I don’t do reviews by a star system – because what each film’s intentions are determine how good it does that, so it’s unfair to rate Kingsman against Boyhood or either against the Simpsons. If I did subscribe to that kind of thinking though, Master of None gets two extra points straight out of the gate for being more daring that it has any need to be.
Out-of-the-box is an overused (and so often misused) term used to get audiences to sample new shows. And some creators now aim for out-of-the-box, so that aim has become it’s own thing separate to truly out-of-the-box shows. Because Master of None lacks the throughline that are essentially to television shows it feels like a new show every episode, which is compounded by vastly different themes, directing styles, casting choices and more.
No other show comes to mind that does this, especially not to this extreme or this authenticity.
The opening episode is a black and white foreign language film. The fourth is a tale of Tinder dates told simaltaneously. The sixth barely features any of the main cast in a love letter to New York’s many faces (unsubtly titled New York, I Love You) while the eigth is a coming out journey told over twenty years.
It’s bulky stuff but the show is endlessly charming. Aziz Ansari isn’t the best part of it. It’s the structure and the breathing room and the twenty or so recurring guest stars and their personal stories that makes it shine. Dev is just a lightning rod and a humble, likable lens to see it through.
It has flaws. A lot of the conflict is contrived to the point of Seinfeild-ness, but the characters are so meta and so sympathetic to others they get away with it. It is starting to develop a rhythym – damaging its praise – whereby Dev doesn’t understand a big societal issue, learns about it quickly and eagerly, apologises for misunderstanding and moves on. That’s a very specific rut the show has trotted out maybe four times in twenty episode. Be careful there.
Also, only twenty episodes? C’mon man. Though in the same breath its clear that the more the show gives the easier it will be to anticipate.
The show deserves mad props for its first season closer, where the show should have zigged but instead zagged to split Dev and his girlfriend Rachel. In this finale a similar though more morally murky proposition presents itself and the show doesn’t challenge itself. It zigs along as if this was any other network show.
Added this season is Bobby Canavale, which is the best thing the series did. At the risk of pigeonholing a hard working man, he has a type of character he plays and the character is usually unlikable. This persistance has seen my irritation with Canavale grow, though Masters of None does a very good job of humanising him as Dev’s superior.
Then the show uses his character in a social issue, which ultimately shows all the entertaining bits involving Dev’s hosting a cupcake show (brilliant writer’s idea) were prologue to the final episode.
Isn’t every episode the prologue to the final episode? Shouldn’t the show be telegraphing their intentions to avoid whiplash? Perhaps, but Master of None was better than that before.
It really undercut all the time we spent with Cannavale’s character by writing him out of Dev’s life in such a predictable way. Earlier in the season we side-stepped into a story of Dev’s friend’s dad’s dual-dating. This show is weird. This show doesn’t care. It’s not supposed to be so… predictable.
The longer the show stays on air the more of a problem this will become. It is great. But it’s getting comfortable and not pushing the same boundaries, or at least with half as much force as before. Ansari is reluctant to return for another go – he thinks he’s mined all he can about this chapter of his life – and he’s right.
However a 22-episode broadcast show about Ansari and his ragtag gang in New York remains an entertaining idea. If half the spirit came across it would be beautiful. That’s daydreaming though – as all the marketing indicates Netflix and Ansari love their well-earned Emmy very very much.
Master of None is great, though the law of diminishing returns is starting to sink it. Ansari is right to take a break to not dilute his golden run. It was braver before, but it is still brave today. It is worth the episode duration to enrich your life with Aziz-isms, but it’s time to rest the idea after that.