Since it first dropped on Netflix, Mindy Kaling and Lang Fisher’s teen dramedy, Never Have I Ever, which follows Indian-American high schooler Devi Vishwakumar (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan) as she navigates romance, grief, and growing up has enjoyed immense popularity. Devi’s penchant for unimaginably terrible yet nonetheless endearing decision making left audiences unable to look away. The love triangle between Devi, her nemesis-turned-something-else Ben Gross (Jarren Lewison) and school dreamboat Paxton Hall-Yoshida (Darren Barnet) is undeniably addictive to watch unfold. Now, the show is back for a third season, and Devi has certainly matured. Mostly. Kind of.
We pick up where Season 2 left off. Devi and Paxton are turning heads and making their debut as a couple. Although this is a dream-come-true moment for Devi, she soon realizes that having a boyfriend will not, in fact, solve all her problems. She still has her own jealousies and insecurities to get a hold of. Meanwhile, her best friends Fabiola (Lee Rodriguez) and Eleanor (Ramona Young) deal with romantic entanglements of their own. Fabiola navigates confusing feelings for a friend. Eleanor develops an unexpected yet charming opposites-attract relationship with resident stoner and Paxton’s best friend, Trent (Benjamin Norris).
Where the third season really shines however is in what has always been the strongest facet of the show. The family dynamic. Devi’s grandmother (Ranjita Chakravarty) has moved in the last season. Now, the core group of women has grown that little bit more chaotic. They are as lovable as ever. The relationship between Devi and her mother Nalini (Poorna Jagannathan) has always been complicated. It serves as the source of much of the show’s emotional core.
It’s refreshing to see how much it has truly developed this season. You get the sense that the grief and hurt this mother and daughter have gone through is something they’ve genuinely grown from. The usual back-and-forth of strict parent and spunky child remains in place. This season its underpinned by a level of trust and affection that feels especially earned after the strain of Seasons past. We see a lighter side to Nalini, less afraid of leaning into vulnerability and affection. This melds beautifully with a more thoughtful Devi. They both seem to have reached a point where they understand each other better than before, and know how deeply they value their bond.
On the flipside, Devi’s “perfect” cousin Kamala (Richa Moorjani) has to face her Pati’s outrage after she bailed on her equally “perfect” boyfriend Prashant in Season 2. It’s fun to see Kamala finally break away from the ideal Indian daughter image. It’s exciting to watch her figure out her life on her own terms. We also get to see more of the relationship between Kamala and Manish (Utkarsh Ambedkar), Devi’s teacher. His dynamic with the Vishwakumar family — especially the more traditional, disapproving Pati — is instantly as endearing as it is hilarious, and makes great use of Ambedkar’s comedic chops.
Of course, you can’t address this show without commenting on the love triangle of it all; it’s always been a chaotic confession of romcom energy that Mindy Kaling revels in. This season is no less dramatic on that front — and lest you think Devi’s decisions are going to be made easier by now, the new season introduces Desi dreambot Des to spice things up.
But for all that, the character work here really feels like it goes deeper than in previous seasons. It is refreshing to see Paxton (as per usual, we have to just suspend our disbelief about the visibly 31-year-old Barnet being in high school with Ramakrishnan and Lewison) get some really fleshing out outside of Devi, with more focus given to his own friendships and ambitions.
One of these friendships is a surprising and delightful bonding between Paxton and Ben. Andy Samberg once again lends his voice to narrate Ben’s POV episode, and although I feel like I have to relinquish my Desi card for admitting it, it actually wound up being one of my favourite episodes of the season. The dynamic between Paxton and Ben takes the spotlight here. It’s equal parts warm and hysterical to see play out. There’s no slacking in terms of Ben’s characterization either; we get to see some deeply relatable teenage vulnerability from him. Lewison and Ramakrishnan are as wonderful as ever onscreen together too. The dynamic between Devi and Ben has settled into its most genuine incarnation of friendship… but it still fizzes with their natural banter and sparkly chemistry.
If there’s a single word to describe the latest season of NHIE, it’s “comfortable.”. The show still delivers the chaos and secondhand embarassment its famous for, but above all, it treats the story of a Desi girl who’s allowed to be utterly, humanly imperfect with genuine tenderness and affection. This season isn’t afraid to dial back the dramatics when it has to to give its characters room to breathe — and prove just how easily lovable they really are. And never fear — its perfect streak of allowing Sendhil Ramamurthy and/or Poorna Jagannathan to reduce me to convulsive tears at least once a season remains unbroken.
Stream Never Have I Ever S3 on Netflix now!
For more from Meha catch her review of Persuassion now!