Day 144: Let’s talk about Master of None’s Season 2 Finale (spoilers ahead)

SPOILER ALERT! Do not read on if you haven’t done what all the cool kids did and binge-watched Master of None right when it came out. This post is for them … for US.

So ... what happened, exactly?

Before we analyze, we must agree on the data, which is … difficult.

According to this interview with Aziz Ansari and the Master of None team, was meant to be intentionally ambiguous, and other endings were discussed, including one where Dev reunites with the woman in the season premiere.

The ending they chose was “the best one” in their opinion, and I’m inclined to agree. I thought the romance between Dev and Francesca was beautifully done and key to one of the core motivations of the show: Dev’s general existential crisis, played out through romance, career, family, race, and food.

The TL;DR version: Dev’s a hedonist at heart, which makes him a lot of fun to watch but dangerous if you get too close.

Does Manic Pixie Dream Girl apply?

For the uninitiated, the Manic Pixie Dream Girl is a common trope in romantic comedies and a common argument in feminist critiques of such films. There are many examples of MPDG, but one in particular feels particularly self-aware: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

The quote of quotes:

Clementine Kruczynski: “Too many guys think I’m a concept, or I complete them, or I’m gonna make them alive. But I’m just a fucked-up girl who’s lookin’ for my own peace of mind; don’t assign me yours.”

Someone close to me (I won’t say who, but I’ll give you a hint: I’m super into her) told me that Francesca was an MPDG for Dev. To her, this approach is a bit of a tired narrative, and she disengaged from the story line completely.

I can understand the analogy here. Especially during her month-long trip to New York, Francesca’s fun and charming. She likes to gamify everything. However, I don’t think Francesca should be the target here.

The real MPDG… is Dev.

Dev is the kind of person you’d call if you were on a brief vacation in his hometown and want to have a guaranteed good time. As an struggling actor, he’s trained to be delightful and engaging, and he has a lot of time on his hands to keep you entertained.

He’s a fun date, but is he boyfriend or husband material? Not really.

Master of None is largely about enjoying the moment, which innocuously means trying new restaurants, traveling spontaneously to “exotic” places, working weird commercial and popcorn entertainment projects (a show about judging cupcakes — ‘nuff said) and, on occasion, sleeping with married women. These misadventures are indeed fun and zany to witness from afar, but up close it’s a bit of a mess.

Dev refuses most social norms such as marriage, a stable career, or a respectful rapport with his family. His best “token white” friend Arnold enables Dev by mimicking his own hedonism (but at least in Season 2 we see that Arnold is actually in a lot of anguish).

The women that fall for him in a substantial, multi-episode kind of way way — Rachel from Season 1 and Francesca from Season 2 — share one key attribute: they’re both struggling to commit to a major life decision. They’re the ones who question their own happiness and think they’ve found it through Dev, a perpetual yet ephemeral source of joy.

Who is Dev, really? What does the ending mean?

Both Dev Shah and Aziz Ansari are close to my age, and I see Dev vis-a-vis myself the same way that Tina Fey most likely viewed 30 Rock’s Liz Lemon. He’s what could have happened if I never married and chased an ultimately unrewarding lifestyle.

I like watching Master of None’s Dev, but I’m concerned about his selfishness — a consistent issue throughout the series. He prioritizes his own needs over that of his parents, to the point of hurting their feelings. When Rachel or Francesca choose a direction that does not include him, he struggles to express understanding or compassion because he’s focused oly on himself.

I interpreted the ending of Season 2 as similar to that of the ending of The Graduate. It’s not exactly romantic or fulfilling, but full of uncertainty and ennui… It’s easy to get caught up in the moment, but then what?

But hey, that’s just my interpretation.

— Lee