Never Have I Ever: the perfect mix of family, love, and self-discovery

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Hannah Nguyen

Never Have I Ever is the perfect show to binge watch when you're bored. If you're in need of something that has a combination of comedy and romance, this is it.

Warning: Spoilers Ahead!

If you’re in need of a show you can finish in a day, this is it.

Netflix’s latest released show Never Have I Ever, produced by Mindy Kaling, combines culture, comedy, and romance. It’s also one of the few shows that have Asians playing some of the lead roles.

I’ve always loved these types of shows, the ones that are overly exaggerated where the popular guy falls for the girl who struggles to get his attention. Despite it being a little on the more dramatic side, I still found it to be relatable.

The main character, Devi, is a teenage Indian-American girl who is trying to find balance in following the strict rules that have been placed on her by her mother and also living the American teenage life. 

Devi is the smartest in her school alongside her nemesis, Ben. The two are probably competing to be valedictorian. While she prioritizes being the perfect student who gets straight A’s, takes every AP class out there, and gets involved in school activities in every way she can, she also wants to experience “normal” teenage things like having a boyfriend or attending no parent parties. She has a major crush on the school’s most popular guy Paxton who, might I emphasize, is half Asian. I mean, most of the time, you can only get one person in the relationship to be Asian in the movies or shows, but this time, they got a person and a half. 

She’s attending high school for the first time without her wheelchair. She lost her ability to walk randomly weeks after witnessing her dad have a heart attack, which later led to his death, at her orchestra concert. Yes, you read that right. All of that happened around the same time. To cope with the loss of her father and her ability to walk, her mom signed her up for therapy. Devi has never talked about her dad once to her therapist, just things about school or her personal life that didn’t involve her dad. Her friends Fabiola and Eleanor are also by her side throughout her coping process and her mission to do “normal” teenage things. 

Devi lives with her mom and her cousin Kamala who she is extremely jealous of because she’s pretty enough to attract guys and is smart. Her mom also seems to favor her over Devi. Kamala is also terrified of being set up in an arranged marriage where she has to sacrifice her degree and leave her current boyfriend.

Feeling bold, Devi attempts to get with Paxton. He agrees because, well, more girls for him. She gets terrified and runs off after she comes over to his house the first time. Considering that she told her friends her plan, they think she followed through. She lets them think it’s true because she feels embarrassed that she chickened out. 

Devi goes to her first no parent party and ends up getting so drunk, she got bit by a coyote, who she thought was her dad because she felt his spirit the last time she saw a coyote. As she continues to find ways to get to Paxton, Fabiola realizes that she’s developing feelings… towards a girl. 

Later, Devi, her mom, and Kamala attend this year’s Ganesh Puja celebration and like any other year, Devi feels left out. She attempts to make friends and reconnect with old ones by making fun of the event and the traditions but ends up feeling isolated once more. Her mom, Nalini, attempts to dodge all of the nosy aunties. 

Nalini finds out that her daughter has been hanging around with boys and grounds her. To get out of it, Devi says she’s going on a Model UN trip. There, more rumors spread about her and Paxton. This is also the part when Ben is actually nice to Devi, and I started to like their relationship more than hers and Paxton’s (well, nonexistent one). As this is happening, Fabiola opens up about her sexuality to Eleanor, who finds out her mom isn’t who she thought she was.

Eleanor is nowhere near the stereotypical Asian. She wants to be an actress just like her mother. Her mom left her when she was young to pursue an acting career. She finds out that her mom is working at a restaurant and is not an actress anymore. Long story short, they meet up, her mom tries to get back into her life, and leaves to, once again, attempt to pursue an acting career.

As Eleanor’s life is falling apart and Fabiola comes face to face with her sexuality, Devi is too busy trying to win Paxton’s heart. She was so caught up in trying to be with Paxton, she forgot about being a good friend to Eleanor while she was going through a tough time. Paxton honestly didn’t like her like that, and because she has no idea what a good relationship is, she felt like she was actually getting her chance, yet she wasn’t. He was just using her or was only nice to her because she wasn’t too problematic around him.

Ben also gets a whole episode to himself, which I loved so much. I initially didn’t like him at all, but now, he’s probably my favorite character. On the outside, he’s confident and seems like he has it all, but on the inside, he’s super lonely. I loved having a whole episode dedicated to seeing his life. It completely changed my view on him and it was nice taking a break on Devi’s mess of a life.

Devi later confesses to Ben that none of this ever happened after he comes to her house for dinner because he cried in her mom’s office. He ends up having a birthday party at his house and nearly kisses Devi. My heart screamed. At that point, I didn’t even care about Paxton. I was all for Devi and Ben. She ends up rejecting his kiss, though. What a bummer. 

Devi gets in a fight between Fabiola and Eleanor because she’s been a horrible friend for the past couple of days. I mean, someone had to call her out for it. She ends up getting pushed in the pool by Fabiola. Paxton takes her home and it all gives her mom a bad impression because she’s with Paxton, doing suspicious activities, again.

Kamala meets with her soon to be husband, Prashant, and they hit it off pretty well. She finally breaks up with her boyfriend and tells him that she can’t be with him for the sake of her family and that’s that with them. Prashant and Kamala decide that they’re going to get to know each other, instead of running to get married. Even though I don’t know him that well, I’m hoping he’s a good guy so they could actually get married because let’s just say, they are one beautiful couple.

Flashbacks continue to unravel for Devi and she and her mom get into a fight. Devi runs away to Ben’s house (yes, please) which is completely unrealistic, I might add. If her mom is this strict, how could she let her run away like that? Wouldn’t she call the police? I mean, I know my mom would.

While Devi stays at Ben’s house, Ben starts to show how much he cares for Devi, especially when he tries to encourage her to be with her mom while she is spreading her dad’s ashes. After a lot of convincing, she goes.

Devi, Kamala, and Nalini finally reconnect, and it’s probably the best scene in the show. I actually cried. Devi learns that her mom is also trying to cope with the loss of her dad and it really changes their attitude towards each other. She also finally opens up to her therapist.

Overall, I think the show isn’t the best out there, but I still think it’s very well executed. I loved how Devi’s Indian culture was a big part of the show. Most Asians’ lives revolve around culture and I enjoyed the fact that that piece was included. The idea of Devi struggling to fit in with her Indian culture and American culture is the big reason why I loved the show so much. There were a handful of scenes that perfectly captured how I personally feel like constantly. There were some parts where I felt like they tried a little too hard to connect to their audience like when they used words like “lit.” It made me extremely uncomfortable. Other than that, there was enough exaggeration to keep me entertained without feeling too overwhelmed. Including her broken relationship with her mom and her struggle to cope with her dad’s death was also a great addition. A lot of Asians don’t come clean with their emotions or they don’t bother to be emotional, especially with their parents. Seeing the two change towards the end made me happy. I also appreciated the fact that the show broke stereotypes, but it also amplified them in a positive way. 

After finishing the show in a day, I’m excited about the next season. I can’t wait to see Kamala and Prashant get to know each other and I’m hoping that something happens between Ben and Devi. I also hope that Nalini gets some sort of happiness even if it’s short because she deserves it. 

This Netflix series ended up being one of my favorite shows and I’m excited to see what Kaling plans to add for the next season. Perhaps there will be a new love story or a new character. Either way, I’m hopeful that the next season will be just as good as this one or even better.