Contains spoilers for series one of Master Of None, and mild spoilers for series two.
YouTube: Master of None – Season 2 | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflix
After a hugely successful first series, Aziz Ansari’s semi-autobiographical Netflix Original, Master Of None, returned for its second series on Friday. The first series achieved great acclaim for its portrayal of modern romance, minorities, and immigrant families, and won a Primetime Emmy in 2016 for Outstanding Writing For A Comedy Series.
A strong first series is something that many of my favourite shows have failed to achieve, and Master Of None’s first series remains my favourite opening series to any sitcom.
On the back of a series with such intelligence, wit, and sincerity, with episodes like ‘Parents’ embracing the history of immigrants, and ‘Ladies & Gentlemen’ demonstrating everyday sexism, how could Ansari and co-writer, Alan Yang, replicate and improve? Well, with episodes like ‘Religion’, ‘Thanksgiving’, and every other episode in the new series.
In ‘Religion’, as in ‘Parents’, Ansari and Yang show their appreciation of their immigrant relatives. It would be so easy to mock the hypocrisies and minutiae of many religions, but instead, Ansari showcases a respectful ‘agree to disagree’ attitude that many of us could learn from. And in ‘Thanksgiving’, an episode beautifully led by Lena Waithe and guest star Angela Bassett, we learn about Dev (Ansari) and Denise’s (Waithe) friendship, and Denise’s struggle with her sexuality. Dan Goor, head writer of Brooklyn Nine-Nine recently spoke of the opportunities that having a diverse cast allows; in his case, ‘Moo Moo’ saw two black police officers dealing with racial profiling, an episode that would not have come about had there not been two prominent, black cast members. It is certainly a similar case here.
In fact, in an interview with Vogue, Waithe revealed that the character of Denise was originally going to be a straight, white friend of Dev’s, even a potential love interest, before a meeting with Waithe changed Ansari and Yang’s minds. As a result, by having a lesbian woman of colour as a main character and writer for the show, ‘Thanksgiving’ was born: a story of a young, black girl’s difficulties in coming out to her family. Waithe said:
I think it was Alan [Yang] who asked: “Hey, how did you come out?” And so I started talking about that. When I left the room to go back to my hotel, I wasn’t even back there when Aziz called me and said we had to do an episode on that. That’s what we have to do. He thought that story was so interesting; he hadn’t seen or heard it before.
It’s a superb episode and, like ‘Ladies & Gentlemen’ (which was co-written by two female writers, Sarah Peters and Zoe Jarman), Ansari and Yang provide minorities a stage with which to share their story, in such an effective way.
The women are written superbly on the show, demonstrated brilliantly by the love interests, Rachel (Nöel Wells) in series one and Francesca (Alessandra Mastronardi) in series two. So much more than one-dimensional, attractive women for Dev to woo, Rachel and Francesca are two of the finest examples of how to write love interests that I can recall. I found myself feeling guilty: I was such a huge fan of Wells’ Rachel in series one, that longing for Dev and Francesca to get together felt like a betrayal. To create two such interesting, funny, deep and complicated female characters, both of whom I would be happy for Dev to end up with, should not be such a big deal, but is.
Even in ‘First Dates’, in which we witness Dev going on various dates of varying success (based on Ansari’s real-life experiences), each woman has more depth than most shows give their leading ladies.
The direction and cinematography is something to behold, too. From ‘The Thief’, an episode all in black and white, filmed and set in Italy, to series finale, ‘Buona Notte’, showcasing the snowy streets of New York City, Ansari and his co-directors achieve the style and substance of a series that could easily prioritise one over the other (and expect to get away with it).
Twitter: Pls feed me yummy wides from #MasterofNone https://t.co/BKMpjNQ7QJ (@maggieannre)
Never have I come across a show in which the first twenty episodes are all 9s and 10s/10, that all achieve such quality in just half an hour (with the exception of ‘Amarsi Un Po’, the penultimate episode of the series, which is an hour), besides Master Of None.
I can only commend Aziz Ansari, Alan Yang, and their whole crew, on such a fine second series. I am absolutely begging them for more.