8:00am PT by Lisa Weidenfeld
'Master of None' Co-Creator Explains Surprise Season 2 Ending
[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the entire second season of Netflix's Master of None.]
The second season of Master of None presented a lot of challenges for protagonist Dev (Aziz Ansari). He fell in love and got his dream job, but experienced major heartbreak in pursuit of both. His celebrity chef mentor Jeff (Bobby Cannavale) turned out to have a serious dark side, and his dream girl (Alessandra Mastronardi) was engaged to another man.
By the end of the season, life has finally settled down a bit for him, but things still end on a very ambiguous note. Has Dev finally found true love? THR talked to Master of None co-creator Alan Yang about leaving things up in the air, and what inspired the Chef Jeff storyline (whose resemblance to Anthony Bourdain is, he swears, a coincidence: “Just please print that! It’s not based on him!”).
How did you decide on what you wanted the Chef Jeff storyline to be? That he would start out as this very positive figure, but then over the course of time transform into this very ugly, villainous guy?
That was an idea we had really early on. This was a long time ago. It was a time when all these public figures were getting outed for horrible sexual harassment claims and it’s still topical, unfortunately. It’s unbelievable. When that Bill O’Reilly thing happened, I texted Aziz, I’m like, "God damn it, another Chef Jeff!" Like, every time, it’s crazy. It doesn’t stop. But, in some ways, it’s a little bit encouraging because people are finally having to take some sort of responsibility for this horrible shit they’re doing. [O'Reilly had] been doing this for 20 years. He paid off $13 million to people accusing him and finally, in 2017, at least he lost his job. Yes, he got paid off a ton. But at least he doesn’t have his pulpit anymore. Maybe sometime in the future you can’t get away with it for two decades. Maybe we’re getting to that point. But it really did feel in-the-zeitgeist at that time. It had happened to some of our friends. That stuff happens. It really does happen. The idea was, also, wow, it’s this person you know, and they’re always nice to you. That’s a real thing, too. You don’t see it. Bill O’Reilly’s a terrible example because I think people generally didn’t like him, but there are also other guys who are very nice in other aspects and they’re doing this behind closed doors where no one can see it. And that’s another type of harasser. That all felt really real to me.
A big part of the romance this season is that Francesca is unavailable for almost the entirety of their courtship. What was appealing about writing about an unavailable love interest?
What was nice about that in some ways is that it defined it very clearly as different from the Rachel relationship in season one, which was a very classic kind of, you know, obviously there were twists and turns, but it was more boy meets girl, and they encounter some issues, and then it’s their relationship. This is more about unrequited, or it’s not even unrequited, it’s possibly requited, but there’s just this very clear obstacle, and by the way that obstacle is played by Riccardo Scamarcio, who’s one of the biggest movie stars in Italy. That’s the funny thing about it too, is that Ale, who plays Francesca, and Riccardo are both huge Italian movie stars. They’re tremendous actors, and we’re so excited that they decided to do our show. So we hadn’t explored that before. It’s very different from the dynamic in season one. It really interested us, and I don’t think I want to reveal too much about how much of that is based on reality or real life or whatever, but we had some ideas about where to go, for sure.
We get such a brief glimpse of Rachel (Noel Wells) at the very end there. Did you want to wait until he was wrapped up in a new romance before you brought her back?
Yeah, when that idea came up, it was really exciting to me. It’s kind of this crazy gut punch where he’s already at a low and he has no one. He has no one to turn to, he’s feeling more alone than he ever has, he feels rejected, it’s all over, he’s doing this sad walk across the streets of New York at night, and then you run into a person who has been your companion, who has been there for you, who was your emotional support for so long, but now the person is basically a stranger to you. And that idea of seeing your ex in that situation is so gut-wrenching. It’s literally that Gotye song, “Somebody That I Used to Know.” And you’re just exchanging pleasantries. You’re not going to see each other again. You’re just like, “How’s work going?” — that kind of stuff. “Where do you live now? Oh, great, see you.” That to me rings so true of interactions with exes sometimes, ones that you haven’t kept in touch with. And putting that scene there I thought could be really powerful.
Did you like the idea of ending on a cliffhanger note?
Oh yeah! We came up with tons of different endings. We came up with so many. And we always kept coming back to this one because we didn’t want to give the audience that closure. We didn’t want to be like, "And so this is how you should feel about this," and they’re together or they’re not together, and it’s perfect or it’s sad. We didn’t want to live in that world. So we tried different ways. There’s something about the abruptness of the cut that we really liked, too. That doesn’t give the audience time to really even catch up to what’s happening.
Was it very intentional to have Arnold (Eric Wareheim) lay out all those reasons why the relationship won’t work right before she finally comes around?
Oh man, we worked on the ending so many times. We really went back and forth and talked about all the permutations and what would feel most real. It’s one of the only times Arnold is lucid in the entire season. He gives really good advice. It’s like, maybe Arnold really ate healthy that day. There’s so many Dev-Arnold talks about what this might be, and we wanted to feel like there was this resolution to all of this, and then it takes another left turn. I think that was part of it, where as an audience member you’re used to being lulled into that rhythm of, OK, maybe he gets the talk and the closure from his friend, and then it’s over. We wanted to leave it ambiguous certainly at the end. It’s like, is Arnold right or not? Is it something else? Is the whole thing a dream? We kind of wanted to leave a lot of possibilities open.
Do you feel optimistic about that relationship at the end of the season?
I’m leaving that up to the viewer. I don’t know. I really don’t know. Yeah, that remains to be seen. Even if we do another season, we might not answer that.
Just leave that unknown.
That’s a threat.
Master of None season two is streaming on Netflix now.