By Fraser Nunn (@badknitbear)
Allora! Turns out it just means ‘well’ but I can’t help but agree with our main man Dev Shah: it’s a pretty word.
Master of None seemed to catch everyone by surprise, Aziz Ansari previously being primarily seen as the pain in the ass Tom Haverford in Parks and Recreation. I think a lot of us expected something more akin to his Parks and Rec role for Master of None season one but his performance as Dev Shah surprised us by being an incredibly deep ‘little bud’ that is full of life, energy and love. If anyone watched the first series without wanting to hug him every time he smiled then I would argue that they don’t deserve Netflix. Now that the show has returned for a second season, let’s venture into this series full of wit, heart and, most importantly, pasta.
Dev spends the early parts of the second series getting over his break-up with Rachel, and it’s evidently a pretty pivotal theme of the early half of the series: Dev spends a lot of quality alone time (not the bathroom kind), eventually meeting and gaining the phone number of a very nice British lady and then immediately losing said number to a thief. The black and white of this episode in the setting of Moderna, (vaguely ironic I suppose) makes the episode absolutely stunning and there’s something about riding a little bike around Italy and making pasta in black and white that just makes me want to be Dev.
We also see Dev dining on more pasta alone, and with his big bud, the lovable Arnold. Arnie teaches him how to say “hi cutie” to some ‘hi cuties’ and Dev takes this as an excuse to send a little ‘hi cutie’ flirtatious Gif to Rachel. We get some obligatory pasta scenes in “Osteria Francescana”, one of the world’s best restaurants and honestly you can try not to salivate over it but that scene is amazing. Arnie also has some ulterior motives in regards to his own lost loves which Dev has to talk him down from with the help of some tasty melon and a scooter trip. It gives Arnold some serious scenes which he sells incredibly well but it maintains its comic brilliance behind it so that no one sinks into some terrible depression over any lost loves in their own lives.
“La Nozze” allows Arnie to bring our little Dev back to the Big Apple and back to his friends and family and new gig, hosting ‘Clash of the Cupcakes’. When back in New York, Dev has a difficult situation to face with his parents: they ask him to lie to his super religious relatives about his dedication to his faith and of course Dev obliges but feels off, he is eventually persuaded to tell the truth after a chance encounter with Denise when Dev and his Cousin skip Eid prayer to go to a Barbecue and eat Hella pork with a wide set bearded man. Obviously, this causes friction between Dev and his parents who ,I’ve got to say, I thoroughly enjoy watching on screen. Dev’s Dad Ramesh seems to quickly resolve everything by letting Dev know that he can do what he wants, eat pork, “smoke Mary Jane” but doing these things infront of his mum is not cool and “it hurts her feelings”. Soon after Dev and his mum reconcile and it just manages to be another amazing episode in the series and is probably one of my favourites of the second season.
The season continues, as does the theme of break ups, seeing Dev start to delve into the terrifying and daunting world of online dating. It’s immediately clear that they’re tackling both the ease of access of the new online dating community as well as the idea of over dating: you can see Dev meets a total mix of people from friends he already knew, new friends he thought he had a chance with and the racist he goes home with. This episode lets us see into the world of moving on and Dev stares down rejection and girls he has no interest in, and through that we see some hilarious interactions and truly awkward moments and a totally new side to Dev and the way it’s cut makes each First Date work so well together.
We start to see a bit of a shift in the direction of the series when Dev’s lovely Italian friend comes over from Moderna. Francesca and Pino take a trip to New York, while Dev weighs up his happiness at “Clash of The Cupcakes” as we see him growing more and more unenthusiastic about his “uninspiring” role. Dev and Francesca visit a musuem together and start to catch up while Pino has to work. This is the first time we see Dev start to mix his work and personal life, as he meets up with producer and celebrity Chef Jeff who invites him and a guest to a dinner party. Dev weighs up who to take, contemplating one of the girls from the previous episode, but after 2 dates the conversation has gone flat (not sparkling) so instead he takes Francesca and immediately we see the flicker of excitement as something starts to brew beneath the surface. This episode is probably one that doesn’t have as much magic as the rest of the Series but Dev’s interactions are amazing, and there’s no doubt romance is in the air as soon as the John Legend cameos behind a grand piano.
