Warning: This article contains spoilers of season 3 of Never Have I Ever.
Season 3 of Mindy Kaling’s hit Netflix show Never Have I Ever hit screens last month and you already know I ate that shit right up.
As soon as it dropped, the internet went wild—not only with spoilers, but with peoples’ hot takes on the season.
For context, I treat Never Have I Ever as a fun, lighthearted watch. Like a lot of Kaling’s work, I find myself enjoying the taste of South Asian representation in the mainstream—despite how clunky and awkward it can be at times. The humour is very on the nose, but what makes the show convincing is Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, who portrays protagonist Devi Vishwakumar with depth and ease.
Devi navigates her adolescence with a lot of charisma and just the right amount of chaos to keep us invested in her development. It’s precisely because of how Devi was written in season 3 that I can say this with absolute certainty: Devi Vishwakumar is the protagonist I wish I had when I was younger.
Devi is chaos and care wrapped all in one. She has a good heart, and she really does love the people around her so much. Is she the best friend in the world? No, not all the time. Does she fit the archetype of a typical South Asian daughter? Not by a long shot.
But despite the loss she’s felt in her life and her truly mortifying social missteps, she tries so hard to be good. She keeps trying to figure out who she is, to navigate her grief and to build meaningful relationships in the process.
Devi loves hard and makes so many mistakes (seriously, a lot), but she makes an earnest effort to juggle it all—and for that, she is loved in return.
I wish 16-year-old Jeevan could have seen someone like Devi and know that the possibility of being loved through all her embarrassing mistakes was a possible reality. That we can make light of the things that seem like the absolute end of the world as a high schooler. That these experiences are just steps on a bigger journey that fosters growth.
This season ushers in a new era for 16-year old Devi Vishwakumar. We open the season with her in a relationship with school heartthrob Paxton Hall-Yoshida, played by Darren Barnet. While the actor is very clearly not a high school student which shatters the illusion of a teen romance, Devi and Paxton make a pretty cute couple.
Ultimately though, they breakup because it’s clear that Devi has some serious teen self-worth issues. It’s a sad, but a very necessary breakup. Like a lot of teenage girls, Devi needs to learn how to see the great things that other people see in her.
Devi being Devi, tries her best to get over the breakup, but it’s hard. The way that Devi sunk into her breakup (all while hiding it from her mother) and slowly found a semblance of normalcy after months of misery felt reminiscent of so many highschool breakups.
Enter Nirdesh ”Des” played by Anirudh Pisharody. Just as Devi’s about to fall back in love with Paxton, we meet a charming, confident brown boy who, to me, seemed like trouble from the jump. He jabbed at Devi for being the kind of brown girl who only dates white guys, which was clearly an opportunity for Mindy to acknowledge the criticism she’s received for portraying her protagonists with almost exclusively white men.
But there was something about Des’ confident arrogance that made me feel like he would end up hurting my girl Devi. I hate being right sometimes.
Nirdesh’s character was some eerily accurate only-son brown boy representation. He seemed like a dream, until he wasn’t.
Nirdesh communicated with Devi through thinly-veiled misogyny, a touch of elitism, and ultimately chose his evil mommy over his girlfriend. It was textbook and Devi deserved so much better.
But Devi’s character development this season extended far beyond her romantic relationships. While she still has the tendency to make things about herself a lot of the time, she’s a much better friend to Fabiola and Ramona. She’s thinking more and more about her career as she approaches adulthood, and how her relationships fit into her goals.
One of my favourite things about this season, and this show in general, is its portrayal of the mother wound in South Asian families. Rather than the stereotypical authoritarian father and timid mother, Never Have I Ever shows a South Asian family with a more stern mother and a softer, more loving father.
Devi’s relationship with her mom Nalini has been turbulent for years, but the show depicts how her father’s passing further exacerbates the existing tensions between them. Their dynamic is rife with frustration, failed attempts at communication and true understanding. But there is just so much love there.
Together, they survived something that only they can truly understand. Slowly but surely, Devi and Nalini’s quarrels lessen in intensity and frequency. They may not ever truly understand where the other person is coming from, but they can see the love they have for each other now. There’s a mutual respect at the end of season 3 that will certainly pull at your heart strings.
There’s a lot of things I wish the show did better this season. I wish it showcased the culture in a way that didn’t so obviously cater to a white audience. I wish there was more screen time given to Trent and Paxton, the unexpected bromance to end all bromances. I wish they gave the budding romance between Fabiola and Aneesa a dying chance before breaking them up.
But for me, season 3 of Never Have I Ever gets enough right for me to keep coming back season after season.
At the very least, my 16-year-old self and I get to watch Devi’s growth over the years. That alone makes it worth the watch.
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Jeevan SanghaMore by Jeevan Sangha
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