It’s been about 2 years since I wrote my initial post about Netflix’s premiere of Mindy Kaling’s show Never Have I Ever. For those that don’t recall, NHIE stars Maitreyi Ramakrishnan as the main character Devi, a teenager with endless drama who tries her best to fit in despite family complexities and societal pressures. The show just debuted its third season, with a fourth and final season lined up for 2023. I figured now is as great a time as any to revisit some of my thoughts from a few years ago versus where the show stands now, so let’s dive in!
There’s a bit More Culture now, but not Enough.
One of my observations from the first time watching this show was the representation of what it means to be Indian in the Vishwakumar family. As we all know, South Asia is truly diverse and made up of varying different ethnicities, and when we get into what it means to be South Indian, things become very specific. My issue with the show remains the same in that Kaling brands the family as Indian instead of South Indian. My assumption is that she does this because she herself portrays that she is Indian to Hollywood, when I believe she should embrace her Sri Lankan identity. We get it; mainstream American media doesn’t care about the specifics and we’re all just brown people in their eyes, no different from how other ethnicities get lumped together (like Asians and Latinos). I, on the other hand, think this show would have been a great platform to highlight that there is more to India than just Bollywood and butter chicken (two things that are still important on their own). There were continued odes towards the South Asian culture that I did appreciate. I liked that the subtitles labeled the non-English dialogue as Tamil, because that’s what it is, not just “Indian” (which isn’t a language). We did still see a bit of the Hindu religion during the Navaratri dinner, and the women of the family continue to look great in their more Kandyan-style sarees. This season introduced a new love interest for Devi (Nirdesh aka Des, portrayed by Anirudh Pisharody) along with his mom Rhyah (Sarayu Blue), adding to the cultured mix of representation. Poorna Jagannathan, Sendhil Ramamurthy, Richa Moorjani, Utkarsh Ambudkar, and Megan Suri are recurring characters who also bring a wide array of diversity to the show. However, except for Devi’s immediate family, I find many of these characters to be very western-washed and too modernized for this to be a true win for representation. If I know Mindy Kaling, she is all about immersing into the American dream, but I personally would have preferred more focus on the culture then just it being a convenient back-story/side-story aspect. Just my humble opinion!
It Still Feels Like Less of a Family Show.
And what I mean by this is not that you can’t watch it with your family, but that there is too much side-character development. The truth is I never really cared for Eleanor (if it wasn’t obvious enough). While I thought Aneesa was a cool addition to the last season, she didn’t serve much of a purpose this season other than to be a romantic option for Fabiola. Do not get me started on Trent. I suppose the general idea was comic relief, but it felt like two of the most boring characters became a powerfully boring couple. Yes, the main character needs to have humorous best friends to further the plot development, but there were still many times where I would have rather seen more Devi-related stories. The best parts of the show from the very first season were the moments within Devi’s household, from the drama with her mother to the loss of her father. While this season featured some storylines within their home, I would have traded Eleanor’s acting career segments for some more of those feel-good moments.
Relatability is Still Where the Gold is.
I know I’ve levied some heavy criticisms against the show, but that isn’t to say it’s not enjoyable and completely relatable. In fact, I think the reason this show is so well-received is because there is a character and storyline for every person out there. Moms (especially immigrant ones) will undoubtedly relate to Nalini, while people struggling with their identity might connect with Fabiola a lot. I personally still find myself thinking about my similarities to Devi, especially this season when she self-sabotages her own relationship with Paxton (played by the sexy Darren Barnet). Devi represents what many of us feel in life, whether as a teenager or an adult. Insecurity, lack of confidence, fear of rejection, not being good enough, and struggling to fit in are the big themes we’ve seen so far. I’ve never liked main characters who are too perfect because it just isn’t relatable. I was going to use the word believable, but the truth is that we all run into people every day who we perceive to be perfect. It’s because of those people that we tend to sink into a place of darkness and confusion when we compare ourselves. Devi makes mistakes that are very human, and that causes her to learn hard lessons, which are very reminiscent of real-life.
