Make the Right Decision and Watch Master of None
There’s a fortunate group of us who live in the age of endless choice. From what movies or television shows we can watch, music we can listen to, or food we can eat, there is a veritable cornucopia of Apps and online reviews out there to tell us what’s the best of the best. And don’t we deserve the best?
This attitude has undeniably produced a cultural anxiety, a looming cloud of existential doubt: Did I choose the wrong partner? The inferior phone? An unfulfilling career? What if I invest hours of my time dedicated to a series where it turns out all the beloved characters were dead the whole goddamn time?
Spoiler Alert: The ten-episode run of Netlfix’s Master of None does not end with a revelation that the characters are in fact deceased and living in some kind of, like, dream state?
Master of None co-created by Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang follows Dev, a semi-autobiographical character based on Ansari who is an underemployed actor living in New York. From racism, sexism, ageism, parenthood, and the intricacies of modern relationships, Master of None is a comedy/love story that tackles many overarching themes in a way that’s neither annoyingly ironic, nor overly sentimental. The show ambitiously rejects the all too familiar stereotypes and tired formulas of sitcoms and rom-coms of days gone by — and it succeeds.
Resisting the temptation to capitalize on the binge-ready format Netflix has introduced, where seasons are basically the new episodes, each segment features its own title card introducing us to a theme (save for the last episode simply titled, “Finale”). No trademark theme song to be found, a new song accompanies each intro underscoring the tone of each episode. Nostalgic and groovy, I have to admit after finishing the series I immediately searched for the compiled soundtrack on one of my many audio-streaming services.
The cast is stacked with some particularly funny folks, including Eric Wareheim, who directed many of the episodes. Hints of the trenchant style of, Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! can be detected in a scene at a toy store in “Plan B” where a dinosaur toy is squeezed in repetition, or in Wareheim’s linguistic manipulation. Lena Waithe plays Denise, a shoot-from-the-hip core member of Dev’s crew who oozes cool from every pore and sets a new bar for deadpan delivery. H. Jon Benjamin plays a sarcastic sensei to Dev, his recognizable crystal clear voice finding the best comedic timing and inflection. Not to mention in “Parents” we’re introduced to Dev’s parents, played by Ansari’s real life parents, which could seem to be self indulgent, if they weren’t so earnest and loveable.
Like Modern Romance: An Investigation, co-authored by Ansari and Eric Kleinberg Master of None delves into the pleasures and pains of the current dating world. Whether it’s texting etiquette, birth control, infidelity, or divorce, the show is critical whilst hilarious when examining what it means to be in love in the era of the iPhone and “Netflix and chill.”
As the series moves forward, it focuses more on the romantic relationship between Dev and Rachel (Noël Wells). Their chemistry is undeniable and it’s something of a feat that episodes dedicated entirely to one of their dates in “Nashville” or the evolution of their relationship in “Mornings” would keep one intrigued without seeming redundant or cutesy. Although the tone of the show could be compared to an indie film, Rachel is no manic pixie dream girl. She’s a fully fleshed out character and her relationship with Dev isn’t a straightforward boy-meets-girl tale. The slips and slides in their love affair aren’t dramatic or overwrought, but rather gut-wrenchingly relatable.
Sticks, logs, doors, and tacos all serve as metaphors in the face of the question, “What if there’s something better out there?” A Sylvia Plath quote taken in earnest seems like the last suspect for an appearance in a comedy, and yet it works to guide us through the dilemma of our protagonist.
But what is the right choice? The series doesn’t try to answer the question, but rather takes us along the journey of the asking of it.
Master of None is sharply funny, delightfully refreshing, and cleverly written. So, if you’re scanning the seemingly bottomless array of choices on your Netflix account, unable to decide what show you might want to dedicate your precious time to, go ahead and take a chance on Master of None.