‘Never Have I Ever’ Grows Up and Goes Away in Moving Series Finale

Never-Have-I-Ever-Season-4-Review - Credit: Netflix
Never-Have-I-Ever-Season-4-Review - Credit: Netflix

There comes a time in our lives when high school, like all good things and bad nightmares, must come to an end. And in the series finale of Never Have I Ever, the intrepid brainiac Devi Vishwakumar (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan) is ready to end her time at Sherman Oaks High drama and virginity-free and say hello to boys and her dream college: Princeton. If only things were ever that easy.

When it first premiered in 2020, the Mindy Kaling Netflix series (co-created byThe Mindy Project’s Lang Fisher) asked an extremely important question of tweens and teens desperate for a crazy show: What if our main character was the absolute worst? And then what if we made you like her anyway? The show followed Indian American loser Devi — and her best friends Fabiola (Lee Rodriguez), a talented queer robotics geek, and Eleanor (Ramona Young), a talented straight theater geek — on their high school-long quests to have sex and ditch their loser status. Along the way, Devi picked up a love triangle in the form of handsome swimmer Paxton Hall-Yoshida (Darren Barnet) and her arch rival Ben Gross (Jaren Lewison).

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Season Four opens with one major and instant change for Devi — mainly, that she’s finally lost her virginity to her full-time rival and part time crush, Ben. It’s everything she’s been hoping for,  and nothing like she imagined. Instead, an awkward morning after and a summer spent apart puts Devi once again on the search for love, and of course, a coveted Princeton acceptance letter. Now graduated, Paxton is forced to deal with a new truth in college: he’s a… loser? There are growth spurts, hot newcomers (Michael Cimino), robots, another episode narrated by Gigi Hadid, and Devi’s famous public outbursts. But in between the slapstick humor is a genuine attempt to capture the haphazard and horny nature of ending high school and saying goodbye,  even if you don’t feel ready.

It’s been four years of watching Devi comedically but consistently make the worst choice possible — all with narration from tennis legend John McEnroe. And what started as endearing quickly became anxiety-inducing in the second and third seasons. To be honest, the show started to feel like a mobile story game where each choice costs diamonds you don’t have. Devi, Paxton might be into you. Do you A) Ask him?, B) Ask your friends? or C) Date him, two-time him, and then get into a fight at a party that leads to him getting hit by a car and ruining his collegiate swim dreams forever? So imagine my surprise when Season Four produced a Devi who seemed like she was actually… learning?

Oh sure, she still makes some boneheaded decisions, like yelling about Ben’s penis in the hallway loudly enough to kill her chances of a recommendation letter, or having a boyfriend steal the Princeton rep’s wallet, or making an unfortunate and spread-like-wildfire lie about how many Ivy League colleges accepted her. But her decisions and mistakes have reasons behind them. Watching Paxton — miscast but oh so beautiful — become the awkward graduate who still hangs out at the school is both accurate and priceless. And even Fabiola and Eleanor, whose dreams were once one-dimensional aspects of their characters, get to make on-screen choices that give them new energy and more autonomy. Best of all, nine times out of 10 the show trades the easy laugh for a storyline that feels measured and considered. Devi is growing up. Maybe Never Have I Ever grew up with her.

When Ramakrishnan first began Never Have I Ever, she was an unknown actress who had responded to an open casting call for the spot. Now, she’s a seasoned and competent performer, imbuing Devi’s brash decisions and occasionally batshit tirades with an underlying anxiety and desire to make everything all right. As her mother Nalini, Poorna Jagannathan is once again a vision, handing punishments and wisdom down with wryness and emotional resonance. The end of high school is a pivotal time that countless shows have tried to replicate and only a handful have managed to successfully pull off. I’d never have imagined I’d be saying this about a show that used to be a despised Mindy Kaling self-insert, but Never Have I Ever genuinely pulls it off. How do you say goodbye to a show so complicated? You don’t. You say, see you later. And thanks for everything.

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