I think the one thing I’ve consistently blogged about over the years is Netflix’sNever Have I Ever. I’m not sure why that is, given that it certainly is not the best TV show I’ve seen by far, but perhaps I’m still a bigger fan of Mindy Kaling than I thought. Or it could just be brown support (something I’m usually all for). Either way, the final season debuted on June 9th, and I just finished watching it. What a journey! I’m always an emotional wreck after finishing off a series, so discussing my feelings here is the best way to go.
Before diving in, I figured a small recap wouldn’t hurt. Never Have I Ever tells the story of Devi Vishwakumar (played by Maitreyi Ramakrishnan), an American-Indian teenager whose father passes away in front of her eyes at an early age. The trauma of the loss impacts Devi so much that it affects many aspects of her family and social life. Her mom, Nalini (Poorna Jagannathan), also struggles with taking on the role of a single-mother and her own grief causes rifts with her daughter. Luckily, Devi has her best friends Eleanor (Ramona Young) and Fabiola (Lee Rodriguez) by her side at school to help navigate the waters of teenagerhood. A big part of the emotional rollercoaster in this show centers around Devi’s transition into adolescence through sex, which brings us to Paxton (Darren Barnet), the sexy and popular jock of the school. Devi’s had her eyes on him for a long time, but he is way out of her league. However, there’s an alternative choice in her league: Ben Gross (Jaren Lewison). The only problem is they hate each other. Over the course of the story, Devi’s insecurities lead to actions that jeopardize her relationship with all of these individuals. There is much healing, learning, and respecting that needs to be done. In this final season, Devi must grow up and face her demons once and for all, making big choices that will set her on the path to adulthood. You can read my prior reviews here and here.
Well, no more stalling! Here’s what I thought of this final season and series as a whole!
Whose Story was This?
One thing I consistently thought was how much of Devi’s character was purely a young Mindy Kaling (based on how she presented herself on The Mindy Project)? The type of humor, the constant Hollywood references, the love of white boys, the mannerisms of speaking, and of course, the ethnic culture (specifically South Indian). Mindy mentioned in previous interviews that Never Have I Ever was not explicitly based on her childhood and only drew from similar experiences she had, which is most likely true given the difference in time period. I personally believe the show went beyond just being a childhood retelling. I think there were plenty of different archetypes that she pushed through in this show (not all of which I agreed with). It started with the narrative of facing the death of a parent and loved one (and the traumas that go with it). There was the narrative of Nalini being a single mom having to raise a daughter alone. Then the narrative of an Indian widow finding love again after marriage, which really multiplied by two this season with both mother and grandmother finding partners. Kamala‘s character (played by Richa Moorjani) showed defiance of arranged marriage and the repercussions of choosing a love match in Indian culture. Devi’s choice of partners showed that a brown girl doesn’t have to limit herself to staying within her own ethnicity, especially given her failed romance with Des (Anirudh Pisharody) last season. Devi also constantly showed that sex is a big part of growing up and can drive a lot of teenage behaviors these days. In Paxton’s family, prior seasons showed what it was like living with a sibling who has down syndrome. Paxton himself showed that being hot and popular often meant being misunderstood. Fabiola highlighted what it was like coming out and standing by her sexual orientation to friends and family. Ben’s character showed that having wealth didn’t equate to happiness and still came with a lot of loneliness and isolation. I don’t have anything nice to say about Eleanor and Trent; I’m sure there are things, but I really couldn’t be bothered. There are so many other things I could reference back to, like Devi’s therapy sessions or bullying experiences. Mindy brought many different topics into the mix over the past four seasons, but I find myself wondering why. Were these all aspects of her life growing up that she wanted to share, or Hollywood ideals she tried to push onto us? As mentioned, some of the themes and agendas were not things I personally connected to or agreed with, like the constant need for sex. I find I’m more drawn to stories that effortlessly focus on the characters and their unique stories. The parts of Never Have I Ever that I loved were all rooted in Devi’s home life, family challenges, and emotional growth. What I didn’t care for what the need for all the additional woke stuff (I won’t elaborate). I’d be curious to see what parents and kids of today think of this show. Do they connect to it because this is the reality of how life is now as an adolescent? Or is this an aggressively fictional work of Hollywood television? Only Mindy and team knows!
Is sex now a Staple in Family Life/Shows?
