It’s quite rare to find a show on television that combines the joys of eating pasta, embarking on an epic journey to find the best tacos in New York City, bicycling across the cobblestone streets of the Italian countryside and watching John Legend give a live piano rendition of “I Can’t Help It.”
Much to my delight, “Master of None” delivered on each of those premises, and after a four-year hiatus, Netflix made the surprising announcement that the show would return for a new season this Sunday.
The world has radically changed since Ansari fell out of the spotlight. Back in 2018, the comedian was pressed with allegations of sexual misconduct. Ansari, who later issued a private apology, opened up about the experience in a comedy special in 2019 and stated that the incident has inspired him to become a better person.
But aside from Ansari's contentious public image, "Master of None" is truly a breath of fresh air.
A brainchild of creators Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang, the show, which premiered in 2015, is an endearing comedy that dives into important issues of our generation, such as racism in the casting process for actors, feminism in the status quo, the importance of the elderly in our lives and above all, the complexities of contemporary relationships.
The show is effortless, and like its protagonist Dev Shah, portrayed by Ansari, it is truly a jack of all trades.
The comedy manages to balance nuanced storytelling with a subtle and profound social commentary on our state of affairs as a whole, while simultaneously exploring the intricacies of love and friendship through relatable characters and its charming city setting.
The show follows Dev, a young Indian American struggling with his identity and attempting to cope with the cyclical pattern of life as best he can. He struggles with his pursuits as a professional actor while coasting through several romantic, albeit unrequited, relationships that leave him wanting something more.
To say Ansari was a pleasure to watch on screen would be an understatement. His performance in the first two seasons was flawless, and he commands the screen with a strong and lovable charisma that makes him relatable to people of all ages.
He has a childlike enthusiasm for food, embraces his best friends Arnold Bauheiser, played by Eric Wareheim, and Denise, played by Lena Waithe, as if they’re his own siblings, and he falls in and out of love in a heartbeat.
Season two follows Dev as he makes the erratic choice to pursue a pasta making apprenticeship in the enchanting little town of Modena, Italy, and eventually meets a charming and beautiful woman named Francesca, played by Alessandra Mastronardi.
Where their relationship goes as Dev returns to New York and Francesca gets engaged is what gave season two its greatest moments.
This season truly showcases Ansari's capabilities as an actor — in the final episodes, he’s outstanding in some very emotional sequences. Ansari performs brilliantly in scenes that require his eyes to do the talking, and he even won Best Actor in a TV Series, Musical or Comedy at the Golden Globes in 2018 for his stellar performance.
Ansari and Yang expanded on what made season one so entertaining and masterfully elevated it to the acclaimed status the show has today.
It succeeded in interweaving a straightforward plot with complex themes, such as homosexuality and religion, in modern relationships and presented it in an extremely engaging and compelling way with a memorable soundtrack and Mark Schwartzbard's stunning cinematography that creates a masterpiece in each frame.
Each creative choice from a narrative and a filmmaking perspective makes you feel as if you’re watching a work of cinema rather than a television show on Netflix.
At certain times, the show amuses you in a way you didn’t think you needed or expected, and in other sequences, it's outright heartbreaking.
The show's talents peaked in the middle of season two in an episode called “Thanksgiving,” which documents the friendship between Dev and his friend Denise as they celebrate Thanksgiving together each year as kids. It primarily follows Denise’s struggle to come out to her more traditionally conservative family as she grows up and comes to accept herself.
The episode shifted the spotlight to Denise, and it gave us one of the most emotional and acclaimed episodes in the entire series. Waithe’s performance and the writing came together beautifully, and it left fans wondering what role Denise would play in Dev’s narrative had there been a third season.
The writing is the show’s greatest asset, and never do you feel as if the comedy or emotions are forced. You feel invested in the journey of all these characters and come to adore them, main characters or not, and everything is interwoven and linked together expertly through the script. We can expect this to continue in season three.
This was, in all respects, Dev's story as the first two seasons had shown. Even in episodes that had more of a spotlight on Arnold or Denise, Dev was an integral part of these stories as a supporting character, and when none of the characters were in the scenes or episodes, all distinct storylines linked back to Dev by the end of the episode.
But season three, much to the disappointment of some fans, doesn’t feature Dev in the spotlight. Ansari and Yang still helm the series, and the newly released trailer has undoubtedly sparked interest and excitement regarding the loose ends of season two and the new entry in the show.
The trailer touches on sensitive topics as it focuses on Denise's relationship. Though Dev is featured here, it's only for a single frame in the trailer. The tone of the story and directorial style of Ansari is almost ethereal and dream-like to highlight the relationship. This does not seem like a typical love story. Rather, it seems to be a story of love.
The show is no longer associated with its previous narrative, and with the trailer, it marks a radical departure from what has come to define “Master of None” in a great way.
What's remarkable here is that film and television are steadily gravitating toward more representation of LGBTQ+ stories. The characters are complex and beautifully written, and their struggles have as much depth, if not more, than other relationships portrayed in cinema as well, which seems to promise a season that's dreamy, reflective and deeply moving.
With an impressive track record and expectations at an all time high, here’s to hoping “Master of None” continues to surprise, entertain and move us. If you haven’t seen the first two seasons, I highly recommend you make plans to do so this weekend!