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« Box Office: Cars 3 road blocks Wonder Woman 1... temporarily. | Main | Today's 5: Kerry Butler, Isabella Rossellini, Waterloo, and More... »
Sunday
Jun182017

Emmy FYC: Master of None, Season Two 

By Spencer Coile 

The first season of Master of None met universal acclaim from critics and audiences. Telling the quasi-autobiographical story of Dev (Aziz Ansari), the series follows this wannabe actor and his numerous friends as they gallavant through New York City, eating pasta and searching for love. What made the first season of Ansari and Alan Yang's concoction so fascinating was the way in which they infused elements of culture, race, and sexuality into their storylines. The dialogue was unique to many other shows with similar plotlines; there was a level of specificity and a lived in quality that surpassed more traditional sitcoms.

Master of None recently returned to Netflix and met no sophomore slump. The second season has not only matched the quality of the first but surpassed it. How well does this bode for the series' Emmy chances?

Taking place shortly after the first season finale, we find Dev living in Italy learning to make pasta -- his lifelong passion. He found himself overseas to get over a recent break-up and has since been surrounded by new friends, including potential love interest, Francesca (Alessandra Mastronardi). The season opener "The Thief" is a clear reference to the 1949 classic The Bicycle Thief, as it finds Dev searching for his stolen phone after a brief flirtation with a woman visiting the area. It is oftentimes clever (without beating us over the head with how clever it is), silly, but always tinged with a hint of sadness. And, best of all, it's in black-and-white! But this experiment only begins to scratch the surface of the second season's brilliance. 

Midway through the season, Dev returns to good ol' NYC to charming effect. Cultural sensitivities are explored in "Religion," Dev comes to terms with his feelings for Francesca in "Dinner Party," and through it all, Dev is selling his soul to host a reality show about cupcakes. Arguably the best episodes of the second season, though, focus less on Dev and more on the beauty that comes from intersectional identities and the ways in which we are each different. In "New York, I Love You," Dev and his friends prep for a new horror movie spectacle, Death Castle, but with each passing moment we are introduced to passersby, people we have never met before, nor will we ever meet again. They are doormen, cashiers, cab drivers, but represent a pivotal part of what makes New York City so hilarious, so rich with intersecting lives. Dev only appears in this episode at the beginning and end, but never once does his absence feel like a sidestep. What Ansari is able to achieve here is a love letter to a city that inspires all kinds of people and celebrates their differences. 

"Thanksgiving" follows Dev and one of his best friends Denise (Lena Waithe) as she comes into her own as a gay woman. Chronicling her friendship with Dev from the early 90's to present day, we watch Denise transform from a girl who is unsure about who she is to someone who begins to feel confident in her own sexual desires. Presented against the backdrop of celebrating Thanksgiving each year with her family (the ever brilliant Angela Bassett plays Denise's mother, Catherine), Denise's journey represents one of the most unique and fascinating coming-out narratives in recent years. It pays close attention to Denise's struggle to accept herself, but without ever attempting to co-opt her story, to make it more comfortable for mainstram audiences. At times it is uncomfortable and unsettling, but by the time she sits down with her family once more for Thanksgiving dinner, a new layer to these relationships have been revealed. Oh, and it's hilarious!

It's in the perfect balance of comedy and tragedy that Ansari's original work soars, particularly in 2017. He so effortlessly blends these modes to craft a work both timeless and unique, even though, at first glance it comes across as anything but. As far as its Emmy chances are concerned, look for a return in Comedy Series and Actor in a Comedy Series (Ansari's performance in the final five minutes of "Dinner Party" is astonshing). Both "New York, I Love You" and "Thanksgiving" were submitted in Writing and Directing, so look out for one (or both) to break into these categories. Aside from those, it would be a dream come true to see Bassett nominated in Guest Actress, but those categories are always a crapshoot, however worthy the performance. 

The second season finale leaves the audience on an ambiguous note, and while a third season is far from guaranteed, take some time to indulge in the artistry that is Master of None. Ansari and Yang have established themselves as unique talents in television, and even if Emmys do not take full advantage of their transcendent work, the least we can do is sit back and enjoy the ride. 

Other FYCs 
Judith Light in Transparent
Comedy Moms in Best Actress
The Americans for Best Drama
Aubrey Plaza in Legion
Justin Theroux in The Leftovers  
Difficult People for Best Comedy 
Eva Green in Penny Dreadful
Music for Big Little Lies
Samira Wiley in Orange is the New Black

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Reader Comments (7)

I loved the second seasons (especially the sublime 'New York, I Love You' episode), but I must admit that the romantic plot between Dev and Francesca left me rather cold. It was the most conventional thing in the season, and just about the only thing that never quite took off.

June 18, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMrW

I love the second season too. The brief detour to Italy is inspired and the cooking show arc pays off well, with a great performance from Bobby Cannavale no less. "Religion" is brilliant and Bassett was just perfection in "Thanksgiving".
But yeah I have the same trouble as MrW. The romance with Francesca feels very forced and the ending is D'oh. It totally is not helped by the fact that she doesn't have a real characteristic, other than being Italian.

June 18, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterCraver

I loved the second season just as much as the first one, if not more. I think my favorite episode was probably Thanksgiving. Denise´s coming out and her mother´s difficult time dealing with it were very well handled. Basset was so good and the family dynamics were hilarious. I thought the love story arc maybe dragged along a bit too much, but still didn't mind it too much because I thought Mastronardi was SO charming and lovely in the role (who wouldn't at least have a crush on her?!) and they had great chemistry.

June 18, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterCarlos

I really loved this season. Aziz and company deserve all the Emmy's for it.

June 18, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJess

Best show on television.

June 18, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterbeyaccount

Loved this season. It's so well-written, acted and shot that I sometimes forget how laugh out loud funny it is. Dev needling Denise's date about her Instagram handle (nipplesANDtoes23? Nipples&toes23?) was hilarious in a way that didn't undermine the emotional impact of the story.

And it's great that he had Waithe co-write the Thanksgiving episode to make sure it was told correctly.

June 19, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterDJDeeJay

If Angela Bassett doesnt get an emmy for this, I dont know what else she could do to get the praise she deserves. What a travesty it would be. She is perfection.

June 19, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterdan.

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