Even though he’s spent nearly his whole life in the concrete jungle of New York City, Dev Shah is still quite lost. He’s in his early 30’s, single, and doesn’t have a cemented career; in fact, he struggles to pay rent and wonders why his parents don’t seem to approve of him. In Netflix’s series Master of None, first-generation American Dev acts as an eerily accurate reflection of Millennials (from any background) who finds that real life is a smack in the face for him.
Taking a poke at the frivolity and shallowness commonly noted in the lives of the rising generations, show creators Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang build a comedic reflection that carries themes of a quarter-life-crisis and re-coming-of-age story for the already adult, but it doesn’t completely spare the older generations, who have their own set of faults, either. It pokes fun in a vibrant tongue-in-cheek style at what the modern first-world calls problems.
In the first season, Aziz Ansari portrays Dev as the oblivious recipient of his parents’ hard work and sacrifice who navigates his life like one plays connect-the-dots: little to no planning and hopeful that one move does something for you and you only, lest someone do better. However, this is a story chock full of building relationships and bridges between generations. Between auditions, starting an affair, and having drinks with friends that rarely hit a deep note, Dev is (almost unknowingly) cultivating relationships and being shaped by the examples that are set before him, making him willing to give his time to people and realizing that life isn’t fair and one has to get over some of these things and deal with them the best one can. The points like that that hit home in this show are coyly disguised in light comedy and delightfully awkward situations.
The newly released second season, takes a slightly different perspective on protagonist Dev. It picks up in Italy, where Dev has become a pasta-making apprentice, in a spectacularly nostalgic black and white episode in which Dev nearly catches a thief. True to form, Dev is soon back in NYC, where he is still finding a way to merge together his Indian heritage, bringing in his own history, and assimilating into his home culture in America.
This second season paints a more empathetic and responsible side of Dev; he even sheds some narcissism. His turns in life are just as particular to his own life as before: he fakes being a practicing Muslim, gets a job as a host on Clash of Cupcakes, and learns to listen and be respectful of others rather than always barreling forward without thinking. It hangs the show on a note of nearly scandalous optimism when Dev may have finally found a direction in life he knows to follow.
Overall, the show is a good showcase of modern first-world perspective without terribly over-dramatizing it or being too woe-is-me and takes on the following topics: being single, marriage and family, immigration in a world of culture clash and disagreement, sex, religion, good and bad parenting, exploring the line between growing up and leaving behind childhood, etc. Sexism and racism also get a mention several times. Show makers invested equal amounts in content and quality, which, even if not totally sold on characters or plot, makes it worth watching.
Available on Netflix
Time Commitment: 2 seasons of 25-30 minute episodes
Why It’s Worth the Binge: Candid comedy, perspective of first-generation Americans in the 21st century, explores why stereotypes exist, satirical take on millennials
– Kelly Gatewood
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