Teenage Drama Continues to be Complex
For anyone like me who has been out of secondary school for over 15 years now, it can feel like these shows have way too much far-fetched drama when it comes to teenagers. Perhaps it’s because smartphones and social media were relatively new back then, compared to now when communication is open in all directions. When I think about the stories I hear from friends and the things I see on the news/socials, it seems like being a child or teenager these days is a lot more difficult than it ever was before. Devi’s life outside of home is definitely reflective of the challenges of today, like cyberbullying, cyber-snooping, and cyberstalking. All of these factors drive the social lives of the teenagers in the show because it boils down to image and acceptance of others. A lot of Devi’s mishaps with Paxton derive from how others perceive her and him together, and how much that influences her own thoughts. We see this when her image is made fun of, or when she constantly thinks she is out of Paxton’s league. While image issues have plagued us all for years, the advancement of social media, teenage parties, and just brazen opinion-sharing has made things worse. People just don’t hold back anymore and the only filters in place are the ones via image-sharing platforms. What I continue to like about this show is that it doesn’t shy away from how hard it is to cope with studies, family, and the social aspect of school. The struggles are real, and I commend Kaling for continuing to include Devi’s therapy sessions that explore just how complex teenage life has become.
Devi and Paxton or Devi and Ben?
I will say the big takeaway I gather fans are most interested in is the relationship between Devi, Paxton, and Ben. I personally find Ben to be annoying too (you’re probably wondering why I even watch this show, but the answer is because I am a Kaling fan). I think the idea was to create a romantic option for Devi who was more down-to-Earth, flawed, and simple like her in comparison to pretty-boy Paxton. However, when I think about Devi’s and Ben’s struggles, he comes from a rich family where daddy is always working, yet he has a maid and lives a lavish life. The opportunities for him are endless, whereas Devi comes from first-generation immigrants who had to build. There are bountiful cultural expectations, religious expectations, and gender expectations attached to Devi’s life that make me understand her mistakes. I saw Ben as someone who acted snarky throughout multiple seasons and continued to behave arrogantly without just cause. The show gave Ben some added back-story this season to almost forgive his attitude, but I just wasn’t buying it. Devi, for all her ways, always brings an innocent mindset and is clearly striving to build her own happiness. I pick this over someone who acts out at everyone just because they are unhappy. At the same time, Paxton began as a total narcissist when the show first started, but in this season, we saw a lot of redemption and growing up. A lot of depth was added to his character that made him more than just the attractive option. With all of this being said, I think you know who I favor, but only Season 4 will tell.
I tried to veer away from spoilers about the ending of Season 3 as much as possible, so I held back on some of my conclusions. What continues to be great about this show is the ease at which one can jump back into the humor and drama each time a new season debuts. It feels fun to watch and there is always a lesson for all. I hope Kaling gives more focus to Devi and her personal journey going forward and leaves some of these secondary characters behind. When you watch this season, you will understand why Season 4 opens the door for a lot of great changes to come. We’ll discuss this further next year!
“’Never Have I Ever’ Renewed for Season 3 at Netflix” Collider, www.collider.com/never-have-i-ever-season-3-coming-netflix.
“‘Why Never Have I Ever Season 4 Is The Last Explained By Creators” Screen Rant, www.screenrant.com/never-have-ever-season-4-last-ending-why.
“‘Never Have I Ever Recap: Saving Face” Today News UK, www.todaynewsuk.com/entertainment/never-have-i-ever-recap-saving-face.
“Will Aneesa and Fabiola end up together in season 3 of Never Have I Ever?” egybramjfree.com, www.egybramjfree.com/2022/08/13/will-aneesa-and-fabiola-end-up-together-in-season-3-of-never-have-i-ever.
“Never Have I Ever Told You Everything About ‘Never Have I Ever’ Season 4” Cosmopolitan, www.cosmopolitan.com/entertainment/tv/a40872680/never-have-i-ever-season-4.
“How Never Have I Ever Sets Up Season 3” CBR.com, www.cbr.com/how-never-have-i-ever-sets-up-season-3.
“Never Have I Ever Season 3: All we know so far” SK POP, www.sportskeeda.com/pop-culture/when-season-3-never-have-i-ever-coming-out-release-date-rating-know-far.
Kaling, Mindy. “Never Have I Ever: Season 3 | Official Trailer | Netflix” YouTube, uploaded by Netflix, 27 July 2022, www.youtube.com/watch?v=d_N99x0gAAk&ab. Accessed 16 August 2022.
Kaling, Mindy. “Never Have I Ever: Everything We Can Tell You About Season 3 | Netflix” YouTube, uploaded by Netflix, 05 August 2022, www.youtube.com/watch?v=u1pUFjpdH5o&ab. Accessed 16 Aug 2022.