It’s not often you see a series step away from its main character and focus on the people they pass on the street. Master of None manages this beautifully as we meet a barrage of New Yorkers as they go about their daily lives. We meet Eddie the doorman, the loveliest doorman in New York, a man who does everything he can for those who inhabit his building. He attempts to medicate a parakeet on incredibly vague instruction, and is taken advantage of by a horny Mr Strickland and his mistress. When caught, Strickland lets out a tyrade against the poor doorman, who ain’t taking none of it. Honestly this segment is excellent, a primarily ignored doorman becomes the sole focus and it sits so well, it’s easy to love Eddie and it’s just as easy to love Maya, the store clerk who is having a little trouble in the bedroom department.
Maya is deaf and it makes for one of the most interesting scenes in the series, with no sound and all interactions in subtitled American sign language, it’s easy for the characters to think they have privacy, and their topic of conversation provides one of the funniest scenes of the show so far.
The transitions were amazing and we’re led seamlessly into meeting Samuel the taxi driver who lives in a cramped little apartment with his roommates. They save up their cash to head out for a night on the town and get turned away from the nightclub they’re hoping for, eventually being persuaded into a shady little bar blasting ‘vengaboys’. The boys leave and meet a group of girls and they get to partying in a closed burger shop! Once again, it’s just an incredible sequence which manages to create a sense of belonging for these characters who are simply passersby in the life of Dev as they all venture to the Cinema.
Vaguely reminiscent of the episode dedicated to parents in season one, we have door 3. Dev grows increasingly exasperated by his job hosting Clash of the Cupcakes, leading him to seek wisdom from papa Ramesh (the best part of any episode). Dev’s story is not the sole focus here as well, as we see Dev’s good friend Brian and his dad, who has just started dating again. Caught between two woman, who each have a trait Brian’s dad can’t resist. Honestly, the interactions between both father and son parties makes this episode amazing, incredibly funny and one warning to anyone who visits Dr Ramesh Shah’s practice, don’t touch his trinkets. Dev’s story leads to him having the opportunity to pitch a new show idea to Chef Jeff, which he takes to immediately but Dev’s mind is elsewhere with the news of Francesca and Pino’s engagement.
It’s not often that you get two absolute belters from a show but that’s exactly what Master of None consistently offers, especially when after ‘New York, I love you’ we are gifted the absolute peach that is Dev’s Thanksgiving traditions. The episode is primarily flashbacks seeing the growth of his friendship with Denise or apparently… DD. It shows Dev’s relationship with Denise’s family and how welcomed he is as part of the family. We see how Denise’s mum and her aunt take to the relationships she has, their reactions to her coming out as a lesbian and her partners. Denise’s mum struggles with the idea at the time but Denise knew from a young age and shared the information with Dev. Thanksgiving gives the opportunity for Denise to introduce her partners to her family and some go down better than others (nipplesandtoes23. Not nipples&toes23. Nipplesandtoes23). But this episode is riddled with poignant emotional moments that are full of love and humour and seeing Dev in this kind of family shows how tight he is with his friends, and how much love he has for them.
By this point we somehow find ourselves at the last few episodes of the season and the only problem so far has been “how did we get to the end already”. It’s one of those whirlwind series that disappear before your very eyes. It maintains focus and it feels like the main story is simply a side plot for the simple reason that it is a side plot. Dev’s life is the main story, and the Best Food Friends storyline and the Francesca storyline slide in to be a massive part of his life. I don’t actually want to ruin any of this for anyone who’s still to catch the last few episodes. The rest of the series is one of those series where nothing major happens and nothing really exists as a spoiler but the last two episodes are what everything has been leading up to and none of it disappoints!
The series as a whole is full of warmth: it’s beautiful, poignant and smart. It’s witty and has a sense of normalcy about it. There’s no extravagance, no bells or whistles, just a lot of love in the life of everyone’s little bud, Dev. Give it a go if you like understated, if you like colourful, if you like character based humour or if you like dramady: in short, just give it a go.