Warning: Spoilers abound. Read at own discretion.
A few months ago, near the start of the year, I binged both seasons of Master of None, up until a certain point. The penultimate episode left me broken and terrified of what the final episode would look like. I laid down on my bed and had a soft cry, then did nothing for hours until I had to go to work, which I only did begrudgingly. After that, I didn’t glance at the show for months.
That episode resonated with me, and continues to do so, thanks to the similarities between my life and Dev’s. Specifically, the unrequited romance with a friend that you aren’t sure how to approach, but spending time with them still just makes you happy, even as it hurts to leave their company. I’ve found myself in a similar situation for the entirety of this year, and so seeing that reenacted so realistically and beautifully on my screen strikes a chord that stings my soul. And so, I removed myself for fear of the final episode just completely trashing me.
Yesterday, I renewed my Netflix subscription after not having it for months, and the first thing I did was finish Master of None. It did trash me, as I expected, but not in the way I expected. Honestly, the finale left me confused as to what emotions I should be holding. Joy? Sadness? Hope? I’m not sure. And a lot of this confusion comes down to the very last scenes of the episode.
Most of the finale plays out exactly how I predicted. In the wake of Dev admitting his feelings to Francesca (who has a fiancee, creating the conflict) in the previous episode, she understandably tells him it can’t work between them. At the same time, however, she toys with the idea, sharing a romantic evening and even a passionate kiss with Dev, before turning him down. Dev feels used, she’s offended by him accusing her of using him, and they leave on bad terms, with Dev trying to figure out how to cope with the fallout.
And then the final scenes. Dev is alone in his apartment, moping over the “loss” of Francesca. Francesca is preparing to go back to Italy, but once she’s finished, watches a video on her phone she and Dev had taken a few days prior, wherein they tell their future selves that they hope they’re happy, wherever they are. Her fiancee walks into the room right after it ends and asks her if she’s packed and ready to go. Francesca replies, “I hope so.” Cut to the next morning with Francesca and Dev in bed together, starting to wake up, and the episode ends.
This is what I’m not sure about. Being in a similar situation, this fills me with hope, reassuring me that maybe, someday, I can be with the woman I love. But beyond that, removing my personal experiences from the equation, the ending seems very fantasist. It feels like a happy ending inserted because they couldn’t end the season on the downer note of Dev’s personal and professional lives in the gutter, rather than one he earned. Because in real life, people don’t leave their fiancees and move to a city across the world for someone they haven’t even started a romantic relationship with yet. That’s just not realistic, and conflicts with the tone of the show.
And then my mind drew a comparison to The Graduate. At the end of The Graduate, Ben crashes Elaine’s wedding, and she elopes with him, after already having said her vows. They catch a bus and sit at the very back, where they look joyful and happy. But the camera lingers. As you see them sitting there, their joyful expressions turn to ones of doubt and concern, a feeling made even more palpable by the lack of dialogue, as they cannot even express these feelings with each other. They made a decision based on their feelings, and are now realizing that the consequences of that decision will be long-lasting and perhaps very negative.
The ending to Master of None’s 2nd season is very similar to this, except it leaves out the last part. It doesn’t show us how Dev and Francesca are feeling. Neither of them are awake in the final scene, allowing us no insight into their minds. The show explains the decision, but not the thoughts afterwards. It leaves me wanting. It leaves me confused.