so as to allow viewers to feel as though they’re really in Italy, listening to the locals speak their native language; ‘First Date’ – which documents Dev’s attempts at meeting new women, taking each of them on the same exact same date and switching back and forth between them all seamlessly, charting the progression of each one simultaneously for the audience; ‘New York, I Love You’ – which offers a snapshot of New York life through the eyes of ordinary residents of the city not associated with Dev or his friends, their stories all intersecting along the way; and ‘Thanksgiving’ – which shows audiences a series of Thanksgivings that Dev and Denise spend together from the early ‘90s up through 2017, charting Denise’s progression from childhood, to realizing that she’s a lesbian, to coming out to her family, to her family finally accepting it.
In addition to playing around more with episode formats and taking increased risks, season two of Master of None definitely ups its game in terms of guest stars. Angela Bassett guest stars in the incredible episode ‘Thanksgiving’ (probably the best of the season) as Denise’s mother, who is struggling to accept her daughter’s sexuality – an episode that I predict will garner many accolades come award season, and will also earn Bassett well-deserved recognition as well. As mentioned above, the underrated Bobby Cannavale recurs throughout the season as the cocky Chef Jeff, and other guest stars include John Legend, the masked dance-group Jabbawockeez, Danielle Brooks of Orange is the New Black fame, and Raven-Symoné amongst others. Fans of the first season will also be glad to hear that Aziz Ansari’s real life parents, Shoukath and Fatima Ansari, return to play themselves as well, accompanied this time by Aziz’s infamous cousin Harris Gani, whose name is immediately recognizable to fans of the comedian’s standup.
Similar to the first season, season two feels as authentic as ever, once again making viewers feel as though they’re voyeurs spying on these intimate moments in the life of Dev and his friends. This genuine feeling is essential to the show’s aesthetic and charm, and it is an enormous part of its overall success. This season, however, feels even more personal, which makes the moments of victory and heartbreak resonate with viewers even more deeply. I was glad to see that the supporting characters of Arnold and Denise both received more depth, if not more screen time, and welcomed the new bits of backstory and insights into their lives that this season gave us. It was also nice to see the history of Dev’s own relationship with both characters expanded upon as well.
I must commend the acting across the board this entire season, particularly Aziz Ansari’s work as Dev. The serious themes that are explored throughout the season – including, but not limited to, love, heartache, religion, coming out – really allowed Ansari to stretch his dramatic chops, even more than he was able to during season one. It doesn’t always work when actors known traditionally for their comedic abilities transition to more dramatic roles – the ones that are able to successfully do it like Robin Williams, Jim Carrey, John C. Reilly, Steve Carell, Jonah Hill, and Kristen Wiig are few and far in-between – but Aziz proved this season that he is more than a one-trick pony, and I truly hope that he gets offered more dramatic roles in films and television shows going forward. Eric Wareheim and Lena Waithe also get a chance to exercise their dramatic muscles, in the episodes ‘Le Nozze’ and ‘Thanksgiving’ respectively, and excel with what’s been written for them. Waithe in particular deserves recognition for her work playing Denise through the years as she struggles with coming out to her family and trying to get her family to accept her sexuality.
It is Alessandra Mastronardi in the role of Francesca who is the true revelation of the season, however. Quirky, beautiful, and hilarious, Mastronardi manages to perfectly convey a foreign woman enchanted by a new city, while portraying the struggle of woman who’s with one man but falling for another. Her chemistry with Ansari is essential to the success of this season, and I didn’t doubt for a second the friendship and feelings that developed between the two characters.
If I have one complaint about season two, it’s a small one. As much as I love Mastronardi, I missed Noël Wells’ Rachel. Though the character’s presence looms large over Dev and the entire season as a whole, I found myself missing the authentic, girl-next-door charm that Wells brought to show in season one. As I’m typing this, however, I realize that perhaps that’s the point, because Dev is missing her the entire time as well. I just hope that her cameo in the final episode of the season, ‘Buoana Notte’, indicates she’ll be back full time once again in season three.
Master of None’s second season is a transcendent masterpiece, pushing the boundaries of what a comedy-drama hybrid can be. It deserves all of the critical acclaim it’s been receiving, and I hope that come awards season, it’s not neglected. My big fear is that as this season is more dramatic than comedic, yet not quite a full drama, it will be prevented from winning the ‘Best Comedy’ Emmy.
As for season three, I hope Netflix and Aziz Ansari announce it soon. As there was a year-and-a-half wait between the debut of season one and the debut of season two, I wouldn’t expect it any time in the near future, however. But if Master of None keeps up the high quality of excellence that it’s maintained throughout its first two seasons – which I would expect it to at this point – I know that the wait will be well worth it.
What did you think of Master of None season two? Did you like it as much as season one? Are you anticipating a third season as much as I am? Leave a comment below and let me know!