THE SHOW “Master of None”
WHEN | WHERE Season 2 begins streaming Friday on Netflix
THE GRADE A
WHAT IT’S ABOUT At the end of the first season, Dev (Aziz Ansari) had a pair of setbacks. First, the director of “The Sickening,” the film he was in, decided to cut Dev’s only scenes. Second, his girlfriend, Rachel (Noël Wells), moved to Japan. But out of the bad came some good: First, the aptly named disaster flick was lousy, so the director did Dev a professional favor. Second, Rachel gave him the idea that if she can head off for a new adventure, why can’t he? Italia, here he comes. The second season begins as Dev is three months into his apprenticeship as a master pasta maker in Modena.
MY SAY No show could relocate to Modena for two episodes and squander the opportunity. It’s almost impossible: Set up your camera in the Piazza Grande, point camera toward the Duomo di Modena and turn camera on. “Master of None” squanders nothing in the black-and-white opener, which channels (or honors) 1948’s “The Bicycle Thief” but also evokes whatever the opposite of that film’s “Italian neorealism” is.
Love, friendship, food, beauty and timelessness all go into the pot. For 30 minutes, Dev becomes the romantic hero of his own cinema Italiano. Love is found. Love is lost. A thief steals not just his phone, but his fate. Verdi might have written an opera along these lines (if so, a long-forgotten one). At least cruel injustice is assuaged — then forgotten altogether — by those aromas that drift from Osteria Francescana (or whatever other restaurant where it’s nearly impossible to get a reservation).
“Master’s” two Modena episodes establish another TV truism: a change of scenery — especially this scenery — never hurt any show. Dev applies his conversational Italian (surprisingly good), and indulges his true passion (food). He doubles down on that passion when his pal Arnold (Eric Wareheim) arrives. He makes new friends, like Francesca (Alessandra Mastronardi). He meets Sara (Clare-Hope Ashitey), an alluring beauty from London.
In one of the best scenes, Dev painstakingly wraps individual “tortellino,” which he submits to an expert for evaluation: “Bene, bene, bene,” she says, followed by “brutta, brutta, brutta” (ugly). By getting out of New York, Dev also gets out of his head. After Rachel left for Japan last season, his head was about to become a dark place. But these opening episodes clear away the shadows, and let in the light. Also — most important of all — there’s the pasta.
BOTTOM LINE Modena stars, but Dev finds a way onto the screen as well. Great start to the much-anticipated second season.