#SummerHours TV Episodes to Watch (#Pride Edition): Master of None: “Thanksgiving”

Goodbye, winter caps—hello, summer hats! It’s that glorious time of year where many of us can switch from content creators to content consumers. NYWIFT members Mellini Kantayya and Kathryn O’Kane have put together #SummerHours, a series of fun summer books, movies, and TV shows by or about women.


By Kathryn O’Kane

Aziz Ansari’s Netflix series Master of None has enjoyed high critical praise for its first two seasons. It’s a show about Dev, played by Ansari, a New York-based actor struggling with his career and relationships. Most 20-somethings wrestle with identity – ‘who am I and what do I want to do with my life?’ and Master of None weaves funny stories of dating, job hunting, and life in NYC with the added pressure of being a first-generation American. Dev’s journey is sometimes compounded by the weight of his immigrant family’s expectations to maintain his Indian culture. Loveable and funny, Dev’s friendship circle helps him find the balance.

In Season 2, the one to watch is “Thanksgiving” directed by Melina Matsoukas and co-written by Lena Waithe, who does double duty as both the writer and star of this episode playing Dev’s best friend Denise. This is Denise’s coming out story (which is largely autobiographical) told over the course of many Thanksgiving dinners that Dev spends with her family. Beginning with Denise as a young girl before she is fully out to herself, one holiday after the other marks the passage of time and gives the episode its structure.

Master of None

Angela Bassett as Catherine (left) and Lena Waithe as Denise (right) in Master of None for Netflix (2017)

We should all bow down to Angela Bassett, who plays Denise’s mother and family matriarch, blind to her daughter’s queer identity. Bassett’s performance is magnificently layered – it’s clear that she loves her daughter, but she’s not asking questions that she doesn’t want to know the answers to. When Denise finally comes out to her, Bassett plays the reaction with such honesty that the mother-daughter relationship feels genuine and real. In an interview with Vanity Fair, Waithe describes Bassett’s influence: “The coming-out scene, and the whole episode, wouldn’t be what it was if she wasn’t across from me, giving all of herself and being vulnerable in that way.”

Nobody tells you that your 20s are going to be as hard as they are, but they can also pretty great.

Master of None is streaming on Netflix.

 

(Cover photo by Bridgette Matthews)
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