In the second season of his show, Master of None, Aziz Ansari shows the viewer exactly why it is so aptly named–at any given moment, no matter how in control his character, Dev Shah, may feel, he is never his own master. Whether it is a shocking scandal revealed about a coworker, a candid look at the arbitrary nature of trying to find love through a dating app, or a revelation that he cannot control his romantic feelings toward Alexandra, (which the show masterfully shows in a minutes-long, silent cab ride), there is the constant reminder that life’s most important intersections are decided before we are able to decide on our own.
In a less imposing sense, the show also delivers on its title through the Seinfeld-esque moments of confusion and discomfort when presented with less than ideal situations. In the second episode of the season, Dev is visited in Italy by Arnold who is there to attend the wedding of an ex-girlfriend. In his first interaction with her, Arnold declares his love for her and pleads with her to cancel the wedding and run away with her, though she clearly does not reciprocate these feelings. At once hilarious and painful to watch, Arnold’s tactless and futile attempt reminds the viewer of one George Costanza, perhaps the most infamously helpless and awkward character in television history.
The show is a comedy and this idea that the characters ultimately lack control in most aspects of life is often used as a way to simply further the plot or a device to incite laughter. The show does, however, remind the viewer of its title through more heavy subjects such as a family’s response to one of its own being gay, which is the sole focus of the episode, “Thanksgiving,” among other subjects.
What truly draws the viewer to this show, though, is the fact that, even through this inevitable fact that we are ultimately powerless to the world around us, each and every character possesses genuine hope that whatever control they do have, they will make the most of. In the episode, “New York, I Love You,” a brief aside from the life of Dev which focuses on the lives of various New Yorkers who end up going to see the movie Death Castle, the final subject is a foreign cab driver who lives in a communal apartment with his fellow drivers. The group are excited to go out to a club, which rejects them because of they way that they were dressed, and then attend another club that is entirely empty, leading one to assume that their night is effectively over with outside influences overwhelming whatever plans they’d had. The drivers, though, are undeterred and eventually find a successful night in burger joint. The scene is a microcosm of the rest of the show–average people who, with unwavering hope, find ways to navigate the impossible-to-change circumstances that life presents them.