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‘Never Have I Ever’ season 3 review: Netflix’s teen comedy grows up in its best season yet

A still from ‘Never Have I Ever’

A still from ‘Never Have I Ever’ | Photo Credit: Netflix

“Oooh, wait a minute. Did we discover that being in a romantic relationship doesn't necessarily solve all of our problems?” says Dr. Ryan (Niecy Nash) in the first episode of season three of Netflix’s coming-of-age comedy Never Have I Ever.

If we’ve learned anything from the past seasons, it’s that our protagonist, Devi (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan), isn't one to listen to helpful advice. While she quickly dismisses Ryan’s question, this time around she isn’t totally wrong in doing so. After a steadily mounting amount of chaos and confusion over boys, friends, and grappling with the sudden loss of her father, we finally see Devi begin to evolve. And dating Sherman Oaks High School’s number one hottie, Paxton Hall-Yoshida (Darren Barnet), actually manages to help her with that.

Never Have I Ever
Creators: Mindy Kaling and Lang Fisher
Cast: Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, Poorna Jagannathan, Darren Barnet, Jaren Lewison, Richa Moorjani, Ramona Young, Lee Rodriguez
No. of episodes: 10
Storyline: Indian-American teenager Devi continues to deal with the everyday pressures of high school and drama at home, while also navigating new romantic relationships

When Mindy Kaling and Lang Fisher’s show started, all Devi wanted was a boyfriend, “a stone-cold hottie who could rock [her] all night long.” In season three, after trying and failing embarrassingly to juggle her two love interests, Paxton and Ben (Jaren Lewinson), her wish has finally come true.

On paper, Devi is living the perfect life, so perfect that other girls scrunch their faces in envy. But even though Paxton gives Devi the affirmations she (definitely) needs, it does little to help her insecurity. Rumours of all the possible reasons why Paxton would ever want to date someone like her swirl in her head, leading to doubt, jealousy, and ultimately, a reckoning for Devi: she needs to respect, value and love herself first. Once she starts doing that, we see her finally settling into herself, and accepting her past failures, her flaws, her quirks, and her grief. This slow but steady growth paves the way for new opportunities, both in her love life and beyond, that allow her to understand what it is she really wants and values.

Devi isn’t the only character we see evolve. A particular surprise is Trent (Benjamin Norris), who previously stuck to comedic one-liners, delivers a master-class on bromance. An aloof character who doesn't strike the viewer as one to care about anything much (besides weed) transforms into Eleanor’s (Ramona Young) perfect boyfriend, supporting her as she tries to land acting gigs, and even fulfilling her very-specific fantasy. But sweeter still, is the love that he expresses for his best friend, Paxton, as he struggles to come to terms with graduation and leaving the familiarity of high school.

That’s partly because Paxton is changing. Last semester we saw him become increasingly serious about school. In this season, Devi becomes his inspiration to push through and break away from the “hot guy” box he has been forced to stay in. In the process, another bromance forms, surprisingly, with Ben. Andy Samberg also returns to replace John McEnroe as narrator, to bring us into the incredibly stressful life that Ben is living. Ben’s condescending attitude, made worse by the pressure he puts on himself to get into Columbia University, leaves him single, stressed and, once again, longing for Devi. The combination, and a lack of leafy greens in his diet, result in Paxton — his knight in shining armour — taking him to the hospital while his digestive tract gets… cleared. It’s a sobering exchange where both of them, away from the confines of high school, discuss their relationship with Devi, their own insecurities around her, and theirs anxieties about the future.

Never Have I Ever would not be what it is without the consistently phenomenal performance by Poorna Jagannathan, Devi’s mother Nalini. After trying to find romantic companionship last season, Nalini now tries to kindle a friendship with another Indian mom, Rhyah. As a doctor who graduated from med school, Nalini is hesitant about Rhyah, a nutritionist who aligns herself with the wellness community. As the two spend more time together, and Nalini begins opening up about her grief and her struggles with Devi, she finds Rhyah becoming increasingly judgemental. But the isolation Rhyah makes Nalini feel, is countered with the growing understanding she now has with her daughter. Nalini remains fiercely protective of Devi, but knows that there are some instances where she needs to let her daughter spread her wings, so she can learn to be happy again. Their relationship truly blossoms in the finale, marking a turning point, as the two realise just how much they need each other.

While there are arguably too many subplots afoot — making it difficult to really understand the pace of the season — it doesnt detract from the bigger points the show is is making about adolescent struggles. The representation of diaspora Indian culture (where else would you find a Bloomingdales bag on a Golu display!) continues to bring a sense of homeland nostalgia to the show, without being over the top. So while this season begins on the heels of the same chaotic teenage themes of romance and sex, it finally transforms into the story that executive producer Mindy Kaling wanted to tell us all along.

Season three of Never Have I Ever is currently streaming on Netflix


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Printable version | Aug 12, 2022 3:58:59 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/never-have-i-ever-season-3-review-netflixs-teen-comedy-grows-up-in-its-best-season-yet/article65758637.ece