Somewhere around “The Other Man,” I realized that Master Of None more closely resembles a collection of short stories than a scripted comedy made for television. I’ve also, at times, thought of the show as a series of short films, but that doesn’t seem quite right. Don’t get me wrong, the show is obviously cinematic, playing with filmic conventions like tracking shots, which you can’t exactly achieve on the page. But especially because of its use of weird tangents and the stream of consciousness feel to the dialogue, there’s also something distinctly literary about Master Of None. That quality is especially at play in “Old People,” an episode that’s broadly about aging but mostly just a collection of really intimate and poignant scenes rooted more in mood than plot.
The episode revolves around Dev and Rachel’s visit with Rachel’s grandma Carol (Lynn Cohen), who lives in a nursing home in the Bronx. It’s a largely stationary episode, with most of the best moments coming from Dev and Carol just sitting and talking with one another. At one point, Dev even completely rehashes how he met and came to date Rachel, and none of it is necessarily new information for us, but it happens within a really lovely scene between Dev and Carol that just feels real and doesn’t really serve a purpose other than letting us see these characters connect in a moving way. The entire dinner is just so simple and beautiful, sometimes sad, but never too much so. That feeling is epitomized by the flashback of Carol stealing a car. Again, there isn’t really much to the story. It isn’t grand, and Dev even points out that she didn’t even steal a car so much as just move it. But that simple flashback still manages to stir up emotions—sadness, hope, excitement. “Old People” isn’t the funniest episode of Master Of None, but it’s incredibly touching.
“Old People” also feels like the most self-contained episode of Master Of None. Even with the overarching theme of, well, old people, every single one of its storylines just feels a little random. The throughlines that connect every episode of Master Of None are mostly just relationship-based, with the exception of The Sickening, but that thread is so broad that it mostly just serves as a goldmine for comedy every once in awhile. It surfaces briefly in “The Other Man,” as Dev explains, with fervor, the film’s plot to Grandma Carol, who would much rather be watching The Blacklist. “Old People” brings in that part of the show’s serialization in a way that works specifically for the episode. Dev and Rachel’s relationship is another one of the season’s throughlines that plays a part here but isn’t necessarily the focus.
One of the throughlines within the episode comes in the form of Paro, the robotic seal meant to provide companionship to the elderly. At first, the Paro is just sort of a weird recurring joke. But Paro ends up representing a lot more than that. When Arnold passes off his Paro to Gideon, the old man who lives in his building, it’s a very genuinely touching moment. The Paro isn’t used to make fun of these older people. Master Of None has too much heart to be snarky about a stuffed robotic seal. “Old People” is full of life, full of freshness that you wouldn’t necessarily expect to find within the walls of a nursing home or in the living room of a Korean War veteran who still uses his VCR. It has the most subdued and unfunny ending of any Master Of None episode so far, but like the rest of the episode, it’s heartwarming and real.
- Paro is real, y’all.
- “Can we not talk about the Golden Age of tennis either?”
- This show has now fired so many shots at The Blacklist.
- “Fuck The Amazing Brandon. Let’s go eat.”
- That flyer for The Amazing Brandon is indeed amazing.
- “I’m in deep shit now, Grandma Carol.”