Never Have I Ever
Creators: Mindy Kaling, Fisher
Cast: Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, Jaren Lewinson, Darren Barnett
Before the first season of Never Have I Ever dropped, creator Mindy Kaling had to field a lot of questions about the show being just about about sex. Our first introduction to Devi Vishwakumar was of her praying to lose her virginity, and dreaming about having sex with her crush. However, when the show aired, we found out it was about much more than that. It also was a breath of fresh air, because why couldn’t an Indian-American teenager talk about sex? It’s not like people ever complained about the teenagers in Riverdale.
In season one, we saw an Indian-American teenager navigate high school while dealing with the sudden loss of her father. We saw her grapple with her Indian culture and dealing with her complicated, borderline toxic relationship with her mother. And we saw her growing curiosity with sex, which resulted in a lot of awkwardness which happens with real teenagers.
The show had already shown us most of the cards in season one. We knew the tone of the show, the surprises it had in store, how the characters functioned and the kind of drama that followed them. We knew that season two wouldn’t be a revelation as season one was, but it was fun to imagine what new things could happen in Devi’s life, especially now that she had two love interests.
In all honesty, Never Have I Ever season two is not very different from season one. In fact, it picks up exactly where it left off in the previous season. This means that there is less space for the characters to grow, or for that matter, be any different than they were a year before (in audience time).
However, that doesn’t mean that season two is not as good as season one. While there are moments when it feels like some jokes have been written by adults pretending to be Gen Z, it still retains its sharp and witty sense of humour from the first installment. The love triangle between Devi, Ben (Jaren Lewison) and Paxton (Darren Barnett) keeps things interesting without taking attention away from Devi.
In terms of drama, Never Have I Ever season two incorporates important issues like sexism at the workplace and eating disorders into its storyline, just as it did (with different issues) last time. There is also the classic Devi and Nalini dynamic, which is much more functional this time around, but is still a gift that keeps on giving. I’m personally glad Poorna Jagannathan’s character gets humanised in season two, because a lot of emotional abuse was passed off to make Nalini fit into the strict Indian mother stereotype.
For that matter, a lot of stereotypes from season one have dissipated in this season. Many fans had expressed their dissatisfaction that Kamala (Richa Moorjani) would choose an arranged marriage set-up over her boyfriend. However, this season, (kind of) redeems that. We actually see her on the way to becoming a scientist, which is much better than her arc as Devi’s pretty cousin in the first season.
The only crime that season two commits is that there is very little of Senthil Ramamoorthy as Devi’s deceased father Mohan. He was a big part of season one and a true comfort character. He also broke the image of a typical Indian father we see so much in cinema. A lot of season two required the Mohan Vishwakumar touch.
Another shortcoming of this season is there is a lot less talk about sex and puberty in comparison to season one. It was fun to watch Devi and her best friends Eleanor (Ramona Young) and Fabiola (Lee Rodriguez) learn about the female anatomy before. It brought about a lot of teenage gawkiness, which made for hilarious content. Season two was a lot about matters of the heart, which brought plenty of drama, but we have kind of seen that before. It’s almost like the second season is about playing safe.
Nevertheless, Never Have I Ever is a show that grows on you after a couple of episodes. It is mainly due to the writing, but also because of the performances. Maitreyi Ramakrishnan is a very likable actress who can go from infuriating as Devi to absolutely adorable. Even when she is making the most horrible decisions, you still root for her. This is because of how relatable Maitreyi makes her character. It is still hard to believe it’s her first show ever.
Another good addition this year is Megan Suri, whose character Aneesa has a complicated arc in the show. While it feels like the sole purpose of the character is to drum up drama in Devi’s life, Megan actually brings a lot of colour to Aneesa.
Does Never Have I Ever season two live up to the hype? While it doesn’t bring a lot to the table in comparison to season one, it still answers most of our questions. It is also quite binge-able, with the five hours passing quite quickly. You want to know who Devi ends up with anyway, so no harm in giving it a watch.