This was a coming-of-age story; no doubt about that. A big part of adolescence and growing up is sex, I can admit that, but maybe because it wasn’t a part of my growing up journey, I still viewed it as unnecessary to be so prevalent in this show? Personally, I found Devi to be too horny for her own good. However, upon reflection, we’re living in a different age where concepts like sex come into play at a younger age. I wouldn’t have believed just to what extent had I not heard the grossest stories from my younger cousins (things like nudes being sent in elementary school). On one hand, there was the constant imagery of Hindu Gods and Goddesses throughout the series, but in the same breath we saw Devi having sex under Nalini’s roof. What was the intended message here? That religion, culture and tradition can co-exist with frivolous intercourse, or that all of things look good onscreen all at once? I found myself wondering if the “Indian” representation in the show was just used to conveniently hook people on diversity or if it was actually critical to the story. As mentioned above, I wonder if modern-day families sit down together and watch shows like this, sex scenes and all; what are those moments like? I am a fully grown adult who still changes the channel if a sex scene comes on and my parents are around. It’s cringe to me, so I find it weird that it was so normal in what I liked to think of as a family-oriented show.
Were any of the Teenagers in the Show Appealing Characters?
My answer is no. I realize that says a lot considering the show mostly focused on the younger cast, but that’s just how I feel! Remember watching those old Disney Channel shows and falling in love with the protagonist and their sidekick friends? That didn’t happen at all for me here. I’ve said since day one that Eleanor was my absolute least-favourite, and pairing her with Trent was a great decision because he was my second least-favourite. Two characters who are supposed to be the quirky comedic relief, but honestly, I just found them to be incredibly stupid and lacking in contributing much. Fabiola felt flat a lot of the times, which left me wondering if her character was that awkward or the actress was just not that great. Ben was a complete snob through-and-through, and as pretty as Paxton was, he was the complete narcissistic package. Some of the other seasonal characters like Aneesa (Megan Suri) and Des brought some different options to the table throughout the series, but overall, the person I could say impressed me with her acting was Maitreyi. Devi had to display a lot of emotion throughout this show, and Maitreyi certainly did that well. The dad-joke level humor is something I would wholeheartedly blame on the writing, but otherwise she represented a very flawed teenager dealing with varying levels of trauma. That being said, I would have found her very annoying as a friend. The truth is, I was much more drawn to the adults in the show. Nalini, Kamala, and Nirmala (Ranjita Chakravarty) were thoroughly entertaining to me. I also appreciated Niecy Nash‘s character of the consistent therapist from beginning to end. Even Sendhil Ramamurthy‘s short-lived appearances were something I really enjoyed. But at the end of the day, there wouldn’t have been a show without the teenagers and all of their drama.
Who was Devi’s Destined Boyfriend?
I was absolutely curious to see where things would land in relation to Devi’s love-life since it’s been such a big focal point of this story. From the beginning there was always so much intensity between Devi and Paxton, and with the previous season seeing him off to college, I was surprised he maintained such a heavy role this time around. When the story started to build on Paxton’s newfound career as a teacher, I immediately knew he wouldn’t end up with Devi due to the inappropriateness of it all. Sure, a lot of things in the show have already pushed the boundaries, but that would have been too much. Suffice it to say, I was happy Devi and Paxton found closure with each other, but sad because I felt he was the best of the worst options for her. Speaking of bad options, this season saw a new addition, Ethan (Michael Cimino), a junior student to Devi and the new heartthrob around the school. Personally, he’s not my type, but he served the purpose of fueling Devi’s sexual awakening (which I guess people wanted to see?). I am not said people. This left us with Ben Gross (an apt name). I may have mentioned in the past that I was not a fan of his character, and that still holds true today. Rich, white, spoiled, entitled, an asshole, and constantly made to look like a victim of sorts (in that there was a reason always provided for said asshole-ish behavior). Ben always thought he was too good for everyone, and this is why he didn’t have a single friend in the end. When I first finished watching the show, I felt unhappy about Devi ending off with this romance, but in hindsight I realized it might have been her best match after all. They were both in an academic race from the beginning of the show and both used school as a tool to shut out their family issues. They both self-sabotaged everything good around them each season, including their relationship with each other. They were both only-children and the social outcasts of their families, both also having complicated relationships with their one dominant parent. And lastly, they were both very demanding individuals a lot of the time. All in all, is that not a match made in heaven? In conclusion, I was secretly hoping that she would end up single and heading into the world finally being comfortable in her own skin. While Kaling did spend the season allowing Devi’s character to finally mature in many ways, I realized that Kaling herself always seemed to need a man in her stories. It’s something my mother used to say about her that I’ve grown to agree with. In her personal life you don’t see much of her dating history socialized, but her television history has shown that lusting over men is a somewhat a part of her desires. That’s one of the biggest observations I made about Devi’s character, which, as I’ve said before, is eerily similar to Mindy. Well, I wish Devi and Ben luck!
