Aziz Ansari would be a great friend. So much comedy is built around grouchy or awkward personas that it’s a genuine thrill to have a sitcom star who feels this fun. Master of None isn’t all rainbows and cupcakes, but even in its more serious moments, Ansari is rarely less than an irrepressible bundle of joy. We half-suspect this series was created to help him get laid, and we’re not even mad.
Master of None’s second season begins in Modena, Italy, where Dev (Ansari) decided to move at the end of the first, prompted by the spur-of-the-moment move of his ex, Rachel, to Tokyo. A text from her hangs over the first episode, but Dev seems blissfully untroubled by it. How can you be miserable when you’re eating pasta and exploring the Italian countryside?
It’s refreshing to explore a new location, but reassuringly, Dev is still Dev. Even when he’s speaking (pretty good) Italian, Ansari’s trademark excitable cadence powers through. He may have upped sticks to Italy, but this is no mid-life crisis, just the sudden realisation that he should pursue his dreams before it’s too late to really enjoy them.
Alongside his trip to Italy, Ansari confirms his status as one of the most astute chroniclers of modern romance. On the surface, dating and relationships may not have changed that much in the last few decades, but technology has shifted the landscape drastically and Ansari has an astute eye for how that works in practice. Some things, though, always stay the same. His depictions of awkward first dates, flirting, budding romance, all the way through to heartbreak, are painfully and endearingly accurate.
Master of None has always been inventive for a sitcom. At times its first season felt almost like a great thinkpiece in visual form, tackling issues as diverse as representation in film, connecting with your parents, marginalising old people in our lives, and understanding women. The second season is no different, mixing explorations of religion and dating with more story-focused episodes on Dev’s personal life. Importantly, the scripts by Ansari and Alan Yang always keep one eye on the humour, even when they’re ostensibly about a more serious topic. Not many sitcoms can incorporate an homage to Ladri di Biciclette and still be this funny.
The first four episodes strike the same balance as Season 1, delivering scattershot story but brilliant character beats. Few casts in TV are as loveable and charming as the likes of Eric Wareheim, Ansari, and his parents, Shouketh and Fatima, without becoming cloying; it’s a testament to the inquisitive script and the naturalistic direction that brings them together with such chemistry.
The lack of focus doesn’t always pay off, with a few sequences that drag a little aimlessly and one or two experiments that don’t quite work, but it’s hard to quibble when the rest of the season is so fun. With the confidence to offer comedy, drama, and fascinating cultural debates, the show’s title feels more apt than ever. But that doesn’t do justice to the scale of Ansaris achievement in creating such a potent and hilarious mix of styles and tones.
Master of None: Season 2 is available on Netflix UK, as part of £7.49 monthly subscription.