Holy. Freaking. Moly. Those were the first three words that came to mind after finishing the second season of Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang’s Master of None. The second six words? I need to find a Francesca.
Francesca aside (…who just overtook Sloane from Entourage as the TV character girl of my dreams), it’s rare to find unfathomably relatable art (besides Season One of MoN of course, which I discussed here). Art with cries just like your cries. Laughs just like your laughs. Ridiculously awkward first dates with mundane conversations about nothing just like your ridiculously awkward first dates with mundane conversations about nothing.
Commonalities aside, it’s a creative masterpiece. There were dozens of “holy shit I can’t believe he thought of that” moments during each episode (more on the muted scene later). Aziz & Co-Creator Alan Yang not only created a show with storylines naturally discussed at our weekly #brunch, they did it in the mold of an Annie Hall-era Woody Allen — built on humor, yet rooted in deeper nods to identity, postmodernism, and of course, the absurdity of romance.
So how did Season Two cement its spot as the series of a generation? No, it wasn’t the popular first date episode (coincidentally reminding me of a certain someone broadcasting his first date over Facebook), rather, it was Aziz’ specific pulse on why the fuck we are so neurotic as a generation — be it dating fails, FOMO culture, imposing generational gaps — and ability to translate these themes into ultra-relatable scenes & dialogue throughout the entire season.
There is simply no other show on TV creating a more familiar ode to the “issues” of the twentysomething psyche (or as I like to call them, strengths). Even more specifically, the twentysomething male psyche. Gone are the days of Carrie Bradshaw existing on her own introspective “making-it-in-the-big-city-but-I’m-still-having-lots-of-sex” planet. For the first time, we’re starting to see these tales through a different lenses, and it’s about damn time the frat bro is replaced by the romanticizing Nouveau bro in pop culture (pick me!).
Now, as opposed to the first season, an eclectic mix of comedy, familial pride, and our favorite pastime (morning sex), Season Two was supercharged by a wide array of powerful, “all-the-feels” scenes. Quite simply, three were to blame for causing this sometimes grownup Jewish young adult to actually tear up (**Spoiler Alert**).
The first was in Episode Four, “The Dinner Party” when we first see Dev fall for Francesca. Dev brings Francesca as his date to a dinner party, where John Legend casually performs. They drink, they eat, and most importantly, they schmooze. Now, put those three actions together in my own life on a “date” and it’ll usually lead to — at minimum — a quality make-out session while she waits for her Uber, and at maximum….. you know.
At the end of the night, we see our boy Dev end up in an Uber home (ugh, I know it was a taxi, but I’m just going to say Uber to refocus the realistic frame of mind). We want him to make a move, at least the ENTIRE history of romantic scenes on television/film makes sure he will in fact make a move. But does he? No. It’s a quick friendly hug, and boom, she’s gone…and he’s alone. End scene…or you think.
No, Aziz brilliantly leaves the camera on Dev for the next 30 seconds as the cab pulls away. We see him cringe, tear up, equally emotional and emotionless while the car continues moving. This is a fucking moment. It’s a moment I’ve experienced many times…it’s probably happened to you, too. I could literally see myself in that car after an uneventful date, or in my room after a brutal breakup, even missing the bus after a rough day at work. That was me, and I caught all of the feels because of it (and the absolutely incredible song “Say Hello, Wave Goodbye” playing during this moment). These are the vulnerable moments we don’t share on social media, but happen nearly all of the time — yes, even more often than your friends’ trips to Iceland.
When we have these “socially unacceptable” emotions or experiences, we don’t know how to react. Do we text our friends? Post a long status presumably political on Facebook? Share an unfiltered Instagram picture of us in a relatively mundane trough of a moment? Create a Snapchat story littered with your true emotional state? Of course, we know how this actually plays out: hidden feelings, deeper anxiety culminating in perceived “loneliness” when we’re supposed to be more connected than ever before.
Later in the season, Dev notes: “it’s that feeling. I felt really connected to somebody and it felt good. Now I just feel fucking alone.” Fundamentally, we all just want a deeper connection to something, better yet, someone. When we have it, then lose it, it’s tough to know how to act. There is no right answer, and sometimes you just have to sit in the Uber home with dangerously introspective music to figure it out.
Another poignant scene (or run-up of scenes) is from the episode “New York, I Love You.” Now, as you can tell by every social media post I’ve ever created (and probably you too), I’m living in a bubble. No, not the tech bubble. I’m talking about the “ugh, can we really fit 35 friends on our 30 seat bus to Napa” bubble. This episode takes us out of this insane mimosa-infused, irresponsibly-spending-half-our-paycheck-on-Coachella bubble into (gasp) the world. We see a taxi driver, a doorman, and just normal good folks trying to survive.
