Okay, not really, but you try to get Dev and Arnold’s stupid jingle out of your head.
I enjoyed the first season of Master of None. It had some flaws, and a few episodes were incredibly uncomfortable (Dev is bad at babysitting and Dev becomes a pawn in the power games between a rich white couple come to mind), but overall I thought it was a really engaging examination of the struggles Millennials tend to have in their professional and romantic lives. I wrote before that the arc that Dev’s story follows isn’t totally relatable to me simply because I made some unusual life choices in my twenties (Rachael and I got married when we were twenty-two, and I’ve known for the better part of a decade what I want my career trajectory to look like). Also (and this is something I only realized with this season of the show), I’ve never lived in a big city like New York, and so much of Dev’s life appears to be reflective of living in that kind of environment. Also also, I’m still befuddled by the amount of expendable income he has; dude took three months off from working to fly to Italy and learn how to make pasta, and then when he comes back to America he still spends money like mad. I suppose it’s part of the fantasy element of the show; Dev has lots of struggles, but because his life is lived in social spaces that usually cost money to inhabit we need to hand wave the logistical questions so we can get to the story (this is a sharp contrast from Aziz Ansari’s character on Parks & Recreation who, while certainly more of a caricature of the materialist Millennial, was undercut by at least occasional references to the crippling debt he must have assumed to maintain his lavish lifestyle).
Setting aside my gripes about the peculiarities of how a show portrays Millennials, I did genuinely enjoy the second season of Master of None. All ten episodes in the season are highly engaging, and more than a handful of them are sublime bits of storytelling. The two long arcs of the season revolve around Dev landing a steady job hosting a competitive food show and his pining after Francesca, a woman whom he befriends while staying in Italy and falls in love with despite her having a very long term boyfriend. The romance plot is clearly the primary focus of the season, but the career stuff gets some major attention, particularly towards the end as Dev prepares to launch a new show with a more established television personality and has to deal with the fallout from revelations that his costar is a sexual predator who’s harassed women working on his shows for years. This sequence is one of the season’s high points because it’s communicated clearly that Dev never doubts what he hears from one of his coworkers who was victimized by the dude; we know that Dev has a lot riding on the scandal going away, but (aside from one misstep that’s very clearly unintentional on Dev’s part) he never sides with the dude. It’s nice to see a plot line about a guy who seemed relatively benign suddenly being revealed to be a predator and have another guy react with sympathy for the victims; I like to think this is an extension of the episode from the first season where Dev got 101ed on feminism by his girlfriend at the time.
The Francesca plot line is handled similarly well; Dev has a lot of complicated feelings, and much of his frustration stems from his recognition that Francesca is in a committed relationship and that he has a responsibility to respect that boundary regardless of his own feelings. There’s a ton of ambiguity throughout most of the season whether Francesca reciprocates, and that ambiguity helps build the tension on Dev’s part. One complaint I do have about the story is that because Francesca’s feelings have to remain an unknown quantity in order for the audience to feel invested in Dev’s story, there isn’t a whole lot of time given over to exploring how she’s coping with Dev’s affections. In the third season, whenever they make it, I’d like to see more exploration of how Francesca’s life gets upended by this sudden major decision she has to make.
That’s enough about the main story. The aspect of Master of None that I liked the best in the first season is carried over here; the show’s structural premise is that we’re seeing stories about Dev and people in his life. The creators feel a lot of freedom to take this premise and stretch it so that Dev becomes more of a supporting character in other people’s stories, and those episodes are my favorites. The standouts in this season are easily “New York, I Love You,” an anthology episode where we see three vignettes about people that would usually only play background roles (a doorman at an upscale New York apartment building, a Deaf woman who works the register at a bodega, and a Rwandan cab driver), and “Thanksgiving” which chronicles the Thanksgiving dinners of the family of Dev’s friend Denise (this episode centers around Denise growing into her identity as a lesbian and the gradual changes in her relationship with her family). Neither episode has anything to do with the main plot of the season, but they’re such rich stories. These breaks from the plot highlight one of Master of None‘s chief strengths: the creators approach each episode as having the potential to stand alone as a short film. It helps to know about what else is going on in Dev’s life at any time, but it’s not essential to understand the topics that are being explored in any given episode.
Overall, this season is a far superior offering than the first one, which was still pretty good. Give the whole thing a watch, or at least hit up those side episodes.