Master of None season 2 got available 2 weeks ago, and I’m only reviewing it now because I don’t really like to binge-watch. I prefer watching one episode a day, especially in series that I find interesting. And boy, this season of Master of None was truly awesome.
This season went on and perfected the three main elements than Master of None balances so great: Paying homage (to history, places and culture); Special episodes; And Dev’s romantic journey. Let’s discuss each one of them separately.
While the first season was only in New York, and payed homage to its cultures and music, the second season broadens the canvas with two Italy episodes, several flashbacks, and one entire episode which focuses on Dev and Denise throughout the decades. It’s easy to notice the love of art in this series, when every episode starts with a special song, dedicated either to New York or Italy. The opening of the 9th episode (top image here) is especially beautiful, paying homage to how movies used to begin, back in the day. Beautiful.
The entire first episode is filmed in black and white, thus creating a special mood and vibe, which benefit the romantic plot too. I was so happy when Dev met Sara, the British girl, and was sad when his phone was stolen and he couldn’t get in touch with her no more. Dev and Mario’s (the kid) chemistry is funny and over the roof. Learning to make pasta from Nonna was also a nice touch, since Italy equals pasta, right? Francesca is a great fan of old Italian music, and she even teaches Dev to dance to it.
Zach Cowie, the musical supervisor of the series, was interviewed about the second season’s score.
Well, yes, it is similar to what we’ve already discussed, but it is more than that. In a season that is only 10 episodes long, dedicating half of your plot to specialized content is a risk, and yet again, it is paying off wonderfully. There have always been special episodes in TV series, but no doubt, Community perfected the formula to its highest. Nonetheless, Master of None uses the special episodes to convey ideas and plot techniques that work much better within the special spot. Black and white series opener, which inspires to romance of Italy and the thief plot; Time jumping episode with Dev and Denise celebrating Thanksgiving through the years; Entire episode which stars anonymous people; Movie-like episode, inspired by old time films, which brings Italy’s magic to New York, both in the opening, and in its plot, which was also almost an hour long!; And the first dates episode, which was actually a montage of a series of girls Dev saw using a dating app.
It was a great move to dedicate an entire episode to Denise, and her Thanksgiving dinner over the years, a dinner in which Dev was a regular guest. But the star of this episode was indeed Denise, who showed her entire arc of realizing she is a lesbian, coming out to her mother, bringing girlfriends home to her mother’s lack of acceptance, until reality sinks in and the family appreciates the truth. It was a great opportunity to shine a light on Denise, who almost didn’t appear at all through the season. Moreover, it shined a great light on the process of coming out and the hardships it brings to both the gay person, and his / her surroundings.
Another great character based episode was New York, I Love You, in which the spotlight was shifted entirely onto 3 completely anonymous people. It is a bold move to focus an entire episode on someone who isn’t the star (i.e. Denise), but focusing on anonymous, working-type random people from the city, it is a risky move, but it proved to be a delight. The maintenance guy of the building, the deaf woman and the Rwandan taxi driver, all of them were perfect illustration of the faceless middle class of the big city, while being portrayed by great actors. Again, awareness at its highest.
The “First Date” episode was a tough criticism on dating apps, and the ways people use them to find dates. This episode takes an opportunity to point out and squash all the weird and funny aspects of dating apps. Dev uses an app which matches dates of people who chose each other, based on several pictures. Seems too simple?
Dev: I met her on, uh, one of those dating apps.
Francesca: What are dating app?
Dev: It’s like these apps on your phone where you see people’s faces, and when you see a face you like, you hit a button, and if they hit a button on your face, then you have a match. And then you can send each other messages and then you go out on a date. Wow, when you say it out loud, it sounds insane.
Francesca: No, it sounds crazy.
Most of the episode is a montage of Dev seeing different girls, of different types, ethnics and attitudes, and each girl is there for a different reason. One actually has a boyfriend and looks to find friends, one meets another crash, one is busy with her job, etc. One girl, Christine, is the one Dev has the most chemistry with. However, her “racist” jar of condoms tarnishes everything. We see Priya again, in episode 5, but they suddenly no longer have anything in common.
Dev’s Romantic Journey
While the first season saw Dev slowly settling with Rachel, only to later grow out of their relationship, this season saw Dev falling for a forbidden girl. Francesca (played by the charming Alessandra Mastronardi), is the granddaughter of Nonna, the woman who teaches Dev how to make pasta in Modena, Italy. Back there, we knew Francesca had a boyfriend, Pino, and they both seemed like good friends of Dev. But when Francesca visits New York for the first time in episode 5 (Pino travels for work), and she gets to hang out with Dev and see the city, we slowly understand he has something for her, while Chef Jeff warns him that he shouldn’t, because nothing good will come from it. Upon returning to Modena, she and Pino are now engaged.
Later on, during the last two episodes, the romantic vibe it everywhere, when Francesca visits New York for a longer time, and she and Dev enjoy the company of each other. When she got stuck in his house during the snow storm, it was another level of closeness. While Arnold warns Dev not to get too attached, and to take care of himself, Dev decided to reveal his feelings, instead of regretting it when Francesca marries Pino in the future. Francesca admits she has feelings as well, but she is engaged, to the only man she has ever known (they’ve been dating for 10 years), and it is very complicated for her to figure out what to do next. Dev keeps on pushing, Francesca gets distant from both Pino and Dev, and the season closes without a definitive answer, though she was mad at Dev for kissing her. Will she leave Pino eventually? And what about Nonna, and the store?
Arnold: Yeah, but did you really think this scenario through?
I mean, what was gonna happen? She was gonna break up with Pino? Move to New York? I mean, that’s so much pressure for both of you guys.
I mean, she’s lived in this tiny village her whole life. She’s been with one dude.
Your relationship probably wasn’t gonna be this magical fantasy that’s in your head. It was probably gonna be a shitshow.
Dev: I just thought we’d figure it out.
Chef Jeff’s plot: Chef Jeff’s arc was mainly a plot device to advance Dev’s professional life. Dev avoided signing up for 7 seasons of Clash of the Cupcakes, but instead, pitched an idea to join Jeff in traveling and eating, calling it BFF (Best Food Friends, a silly name, even Raven said it). From the beginning something was off with Jeff, but I couldn’t quite figure it out. When it was revealed he was a womanizer, both his and Dev’s professional life got into chaos. Well, those are the consequences for deciding to work with someone you don’t really know. Dev tried to minimize the damage on Raven’s show, but he will have to work hard later on.
Dev and Brian’s parents: Those episodes are always a delight. Seeing Dev’s father coping up with all the crap he puts his family through, the fact that he’s not religious and decides to go public. Brian’s father is dating two women, and after Brian’s advises, both of them break up with him. I enjoy those moments, it is pure gold.
Carol: Oh, my God, is everything okay? What happened? Did he have a heart attack?
Ramesh: No, he put an electric toothbrush in his butt.
Carol: What? I didn’t even know he had an electric toothbrush.
Dev: Not really the surprising part of the story.
Carol: Who’s this?
Ramesh: This is my son. You want to really see the toothbrush? See that?
Dev: Damn! It is really up in there.
Carol: Is he supposed to be here?
Ramesh: Not really. Lot of things are ending up where they don’t belong today.
Well, even though this post was much longer than I usually write, I’ve actually skipped several more things I’ve wanted to discuss. I truly think this season was magic, and I hope next season will bring much more, with or without Francesca (with, please!).