From his stand-up comedy to his book Modern Romance to his hilarious Netflix series Master of None, Aziz Ansari always delivers a multicultural depiction of the millennial American experience. In season one, we watch as Dev (Ansari), a 30-year-old New York actor and first-generation American, refuses to speak in an Indian accent while auditioning for stereotypical Indian roles, contrasts his life to his dad’s upbringing, and tries to make it work with his girlfriend Rachel (Noël Wells).
Dev has an impressively diverse collection of friends: There’s Black lesbian Denise (Lena Waithe), his Asian friend Brian (Kelvin Yu), the super-tall and sensitive Arnold (Eric Wareheim), and fellow Indian actor Ravi (Ravi Patel). They all walk the line of maturity and woke-ness in the information age, but they also aren’t quite ready (or quite sure if they want) to settle down and have kids.
In other words, the show fluently speaks millennial—with iPhones, Uber, and the internet playing a realistically significant role in the characters’ daily lives. It’s also refreshing to see a show that lets straight men be feminine, with scenes that feature Dev and Arnold discussing date deets while Arnold gets a routine pedicure.
What I love about Master of None is that each episode has a unique format, focusing on different characters and their backstories. Season two brings even more of that, and dials up the multicultural factor: The first two episodes are set in Italy with Dev fresh off his breakup with Rachel. Episode one ("The Thief") is shown in black and white, a subtle reference to Vittorio De Sica's Bicycle Thieves. In pursuing his passion for pasta, Dev takes a few weeks to learn how to make it by hand from a local shop in Rome. After Dev says goodbye to his new Italian friends, he returns to New York to become the host of a ridiculous baking competition show, Clash of the Cupcakes.
Many can relate to Dev pretending to be more of a believer than he actually is in order to appease super-religious relatives; even more on point is when 2Pac’s “Only God Can Judge Me” soundtracks the first time Dev rebels and eats bacon.
Four episodes in, season two is already concept-rich: “Religion” is beautifully done, examining Dev’s lack of personal faith compared to his parent’s devout faith in Islam. Many can relate to Dev pretending to be more of a believer than he actually is in order to appease super-religious relatives; even more on point is when 2Pac’s “Only God Can Judge Me” soundtracks the first time Dev rebels and eats bacon. But “Religion” stays balanced, also exploring the positive role church can play in someone’s life, taking pains to note you can definitely be Muslim and not believe women are inferior, just as you can be Christian and not believe being gay is an abomination. It’s a topic I haven’t seen tackled this well onscreen, which is extra impressive considering Aziz’s real-life parents—non-actors, mind you—are playing themselves.
Perhaps my favorite of all is season two’s Denise episode, “Thanksgiving,” which is essentially the story of her and Dev’s childhood friendship, and a telling of her coming-out story to her traditional-but-loving mom, played by Angela Bassett. The episode packs in coming-of-age lessons, a daughter’s journey to familial acceptance, and Dev being immersed into soul food.
It’s also fun to watch Dev get put through the wringer as he uses Tinder to unsuccessfully date a slew of women—a realistic portrayal of how dating nowadays truly is the worst. Along with series regulars like Danielle Brooks as Dev’s agent, there are lots of hot cameos, from John Legend to Cedric the Entertainer to Aparna Nancherla.
There are also many laughs to be had, but season two has a much thicker romantic plotline, one that’s surprisingly thrilling as Dev falls for an unavailable woman. But while Master of None seems to be made for millennials, it also seems to be made for Gen-Xers, and romantics, and comedy fans, and foodies, and world citizens, and everybody. With a scope this wide, writing this good, and a cast this diverse, it’s anything but niche.