Wednesday, May 31, 2017

You're Not the Boss of Me Now - A Brief Review

I finished watching Master of None Season 2 yesterday and was...frustrated.


[Mild spoilers may follow.]

The entire thing comes SO CLOSE to posing deep questions about the nature of the way we live now - but shies off from a long and studied look, never solidly condemning, never solidly endorsing.

It leaves you feeling dissatisfied and a teeny bit rage-y.

As far as the basic plot goes, there isn't much to complain about, a prima vista.* It shows Dev searching for something greater, pursuing his passions, realizing on some level the vacuity of his lifestyle, and finding that what really he really desires is a relationship with his good ol' gorgeous Italian buddy Francesca.

That narrative doesn't capture how much depth there is to his revelation, though. One episode shows him going on multiple dates with women and how the grind of these repetitive motions leaves him hollow. Another episode finds him doing the same promo-takes on a dull show over and over again and how tiresome those are because his passion does not lie thataways.

He wants a food show with integrity and he wants a person with ...whom he can connect...? That seems to be the main given-reason, at any rate, and it sounds like WEAK SAUCE.

The carryover analogy fails a bit because the show seems to be trying to balance both that there is nothing inherently damaging about such transient use-driven relationships AND that for some people it's ok to desire something more lasting. It left me unpersuaded. I might, however, have been too ungenerous of an audience and needing extra convincing or more blatant "HEY, DUMMY,  HERE'S THE MORAL!" moments. But I did get a sense of both/and rather than either/or. I'm willing to be convinced otherwise.

But I was also not convinced that Dev as a character learned ANYTHING. True, at the end he says the equivalent of everything pales in comparison to her. But it doesn't suggest strongly why and seems more like a feeling than an articulated realization that his life lacks authentic human connection.

Which is another problem - many of the characters that surround Dev are really copies of himself with one facet or another exaggerated so that he can better define himself in their reflections. They speak, think, and act similarly and sometimes the caricature is so over-the-top (*cough*Arnold*cough*) that you don't feel like you're watching a person so much as a walking stage-prop -- like a skull an actor might pick up during a play to really emphasize that this dude here is Seriously Contemplating Mortality. If his life is empty, it's partly because the people around him are as well.

So he wants something more, but he doesn't seem to feel it too deeply, to let it really shake and move him to action. He's simply in a miasma of malaise and is a bit disgruntled but not too incredibly put out. At least, everything is so smooth and glib that by the end you're convinced he'd get over it after a few good sulks.

It was certainly an amusing show, because Ansari has talent, but it was not a great show.

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*a.k.a. Prima facie.

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