The 69th (hehehe) Primetime Emmy Awards were a special night for diversity. After #OscarsSoWhite went viral, it was genuinely uplifting to see that TV at least is ready to appreciate the work of non-white, non-male people in cinematic storytelling. The Handmaid’s Tale’s Reed Morano became the first woman to win the award for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series in 22 years. Donald Glover became the first black director to pick up the Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series award for a truly magnificent episode of Atlanta, and Riz Ahmed was the first man of Asian descent to ever win an Emmy acting award.
Then there was our very own Aziz Ansari (yes, he is from South Carolina, but when have we ever shied away from being proud of successful people of Indian origin?). Aziz Ansari and Lena Waithe won the Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series for the "Thanksgiving" episode of Master of None. It was no fluke that the episode was about relationships, as the show excels at portraying those.
The show revolves around Dev, a guy going around New York making a living, eating great food, hanging out with his friends and meeting women. And this commonplace setting is what makes the show so relatable. While in other shows you might identify with a character or two, Master of None can sometimes be a little snapshot of your life.
And nowhere is this tendency more visible than when the show turns to relationships. Side note: The show’s creator and lead actor Aziz Ansari talks about relationships a lot. Heck, he even wrote a book on it.
In season 1 it was Dev’s relationship with Rachel which took centre stage. Season 2 is slightly different as while its larger story arc is the Dev-Francesca story, it still has enough time to focus on Dev’s single life. Dev is not the only one whose love life we see, as an episode each is given to Arnold and Denise’s stories too.
The relatable aspect of the show shines through in the dates that Dev goes on. From the serendipitous encounter to the Tinder interest which fizzled out, they evoke memories of experiences that many of us have gone through.
The random meeting
We see this one in the season opener. Dev has a ‘reservation for one’ on his birthday and he meets a British woman named Sara who can’t find a seat at the restaurant. He asks her to join him and they end up having a great time at lunch. After that Dev shows Sara around and they make plans to meet up later. Except a thief steals his phone and with it, goes her number.
He tries to find her online but with precious little material details about her, he doesn’t get anywhere.
Either one of the two acts of this little story will surely remind you of the time when you went somewhere to do something and ended up meeting someone. It could be the time you talked to the girl next to you in the bookstore or the boy who was in the same UberPool as you.
Or maybe when you talked to someone but didn’t quite muster up the confidence to ask for their number. On to social media then to put those stalking skills to the test. Of course we generally tend to stick to our little social cliques, so it is probably a little easier for us to find that person than it was for Dev to find a random New Yorker he met in Italy.
The Tinder match which was nice, till it wasn’t
Priya was the one we thought might just go the distance. The race card was a factor (they talk about the head bobble!) and there also seemed to be a fun chemistry to the whole thing.
Except the second date is a disaster. They end up talking about water (sparkling or flat?) and that’s the last we see of Priya.
This fits in perfectly with blink-and-miss world of online dating we live in. Ansari talks about online dating extensively in his book and he firmly believes that these apps are simply tools to set up the first date and that’s when you find out about the person.
The advice seems logical enough but it could also lead to the precise situation we see with Dev and Priya. The first date goes great because you have so much to talk about. But on the second date, you discover that it was more the excitement of meeting someone cute that carried you through and there wasn’t really something special there at all.
The love interest
Then there is Francesca, the Italian woman Dev falls for. The storyline has been dealt with well but it wasn’t anything earth-shattering. In fact, the last two episodes — which encompass the relationship — are the least memorable in the series.
Still, the storyline wasn’t without its moments. From a really cute “date” when they both get snowed in after a blizzard hits the city to Francesca teaching Dev Italian insults, the plotline was never boring.
It also has the scene. Dev has just dropped off Francesca. He is alone in the backseat of the cab with a quiet driver (thank god for those). He has bid her goodbye and it has hit him what that actually meant. The feeling of knowing that someone is perfect for you and not being able to do anything about it.
We have all been there. Maybe it was your break-up date. Maybe it was the time your best friend (whom you’ve actually loved for the last six years) told you that you’re not meant to be. Maybe it was the time someone told you they were going abroad forever.
It hits you like a sucker punch to the gut. Your heart sinks and you suddenly understand every love cliché. You look outside but never quite know what you’re looking for. And all of that was visible on Dev’s face during that cab ride.
On paper, this scene would have looked absolute rubbish, vain even. Ansari basically gave himself an almost perfectly-timed three minute chunk of screen time with zero dialogue and with him looking just the right mix of resigned and sad. It just shouldn’t work.
And yet, like the entire show, it just does.
Ansari is certainly a Master of Some
There are many other scenes where the show picks up on the little things we do while trying to find love (or just getting into a “possible boning situation”). But it is also the crisp writing which makes these everyday scenarios so delightful to watch.
Ansari has shown time and again that he is a keen observer of how his audience behaves and dates. With Master of None, he proves that he can translate those observations into quality TV as well.