A bunk-bed in New York City with three immigrants? Nah, that doesn’t happen right? What about a loyal doorman in a prestigious building? His life matters, his perspective matters, and as we saw in the scene with the resident’s extramarital adventures, his integrity matters. The socio-economic divide seemingly more pronounced than ever before is certainly something we don’t think about everyday in our boogie, “old people are above 32” “first-world-problem-ridden” day-to-day lives in quite simply, the richest cities in America (I’m talking to you New York, SF, LA, Chicago, and…okay, Austin, you can join the party too).
In this same episode, we also see diversity of health, or as I like to call it “struggling to fix the audio on the TV for five minutes until you realize it’s supposed to be mute.” Breathtaking. Here, we follow a deaf woman in her struggle to get her also deaf boyfriend to, how can I say, return certain sexual favors. Usually, with a scene like this, the artist may haphazardly depict the subject — perhaps music or people talking in the background, but that would not have put us in their shoes, in their eyes, and of course, their ears. As a people, we certainly take much for granted, and I think this blurb exemplified that brilliantly (note to self: start using that damn grateful diary again). Better yet, at the end of the day, we are ALL making it up as we go, hitting up overhyped bars or clubs, and most importantly, breaking into the damn pizza shop to get a late night slice.
The final scene, on certainly a more positive note, takes place during Dev/Francesca’s slumber party in Dev’s incredibly low-key ridiculously swanky pad (I mean c’mon, you’re telling me ‘Clash of the Cupcakes’ is paying those bills — there has to be a video-game playing Craigslist roommate hiding somewhere in there!).
Apartment aside, we see romance, real fucking romance…and it, again, brings all those feels. Wine, dancing to chic Italian music, Netflix — we see it all in this fleeting moment of shall I say, Modern Romance. Besides the fact that he is literally living my dream date in this scene (besides the sleeping arrangement of course ;), this is happiness. We’ve all been there with our SO’s — somewhere in between the first “homer” and the second time going out with her friends, we are incredibly, blissfully happy (and yes, I know Francesca was engaged, but for all intensive purposes, they were emotionally seeing each other).
It all leads up to another specific moment where you are either yelling alone in your apartment because you’re single AF or squeezing your SO closer to you — the “almost kiss” in the bedroom door’s window followed by that three second pecker afterwards. Seriously, guys? Could you create a sexier television moment? Whether you thought “omg sooooo hot” or “get the fuck out of here,” one thing is certain: you were touched, and immediately started thinking of the fairytale like moments from your own relationship(s).
By the time Francesca Irish goodbye’d, we hear another one of Dev’s taken-straight-from-our-group-thread quotes ringing in our ears “sometimes you meet people for a reason, sometimes you meet them for a season.”
In one line, he nails it: the crux of anxiety-ridden dating today, where there is a never-ending soap opera filled with “we hit the three year mark, let’s go all in because our friends in Virginia just got engaged!” “I’m not really feeling her so I just re-downloaded Bumble” and “I’m almost 27, I need to travel and teach English in Spain for a year to find myself” mentalities. Whatever specific anecdote may come to mind, it’s all there in this scene. Everything.
Social media screws us; it really does. In lives continuously flowing up & down, up & down, back & forth, back & forth, we only see one height online: the peaks. Rachel going to Bali (again), Joe (27) getting promoted to VP at his food-delivery startup, and Caroline getting engaged in Carolina (punny, I know). Unfortunately, this causes us to misplace expectations on which raw emotions, gut feelings, and numbing experiences are socially acceptable. Worse, we are trained to interpret other people’s successes as our failures, even though this is the furthest thing from the truth. “Great,” we tell ourselves, “now I need more money, a hotter girlfriend, and a trip to Europe” — that is, by essence, the only way we can be happy, right?
Master of None reverses this psychology with an unfettered grasp on the true desires of urban Millennials: we’re sick of this society of the anxiety-driving self-help era — richer, prettier, stronger, coffee snob, ‘world traveler,’ on and on. Aziz and co-creator Alan Yang recognize that we’re now in the age of self-validation — where the best art is the art pinching us to say “I am not alone.”
If there is one tangible takeaway from this Netflix original eerily similar to my own life, it’s comfort. Comfort with my own absurdly complicated emotions. Poor, yet improving Emoji game. Career uneasiness, and most importantly, my emboldened desire to let the play develop.
Harrison Forman is a former Facebook employee, influencer manager @DarbySmart, & media producer based in San Francisco, CA. He also runs Brunch Media, a new studio focused on digital content & shows for the urban dating app swiper.