At the start of the pandemic in 2020, I did what literally everyone else did: I started to binge watch Netflix. It started with Love is Blind and progressed to Tiger King. I wondered what I was doing with my life and why I was literally flushing my time away with mindless television. That is until I stumbled upon the Mindy Kaling created coming of age comedy, Never Have I Ever.
The first season of Never Have I Ever was signature Mindy Kaling, and was inspired by her own childhood. The series is centered around a self-obsessed and slightly self-destructive Indian American teenage girl, Devi Vishwakumar. We meet Devi when she has lost the ability to walk due to grief over the sudden death of her father. When she regains her ability to walk, rather than trying to work through her trauma, she instead focuses on making herself cool by getting a boyfriend. There’s a typical comedic high school feel to this show with loyal best friends, first kisses, and grades being Devi’s major concerns. There’s also a love triangle, which is a staple plot point in most Mindy Kaling comedies. However, what made this comedy special is its honesty. Behind the outrageous situations Devi creates, the viewer gets the deeper glimpses into her unresolved grief as well as the challenges of being Indian American.
We enter into season two smack in the middle of a love triangle between Paxton, the unattainable attractive jock, and Ben, her frenemy turned confidante. Devi’s intentions initially start off as pure with her truly at a loss on who to choose. To be honest, as the viewer, I was also indecisive as both boys are appealing in their own way. But in typical Devi fashion, she decides she’s going to go ahead and date both of them because her mom wants the family to move to India soon anyway. For the viewer, a very confusing feeling ensues where you want to shake Devi but you’re also somehow still rooting for her. Devi’s story continues with this decision imploding in her face (as well as Paxton losing his swimming star status), her working to regain her friendship with both individuals, and her eventually beginning a real relationship.
Season two really focuses on Paxton as an individual, and if you objectively thought Ben was the better match for Devi in season one, your perspective might shift through this season. Intermingled into all of this is a new character named Aneesa who is also an Indian American. She is initially viewed as a nemesis of Devi, but a friendship ensues due to common cultural ground. However, Devi quickly turns jealous of Aneesa when it appears Ben is interested in her. Once again, irrational and cringeworthy behavior from Devi ensues. At the end of the season, just when the viewer feels like there’s some closure and Devi has made her choice and is moving forward, a curveball is thrown. So, season two leaves the viewer with a similar uncertainty as season one.
The major highlight of this season is Devi’s mother, Nalini. Nalini comes across as an uptight, strict parent. Season one explored this and the strained relationship between her and Devi. But in this season, we explore Nalini as a wife and daughter. We see how dismissive her own parents are to her and how her late husband’s mother acts as more of a mother to her than her own. Nalini’s exploration of her grief is more mature and more often soft compared to Devi’s, which is in contrast to the character’s demeanor. We also see her dipping her toes back into dating and stepping back out as she grapples with being a widow and moving on. Despite being a young adult comedy, the series gracefully explores these topics.
Is season two worth a watch? Absolutely. Kaling once again explores difficult topics in this comedy with honesty. The mastery behind this series is often with the unsaid. Devi constantly replaying the last voicemail she has from her father. The camera staying on the character just a second longer so the viewer gets a glimpse of how the character is truly feeling. The deeper story created of Nalini and her journey through her own grief could not have been done better. However, seriously, Devi is some sort of anti-hero at this point. She has been through a lot and at her core, she is a good person. But she’s also self-destructive, makes terrible decisions and is very selfish. To cope with these behavioral tendencies, you may have to hit the fast forward button a few times during this season. But, I highly recommend Never Have I Ever season two for your next Netflix binge.
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