Mindy Kaling is a self-appointed expert of rom-com, it was her love of the genre that led her to create The Mindy Project. Her newest Netflix show, Never Have I Ever, delves into my own favorite genre, the teen show. As a self-appointed expert of said genre, I would like to declare Never Have I Ever a fantastic addition that will warm your heart.
Never Have I Ever is a smart, funny and delightful coming-of-age show. It embraces the high-school tropes we’re so familiar with, but also engages with them in interesting ways. This time around the story centers around Devi, an Indian American teenager.
Here are four reasons why you should definitely check out Never Have I Ever!
Never Have I Ever tells the story of Devi Vishwakumar, an Indian-American girl, as she enters her sophomore year of high school. After a traumatic freshman year (more on that later) Devi is ready to make this year count and find her way up the high school social hierarchy. Basically, she wants to be popular.
Never Have I Ever wouldn’t work if Devi wasn’t such a well-rounded character. She’s very smart, but also has a temper. She cares about her friends and family, but is also boy-crazy and selfish. Devi can be a lot, but it works because she’s ultimately a good person who cares deeply.
Devi is played by newcomer Maitreyi Ramakrishnan who was chosen for this role from an open casting call out of 15,000 applicants. She’s absolutely perfect in this role. In the hands of Ramakrishnan you can’t help but love Devi, even as you recognize she’s making a lot of dumb choices.
As the daughter of immigrant parents Devi struggles between two cultures. She’s constantly at odds with what her family expects of her and the typical American high-school experience she wants to be a part of.
It’s so refreshing to see someone who looks like Devi at the center of this story. Being Indian defines who she is, but it is not her defining characteristic. Devi’s experience cannot fully capture the Indian-American experience, but it seems like a step in the right direction.
The diversity extends to the rest of the cast which include her family, her best friends, Fabiola and Eleanor and her crush, Paxton Hall-Yoshida. While this is very much Devi’s story, they are all given storylines of their own, that definitely pique your interest and leave you wanting more.
#2 You will cry
Perhaps the most surprising but effective part of this series is how much it made me cry. Devi’s not exaggerating when she says she’s had a bad year. Her beloved father passed away during her orchestra concert, followed by the psychosomatic paralysis of her legs. Never Have I Ever starts as Devi regains mobility in her legs and to take back control of her life.
Never Have I Never doesn’t shy away from Devi’s devastating loss, her grief, and her trauma. It treats them with the poignancy and respect they deserve, but doesn’t shy away from using them as a source of comedy. You know like the time Devi was sure the coyote scavenging in her yard was her dad…which ends up with Devi at the hospital for a coyote bite.
Devi’s relationship with her mother Nalini is also a highlight. It’s a complex relationship between two people who love each other, but struggle to understand each other. Devi’s desire to be a normal American teenager often clashes with her mother’s more traditional views.
This recent loss of Devi’s dad, the parent she got along with the most, adds an extra source of conflict between Devi and her mother who can’t even agree on the proper way to grieve. The conflict between Devi and Nalini builds up throughout the season and by the time they’re making up in the season finale you won’t be able to hold back your tears. Never Have I Ever explores grief with a sincerity that makes it stand out from other shows.
#3 You will also laugh
I feel like I have to reassure you sure that this is still funny, it is! Mindy Kaling’s bread and butter is comedy, and Never Have I Ever is very funny! The show gets a lot of mileage from Devi’s teenage awkwardness. I wasn’t a super fan of the earlier more cringe comedy, but the show settles into a much sweeter, but smart humor. It figures out how to balance its comedic and heartfelt moments in really satisfying ways.
I must point out that tennis legend, John McEnroe is the unexpected voice of the narrator. A seemingly random choice that seems to have been made just for the sake of the joke that then gets a payoff at the end of the season. It’s the type of charming quirkiness that is part of the show’s style.
It’s a teen show so of course there’s romance! Devi has a huge crush on the most popular boy in school Paxton Hall-Yoshida. He’s the hot jock and the object of Devi’s many fantasies. I’m going to be honest, he’s very hot and swoon-worthy.
As a sophomore very low on the high-school totem pole, Devi’s not in Paxton’s radar at all. That is, until she walks up to him and asks him to have sex with her. This request leads to an unexpected friendship between these two that hints that there’s more to Paxton than just being the hot jock.
Now on the other side of the love triangle, yes, there’s a love triangle, is Devi’s life-long academic nemesis: Ben Gross. Devi and Ben do not get along, and she rightly calls him gross all the time. As they learn more about each other, and as we learn more about Ben, those feelings begin to change. Never Have I Ever devotes an entire episode to Ben and by the end of the season, you can’t help but be won over.
Trust me on this one, Never Have I Ever is one you shouldn’t miss! Make it your next Netflix binge.
Season one is available to watch on Netflix. Check it out and let us know your thoughts!