In the end, YAY or NAY?
Again, I’m aware I’ve done a lot of criticizing, but that’s only because I believe this show had the potential to be so much more. I truly feel like it fell short of something I’d want to rewatch with friends and family. This was mostly due to the fact that it probably should have ended after the first or second season. The first season of the show, while hectic on its own, zeroed in on family and overcoming the loss of a beloved parent. It took us through the complexities of mother-daughter relations while tying in cultural traditions and expectations. The finale of that season felt whole and complete, until the end where we ended on a major cliffhanger surrounding Devi’s love-life. Okay, fair, the second season was a fantastic opportunity to explore that. I felt that the majority of the side-character content from seasons 2-4 could have been cut completely. There was enough Devi-centric content to occupy the screentime and keep us thoroughly enthralled. This is where I don’t agree with Hollywood’s ‘make or break’ approach to continuing and discontinuing shows. For example, a brilliant show premieres to low ratings and it gets cancelled, or a mediocre show garners millions of views because of the hype, and then gets greenlit for several more seasons. One thing I’ve come to appreciate about my Korean dramas is that the industry really respects the craft in that the story always comes first. The writers think up an entirely complete story that wraps up every loose end, irrespective of how popular the show might turn out to be. Simply put, it’s not all about the money; that profit will be funneled into a new show next time. Anyway, getting back to the point, I also felt that at times the various themes in the show felt inconsistent in their importance. Religion, culture, and feminism seemed important in one episode, but would be thrown out the window the next. I, for one, thought the dance sequence at the wedding in the final episode was cringe. I felt the show wanted to be many things and do many things all at once, so I would have recommended reeling it in and sticking with an avenue. So, in the end, do I recommend this show? I’m going to say that if you want to experience something different, risky, and new age, then YES. By no means was this a horrible show. It was filled with many humorous scenes, many relatable storylines, a lot more diversity than some of what we’ve otherwise seen, and plenty of feel-good moments. The keyword was new age. If you’re a bit more traditional in your view of things like me (and this might be generational), then you won’t like this show. It is purely what one would expect from Gen Z, which is possibly why it ended up being so popular. If the purpose of the show was to highlight what a cluster it is living in this day and age of generational clashes, then it succeeded. Despite all of what I stated above and before, I find myself feeling sad saying goodbye to some of these characters. The one wonderful thing is that mostly every character received closure through some big ‘growing up’ moment this season. We don’t have to worry too much about whether the Vishwakumar family will be okay, because it seems like they will be!
Well, that’s it for me! A part of me feels like this was one of my most brutally honest reviews till date. I want to reiterate that this show was quite an experience and not bad by any means. On the other hand, I think I’ve watched and digested so much television programing over the years that my standards are at an all-time high out of this world. Is that a good thing? I think so! You can catch all of Never Have I Ever on Netflix now. Until next time!
“Never Have I Ever Season 4: Release Date, Trailer, Cast and Everything We Know So Far” Teen Vogue, www.teenvogue.com/story/never-have-i-ever-season-4-everything-you-need-to-know.
“Will Devi End Up With Ben? All About ‘Never Have I Ever’ Season 4” Parade, www.parade.com/tv/never-have-i-ever-season-4.
“Never Have I Ever season 4: Release date, plot and trailer” RadioTimes.com, www.radiotimes.com/tv/comedy/never-have-i-ever-season-4-release-date-netflix.
“Never Have I Ever Season 4 Trailer Previews Final Episodes” ComingSoon, www.comingsoon.net/tv/news/1286968-never-have-i-ever-season-4-trailer-previews-final-episodes.
Kaling, Mindy. “Never Have I Ever – Final Season | Official Trailer | Netflix” YouTube, uploaded by Netflix, 09 May 2023, www.youtube.com/watch?v=IemUKB4kCWM&ab. Accessed 11 June 2023.