This week on Netflix and Grill our conversation was focused on the second season of Aziz Anzari’s Netflix Original series ‘Master of None’. After an enjoyable, but not raving reaction to season one, I still had quite high expectations heading into season two. What was remarkable was that by the end of the season, the show had grown and matured so much that it blew those expectations away. The messy, millennial, comedy on dating, race and living in New York City, had gone from a quirky, fun show, to a cinematic, moving, laugh out loud juggernaut, that seemed to transcend its status as a sitcom, into something much more special.
When looking at Master of None in relation to other shows that have reached the mecca of the Netflix pantheon it’s hard to find any direct comparisons. Long term titans like House of Cards and Orange Is The New Black have such size and scale that it feels like an unfair fight to compare them to Master of None in a Dev-id and Goliath style battle (sorry). If The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is too silly to find a comparison, 13 Reasons Why is almost certainly too serious and Stranger Things is such an event piece and spectacle that ‘Master of None’ almost feels like the Seinfeld of our time: a show about nothing. However if Seinfeld taught us anything in it’s 9 season run, it’s that, that should NEVER deter us from pressing play.
While Dev isn’t running for president or dealing with any major crisis, it’s perhaps the intimacy and artfulness of the show that becomes it’s biggest asset. The fact that the show is able to have moments in Italy and upstate New York where cinematically, it goes as big as any of it’s peers, yet somehow still feels completely personal and intimate is impressive. The show’s ensemble of characters grow and blossom throughout the season by leaning into these personal moments. One example being the fact that Lena Waithe who played the character of Denise delivered one of the standout episodes of the season, in large part because Aziz co wrote the Thanksgiving episode with her in order to make it semi biographical. He also workshopped and wrote with Allessandra Mastronardi to help organically create the character of Francesca who is a stand out of the season.
The ‘Italian’ episodes for want of a better name: The Thief, Le Nozze, Amarsi Un Po, Buona Notte and outside of these The Dinner Party really stood out for me as the best of the season, in large part because of Allessandra who plays Francesca. Her charisma on-screen is delightful, but her attention to detail in the behavior of a woman slowly discovering that she doesn’t know why she’s in love her fiance anymore is captivating. The way Dev serves as catalyst for this journey of self discovery is a delicate and alluring storyline that dances between representing real love and fantastical love without taking sides.
However, perhaps the most solid argument for Master of None’s place at the top of this eclectic heap, is the consistent quality of it’s two season run. House of Cards and Orange Is The New Black have both had ups and downs in their time, with some seasons being deemed better than others. ‘Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’ is a tad polarizing in style to truly be the champion of every viewers taste. Similarly in many ways ‘13 Reasons Why’ has been as divisive as it has been popular and there were question’s about whether Stranger Things could catch lightning in a bottle more than once.
The point is that Master of None already has! With season 1 proclaimed a surprise hit and critical darling, after being awarded a perfect score on Rotten Tomatoes, expectations were understandably high for what would follow. The fact that Aziz and his team delivered a second season with a severe growth arc, over an already outstanding show and were again rewarded with a critical consensus of being 100% fresh, tells me that this underdog well and truly deserves to have his day.
As a bonus for reading all the way through, here’s a collection of the most cinematic shots from Season Two of Master of None. Remember if you want to listen to my co-host Matt Lausch and I go deep on the show you can listen to Netflix and Grill on Soundcloud, Sticher and Apple Podcasts