Master of None
In “New York, I Love You,” Ansari extends Master of None beyond Dev’s life and his core group of friends. Directed by Alan Yang and written by Yang and Ansari, the episode follows three separate New York stories from characters who don’t usually receive the television treatment: a doorman at a fancy apartment building, a deaf bodega clerk and her boyfriend, and a cab driver and his roommates. It’s sort of like Master of None’s version of High Maintenance (minus the weed, of course) in that it treats the value of every story equally. Let’s tackle each story separately, shall we?
Eddie the Doorman Gets No Respect
Eddie (Frank Harts) is very good at his job. He’s polite to the apartment tenants even when they express offensive views, like an elderly woman who bemoans that she can no longer refer to Native Americans as Indians (“This guy used to fix my car. I called him Injun Larry. He loved it!”). He remembers everyone’s name and says hello to them as they enter and exit the building. He also does his best to help the tenants out with special requests when he can, like giving diabetic medication to a woman’s parakeet or informing an adulterous Mr. Strickland (Joseph Adams) when his wife will be home.
Does Eddie receive recognition for these acts? No. It’s simply part of the job. In fact, he only hears about it when he misses a beat. While he’s away from the desk giving medicine to that parakeet, Mr. Strickland’s wife catches him in bed with another woman and starts throwing all of his clothes out of a window. Furious that he didn’t inform him, Mr. Strickland starts screaming at Eddie until he puts his foot down and says, “With all due respect, sir, you’re responsible for your own actions. If you don’t walk away right now, we’re going to have a problem.” He might be a doorman, but he’s no pushover and upholds common standards of behavior.
Harts carries the story fairly well. The scenes when he talks shop with the other doormen stand out, but it’s all a little too compact to have that much cumulative impact. It’s nice to see Eddie stand up for himself in front of a tenant taking advantage of his generosity, and yet it would have more weight if we spent even a little more time with him and his job.
Maya and Barry’s Problems in Bed
As one of the other doormen goes out to buy mangoes at the local bodega, we begin to follow the deaf clerk Maya (Treshelle Edmond) and all sound immediately cuts out. We see her at work mildly struggling to understand a customer as he fuddles his way through ASL before she goes to lunch with her friend Shruti (Maleni Chaitoo). Apparently, Maya is having trouble communicating with her boyfriend Barry (Stanley Bahorek) about problems with their sex life. Shruti tells her to just bring it up in a respectful, private manner and all should be well.
Of course, Maya doesn’t wait until they’re in private to broach the topic and instead starts “loudly” discussing it in a store where she and Barry are purchasing a gift for a not-so-close friend. As the two banter back and forth about their sex life, constantly signing phrases like “lick my vagina,” they’re interrupted by an angry mother who informs them that her children understand ASL. Embarrassed, the two soon reconcile and promise to discuss it later at home.
Even adjusting for the no-sound gimmick, which is legitimately jarring at first, this is the weakest of the three stories precisely because it feels so much like “deaf people are people too!” Maya fights with her best friend about wearing the same clothes just like you, she fights with her boyfriend about her sex life just like you, and so on. It’s not condescending exactly, and the children signing “vagina” is pretty funny, but because the issues are so universal and bog-standard, it feels half-baked. Of course the deaf community also faces these problems, but the problems themselves aren’t suddenly interesting because they involve a deaf person.
A Cab Driver’s Night on the Town
The final story in “New York, I Love You” involves Samuel (Enock Ntekereze), a cab driver who spends all day behind the wheel only to go home to his cramped apartment with his cab driver roommates. It’s easily the best of the three stories, mostly because it illustrates how a bad night can turn favorable with just a little improvisation and an open mind.
Samuel and his two roommates have saved up their money to go out to a club, but the club owner rudely turns them down at the door, criticizing their fashion and lack of women. They eventually get roped into going to a shady club with a $20 cover, but find no one inside and the DJ playing “We Like to Party!” by the Vengaboys, a.k.a. the song from the Six Flags advertisement. They’re tempted to bail on the whole night, but soon see a group of women desperately trying to get into a fast-food joint after hours — and it just so happens to be the place where their friend works. Samuel, his roommates, and the women all hang out in the eatery and make their own club experience.
It’s a sweet, inclusive scene that features a group of people who rarely get to experience a city they drive around every day. If New York has the potential for magic on any given night, this final story demonstrates that that magic isn’t guaranteed for everyone. Sometimes you have to make your own magic, even if comes with fries and the Six Flags song.
Jack of All Trades
• The recurring thread across the stories is a new Nicolas Cage film entitled Death Castle, which apparently features a twist in which Cage ends up being black and the castle is actually heaven. The ending is spoiled for Samuel, much to his anger. Everyone featured in the episode goes to see the movie by the end, along with Dev. Samuel doesn’t enjoy himself much.