Friday, November 27, 2015

REVIEW: 'Master of None' - Dev and Rachel's Relationship Grows Over a Year of Living Together in 'Mornings'

Netflix's Master of None - Episode 1.09 "Mornings"

Dev and Rachel discover that living together isn't always going to be a series of happy mornings free from conflict and dirty clothes on the floor.

In such a short amount of time, Master of None has created a relationship between Dev and Rachel that is simple but absolutely mesmerizing. It's very meaningful to both the characters and the show. The second half of this season has leaned very heavily towards the relationship dynamics of this coupling. That quality has always been a part of the show. It has just increased in significance as of late. That's a good thing too when it comes to an episode like "Mornings" that features the two of them moving in together and living in the little details and big decisions of their relationship for close to a year. This episode takes place almost entirely in Dev's apartment. It showcases just how real this relationship is. It's also so impressive to watch as the show tells a compelling but realistic story about two people living together.

"Mornings" covers so much ground in just its 25 minute running time. It shows just how real and happy this coupling is for Dev and Rachel. They are at their best when they are with each other. From the very beginning of the series, there was a connection between the two of them that was going to be important. It took some time to get to this point. But now, they are finally here. They are two people in a committed relationship. The other person is so crucial in their lives and their decisions right now. It's fun watching this episode take these two characters on quite an emotional journey. It covers a lot but all of it feels so realistic and meaningful. All of the small moments build up to a relationship that feels simplistic while also being compelling to watch. And then, the big moments come and hit it out of the park because this is a relationship worth caring about because it lives in the details of these two characters.

All of the story beats in this episode aren't that original. It covers topics such as the need to keep a clean apartment, thoughtful gestures that don't go anywhere for quite some time, the need to share space, telling parents about how serious this relationship is and how intimacy and sex changes with this kind of closeness. The show makes all of these familiar storytelling beats compelling to watch because it is filtered through the characters. Dev and Rachel as individuals shine so brightly. This season has worked so hard to make these two characters worth caring about. It has been a slow build. This episode embraces that dynamic. This is a move that both characters want right now. They are happy and excited to be moving in together. It's the next step in their relationship. The episode begins with the two being able to continue their fun and playful banter while also acknowledge this big change to their lives.

It's because the show knows its characters so well that it is able to find the humor in the smallest of details. It's great watching as the two fight over who is "the clean boo vs. the dirty boo." That's a comedic line that can only work on this show with these two characters. It's also very amusing to watch as they give names to their penis and vagina - Charlemagne and Beatrice, respectfully. Those moments keep the storytelling from feeling cliche. It's very natural dialogue paired with interesting and multi-dimensional characters. These bits of comedy work so well because Aziz Ansari and Noel Wëlls commit so beautifully to the dynamics. Of course, this big move also brings about some major disagreements. Some of them are pretty commonplace and simple - like the need to pick up clothing. Others are much messier - like Dev buying a wedge to better their sex lives. But this relationship has become so important to both of their identities. It makes it that much more crucial to think about the other person when big decisions need to be made.

The show slightly gets into the nuisances of interracial dating. Dev is very happy in this relationship. And yet, he hasn't told his parents about Rachel at all out of fear of a clash of cultural beliefs. His parents come from a world of arranged marriages. They struggled for the lives they have today. They are very proud of their son. However, Dev doesn't know how they'll react to this big news because he rarely does more than talk to them once a week. Rachel has a right to be furious with him after discovering the truth. She tells her mom everything about Dev. Her mom is such a fan that she actually records shows just to watch the commercials Dev is in. That's a kind of trust that Dev doesn't have at the moment. He's afraid of what his parents will think. And yet, they are largely just upset and incredulous that he has been dating Rachel for a year and didn't think to tell them about her. They don't care that she's white. They just care about his happiness.

The episode also gets into the complexities of what one is willing to do in order to get to the dream they've been chasing for their entire lives. Dev may not fully understand what Rachel's job is but he respects how much love she has for it. And yet, she's not all that happy because she's still not working with the bands she really wants to be working with. She is given the opportunity to move up and get noticed for those big gigs - but it comes with the consequence of moving to Chicago for six months. That's a decision that Rachel needs to talk to Dev about. It's a brutal conversation between the two. And yet, it's also one of the most powerful sequences of the episode. Rachel doesn't want to move away. However, she feels she needs to in order to give some importance to the work she has spent the last few years doing. If she doesn't make a big move, then all that hard work would be for nothing. She's not dismissing what this could mean to her relationship with Dev. He's furious that she even wants to considering being a couple that just facetimes with each others. But that creates an awkwardness that fills their world for a week. This episode moves very quickly in time. And yet, when it comes to this big time apart, time moves very slowly. It establishes just how much Dev cares about this relationship. It hurts to be away from the person he loves. And yet, it is time well spent. Dev uses it to finally use the pasta maker Rachel got him as a housewarming present. Meanwhile, Rachel uses the interview to voice her concerns about her current job which leads to her not having to move in order to get better clients.

All of this is building up to the final scene of the episode when Dev and Rachel are just lying in bed together. Dev can't fall asleep and thus asks Rachel to tell him a story. She offers him a very silly tale about their relationship. He counters it with a much more magical retelling of just how meaningful and special this relationship has been. It recounts all the major moments in this couple's history together. It's a moment the show earns while never feeling too sappy. This is what the season has been building towards. Dev doesn't know if he can finish his story with a "happily ever after." And yet, he's perfectly content with saying that the two of them are happy in this moment. Looking at the future is uncertain for both characters. But this episode highlights the need to live and be happy in the present. That's all Dev and Rachel can really do. But "Mornings" shows just how simple yet complex and meaningful that can really be.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Mornings" was written by Aziz Ansari & Alan Yang and directed by Eric Wareheim.
  • The episodes takes place from July 6 to June 7.
  • That cooking sequence was very impressive and beautiful to look at. Plus, that final pasta dish looked fantastic to eat. Plus, Rachel trying to eat all of it was hilarious.
  • The need to squeeze the toothpaste from the bottom is a struggle I connect with way too easily. It's hard to get people to change their ways - though it is possible.
  • Rachel: "You’re right, but you’re being really insensitive about it."
  • Dev: "I missed your mess."
  • Ramesh: “It’s like that movie. What’s the one? The Ben Stiller movie. Where he meets the parents.” Dev: "It's called Meet the Parents."

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.