Sunday, November 15, 2015

REVIEW: 'Master of None' - Dev and Rachel Go on a Wonderfully Exciting and Awkward Date in 'Nashville'

Netflix's Master of None - Episode 1.06 "Nashville"

For his first official date with Rachel, Dev decides to go big and take her to Nashville for the weekend.

One of the reasons why Master of None has been so great is its willingness to go the unexpected route in order to make familiar comedic stories feel original and funny again. That's especially true in "Nashville." A first date that goes horribly awry but the guy is still able to win the girl over in the end has become such a tired and overused story. Master of None finds a way to put its own spin on the story while also making it much more realistic and funny. The writing and acting on this show remains so close to real life. It's very impressive on the show's part. That's such a good thing to have in the show's corner when it takes the audience and its characters on a journey in an episode like "Nashville."

Dev wants to do something special for his first official date with Rachel - who has just texted him saying that things didn't work out with her ex-boyfriend. Denise mentions that it's just boring to take a girl to dinner and then spend the next day worrying about whether or not it went okay. That's the familiar setup for this story. It too has become boring. So, Master of None avoids that by taking Dev and Rachel on an impromptu trip to Nashville for a weekend. It's an exciting adventure for both of them. They get to explore this city while still exploring each other. It gives them so much time to get to learn about the other while also being much more memorable than a lame dinner date.

This trip is equal parts exciting and awkward. It's fun watching as Dev and Rachel roam around the city taking in the sites and getting the full Nashville experience. But it's also awkward because they still don't know each other all that well. Aziz Ansari and Noël Wells have so much chemistry. Pairing them as a romantic couple is one of the best parts about this show. Dev and Rachel work well together because they have the same comedic sensibilities. They are so comfortable picking up the other's improv styling in order to have a good time. It's so charming as they just roll with everything the other does because they think it's fun and amusing as well. That builds a nice and easy rapport between the two characters. It's what makes their ongoing ghost conversations about Alfred, Baby Justin and the koala from Sydney who is a vegetarian but eats octopus so hilarious. In those moments, it shows just how well the two of them click together.

Of course, Dev and Rachel are still learning some big things about the other. Those little revelations could have lead to some pretty big stakes that lead to a fight. Instead, the show is much more low key with these reveals. When Dev and Rachel talk about the correct way to refer to fat people, they just turn it into a recurring joke. When Dev learns that Rachel is a vegetarian, he just muses on all the future splitsies lost because of it. But Rachel still proves herself to be wonderful by getting him the chicken he wanted to try at this barbecue place as well. So it's not a big deal that she's a vegetarian. It doesn't change what Dev thinks of her or how nice she is. It's just a new layer of Rachel revealed.

However, learning all of these things about each other doesn't make them completely comfortable when it comes to sharing a bed together for a nap. They have had awkward sex already but things are different now because they are actively exploring what this relationship can be. They both like each other. They are having a lot of fun on this trip. That doesn't make them comfortable to be in this situation in bed though. It's an absolutely beautiful moment that shows that neither one of them really knows what to do in this moment. That awkwardness helps define them just as much as the moments of excitement and fun. Plus, it doesn't derail the energy of this trip. When they wake up, they are still able to joke around about the ghosts that may or may hot be haunting this hotel.

So much of what makes this episode work is because the date between Dev and Rachel goes so well. This trip could have easily gone any number of ways. But the excitement of understanding the characters and the relationship comes from seeing them in a city experiencing it and not from some grand hijinks that ruin their plans. Of course, things eventually do go wrong. They miss their flight back to New York because Dev needed to go get some more barbecue sauce. Rachel needed to get back by 7PM in order to go to her niece's violin recital. Because of Dev putting too much trust in his Waze app, she won't be back for that event. This mistake could have lead to a big fight between the two that could have undone all the work they just did building this relationship up. And yet, that's not what happens. Through a montage of the two of them waiting in the airport, Rachel is just sad she's going to miss this event while Dev feels bad that he's the reason why. All of that is shown in their body language and the music accompanying the scene. It's not something they get too terribly upset about. On the plane ride home, Dev gives a small gesture to Rachel over how sorry he is for ruining her plans. She understands and accepts his gift. This is simply something that happened because they didn't have the time to do everything. That's acceptable and it doesn't ruin this relationship before it starts. In fact, Dev and Rachel go out to get more food as soon as they land. It's a very realistic approach to the story that makes the show so captivating in this episode. Very impressive indeed.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Nashville" was written by Aziz Ansari & Alan Yang and directed by Aziz Ansari.
  • This episode is mostly about Dev and Rachel. But Arnold and Denise do pop up in the beginning. Plus, Dev and Arnold's debate about 8 Mile is pretty amusing.
  • Dev and Rachel hit that honky tonk pretty hard despite the rest of the crowd not going as hard.
  • Overall, the show got pretty good mileage out of shooting the episode on location in Nashville. That's the only way for an episode like this to truly work and they pulled it off. 
  • Dev's apology to Rachel is sweet and sincere without being too cheesy. That's the biggest proof of just how well developed this show's characters are.
  • As a vegetarian myself, I relate immensely to Rachel being asked if there's enough for her to eat at this barbecue restaurant. 

As noted in previous reviews from this series, every episodic review was written without having seen any succeeding episodes. Similarly, it would be much appreciated if in the comments section, the conversation would only revolve around the show up to this point in its run.