TV Review - Master of None: Season 2
Despite an Indian man who goes to a European country to learn how to cook and meeting a white woman there whom he fancies, this series does not turn into The Hundred-Foot Journey, which is a shame. This big deal is made about Ansari's character, Dev Shah, learning to cook or possibly being a chef. The depiction of that is next to nothing and his pursuit of a possible career in the kitchen is essentially dropped and the character goes back to being as aimless as before.
The second episode "Le Nozze" seems to be a riff on Michael Winterbottom's The Trip where the majority of it is two men eating here and there. Ansari is joined by Eric Wareheim as Arnold, his tall, shaggy friend. The problem is that Ansari and Wareheim are not Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, which is fine if the comedy or gags can stand independently. This episode is just the two hanging out and Ansari and Wareheim don't have enough to keep us interested in sticking with them without any plot.
The third episode "Religion" is probably the episode that has the potential to be the boldest, as Ansari attacks religion, specifically Islam. In the episode, Dev challenges his parent's beliefs and their practices as Muslim. He in particular goes against their expectations that he himself be a good Muslim and not eat pork, even though he loves eating pork. Unfortunately, Ansari hired his real parents to play his character's parents and his real parents are not the best actors, so when Dev confronts them, he's not able to have the dramatic impact he could have, if he were going up against real actors.
The fourth episode here felt like a waste of time or the show spinning its wheels. The fifth episode starts the season's primary focus of Dev's love affair, though never a physical affair, with an Italian girl named Francesca in Modena who visits Dev in New York when she and her fiancé visit, probably because her fiancé Pino does business there.
John Legend does a very beautiful rendition on piano of the song "Sexy" by Mary J. Blige and Jadakiss on her 1999 album Mary. It sets the mood for the romance about to blossom between Dev and Francesca, but a shot of Dev alone in the back of a cab portends a repeat of last season's bittersweet ending. It's a shot though that is a bit too long and way too indulgent.
Speaking of indulgent, the sixth episode "New York, I Love You" is in a way a homage to Emmanuel Benbihy's franchise, which collects short films set in a particular city. This episode consists of three, short films and all but one is good. The middle, short film follows a deaf girl who works at a convenience store and it's brilliant. The girl communicates through sign language and from that, hilarious jokes are crafted. The climactic joke involving children doing ASL was even more brilliant. Sadly, the other, short films in that episode are practically garbage.
The eighth episode "Thanksgiving" is structured similarly to the episode last season "Mornings," which kept returning to the same time of day over the course of several weeks or months. Here, the "Thanksgiving" episode keeps returning to the same holiday over the course of 20 years. Dev spends the Thanksgiving holiday with his friend Denise Watkins and her family starting in the mid 1990's and going to this present year. It charts Denise discovering her sexuality, coming out to her mom and bringing her girlfriend home.
Angela Bassett guest stars as Denise's mom and the episode provides a great platform for her to shine. The episode is almost told exclusively through Bassett's point-of-view. This is at once a blessing and a curse because Bassett is fantastic but in reality the episode should have been told through Lena Waithe's point-of view. Waithe plays Denise. It's just a missed opportunity in the wake of Moonlight, which won the Oscar for Best Picture, to tell a story through the eyes of a black queer character, in this case a lesbian.
In the sixth episode, we get a short film following a random doorman but Ansari and Alan Yang, his co-writer, miss the opportunity to follow Denise. Her girlfriend visits for Thanksgiving, which is the first time the audience sees her. Yet, it would have been nice if we saw how Denise met her girlfriend prior to this, or what Denise went through on days other than the holiday. The episode gives us a lot about her character but does so without Denise's point-of-view. Yet, the eighth episode does utilize New Edition's "Can You Stand the Rain" in a very effective way.
Bobby Cannavale (Will & Grace and Nurse Jackie) co-stars this season as Jeff, a celebrity chef who Dev works with on a TV show. His role was an interesting one. His role coincides with a guest appearance of Raven-Symoné that was compelling on several levels.
Running Time: 30 mins. / 10 eps.
Available on Netflix.