Remember the montage in Up everyone loved so much, of Ellie and Carl growing old together until Ellie dies? Episode nine of Master of None is the millennial version of that tale. In “Mornings,” Dev and Rachel enact their first year’s worth of mornings in the same apartment. It’s a clever device for tracking the shifts and sways of life together, a series of emotional births and deaths slotted into those early hours before the day begins, when working people get to love: the first fight, the first homemade bowl of pasta, the mellowing of yellow innocence into a deep, dark gold.
Some threads of conflict solidify. Dev is the obsessive-compulsive one of the pair, who considers the sight of a clean apartment as pleasurable as sex. Rachel has fewer affectations, a reminder that we’re living life from Dev’s POV. Everything she does matters only in relation to Dev. She’s sloppy at squeezing toothpaste, and leaves her clothes on the floor. As they negotiate these differences, their sex life dwindles in excitement. One night, they fall asleep without finishing, Dev giving up with a sigh onto Rachel’s body, her face a study in disappointment and fatigue.
The couple’s biggest challenges come in the form of establishing their seriousness. Dev has to be bullied into finally telling his parents about his now not-so-new girlfriend. Anyone who’s dated a first-generation Asian knows this process well. As Dev insists, it’s trickier telling your immigrant parents about your love life. They don’t hug or cook for newcomers easily.
Rachel considers moving forward professionally with a job in Chicago. We’re treated to a perfect encapsulation of the working condition for the above-average 30-year-old. The promise of schoolday glory has faded into tolerable mediocrity. Changing one’s life would mean throwing away a decent one for the chance at an exceptional one. The calculation flows into the next episode, as the couple weighs their love against a future one.
By the end of this one, though, we’re still safely wrapped in a yellowing cocoon. Unable to sleep, Dev tells Rachel the story of their life together. It’s neither a tragedy nor a comedy nor a grand romance, but it’s a good one all the same.