Netflix debuted season two of Master of None at midnight Pacific last night. I thought it was a wonderful season — deeper, more ambitious, and in many ways just plain better than the first. At only six and a half hours or so, some of you have likely already watched the whole thing. (And for the many of you who haven’t, feel free to bookmark this page and revisit it as you watch.) Once again, I’m going to do what I did after season one and offer mini-reviews of all 10 episodes — with spoilers for the whole season (but essentially safe to read after you watch each one) — coming up just as soon as people in China think I’m Beyonce…
Episode 1: “The Thief”
This is, as the stack of DVDs on Dev’s end table makes clear, Ansari and Yang’s homage to the classic Italian films of the mid-20th century, with Vittorio De Sica’s The Bicycle Thieves a particularly strong influence, given the title and Dev constantly getting around Modena on two wheels. (The gang at Slate put together a more thorough look at the Italian cinema influences on the whole season.) It looks great beyond the black-and-white photography — I particularly liked the crane shot of the distance between Dev and the phone thief only growing and growing — and the episode as a whole neatly kicked off the season’s themes about Dev’s loneliness and lack of direction. Even when he hits it off well with a woman like Sara, it just never works out for him, though I’m not sure why he didn’t just call his cell provider to see if they had his texts or other info stored in the cloud. (He explained he turned off find my phone because of the data charges, but texts get saved no matter what — or, at least, that’s what TV crime procedurals have taught me.)
The episode also casually introduces the sparkling Alessandra Mastronardi as Dev’s friend Francesca. Because we’re dropped into his Modena life without much intro, it’s hard to tell at first if she’s Mario’s mom (she’s not) or if she’s married to Pino (he’s just her boyfriend), but it’s clear from the start that she and Dev get along very well, even if his focus is on his birthday, Sara, and avoiding Rachel’s emails.
Episode 2: “Le Nozze”
Still in Italy (budget-wise, it makes more sense to shoot multiple episodes — or a double-length episode — in a foreign country than just one), but now back in color, and with the focus shifting from Dev’s loneliness to Arnold’s. Clearly, Ansari and Yang liked what they saw out of the Dev/Arnie dynamic last season, because there’s a whole lot more of the little guy and the big guy hanging out, singing songs, doing dances, and getting into trouble this year, highlighted here by Arnold getting trapped in the sunroof after his rental car first gets trapped in the narrow street. It’s all fun stuff, even if Ciara Renee (RIP, Hawkgirl from Legends of Tomorrow) is way too young to play an old flame whom Arnold dated for 11 years starting in college.
While a lot of the focus is on Arnold, we also get to see more of Dev struggling with how much he wants to be in touch with Rachel, which is understandable given both their relatively amicable breakup and their realization that they’re probably not each other’s The One. And the return to New York at the end sets up Dev’s new job hosting Clash of the Cupcakes, which my kids are trying to will into existence as a real show right now.
Episode 3: “Religion”
“Religion” is probably the episode most reminiscent of the dominant form of season one, as Dev/Aziz explores an issue he hasn’t thought or spoken much about in a long time, if ever. It opens with one of the funniest music cues of the whole season, as Tupac’s “Only God Can Judge Me” plays while young Dev continues eating bacon despite his mother’s admonishment, and is part of the season’s overall food porn focus. (Poison’s “Nothing But a Good Time” over Dev introducing his cousin to the joys of pork barbecue is also a treat.) Low stakes, but sweet, and I remain entirely a sucker to the enthusiastic charms of Shoukath Ansari as Dev’s father, particularly here when he’s demonstrating modeling poses.
Episode 4: “First Date”
That this one is as coherent and fun as it is is a real testament to the editing, which seamlessly flowed one date into the next, seemingly always at the right moment to make a jump, whether we were getting an extended stint of his date with Priya (played by Tiya Sircar, aka Real Eleanor from The Good Place) or briefer snippets of the ones that were going less well, like the unexpected date with his actress friend or the one with Aparna Nancherla as the food blogger who’s already in a serious relationship. It nicely captures the awkwardness of app dating from both perspectives, including the sequence where Dev finds out about the bad messages women tend to get, as opposed to his stock line about Whole Foods. An episode that’s simultaneously very simple and inventive, and one of my favorites.
Also, if “First Date” had done nothing but remind me of the existence of “Scatman,” dayenu.
Episode 5: “The Dinner Party”
This has one of the season’s two most intentionally excruciating scenes (the other’s the first talk show segment in the finale), as Dev’s date with Priya gets progressively stiffer (my notes on one of the scenes just said, “Save me from this”), but it’s there to set up the pivot into the season’s major arc, as Dev comes to realize that he likes the visiting Francesca as more than just a friend.