Right from Season 1 of Never Have I Ever, we have often wondered why this series keeps pulling us into its orbit. It certainly offers nothing new, either in terms of jokes or even a storyline. It is also not one of those annoyingly over-marketed movies or series that you must watch to avoid committing a pop-culture crime (Stranger Things and Money Heist). Yet even though we consider ourselves way too “evolved” to be sucked into the messes created by Devi Vishwakumar, that is exactly what we end up doing. Mindy Kaling fashions all of her protagonists after herself, or should we say after the archetypal Indian girl chasing the white person’s propagated fairy tale? Allow us to say that we love it. There are too many people chasing practical things in the world, and it is fantastic to see someone chase a dream, even a frivolous one at that, to the ends of the earth, which is what Devi and her friends do. Years ago, Nathan Fillion made a permanent place in our hearts as Richard Castle when he said that it is our belief in magic that brings it into our lives. It may not be in the way we imagine, but faith is the key, which brings us to how we believe that this series is about the value of effort.
A part of the fantasy propagated by 90s rom-coms is how effortless it is to fall in love and have a fulfilling career. Be it Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve Got Mail, or even 10 Things I Hate About You, the message is that once it clicks, everything else falls into place. But Never Have I Ever is about the complications of that “click” and the fact that it is seldom that easy later on.
Look at the women of the show’s universe. Let’s start with Nalini because once we start with Devi, it will be all about her. Nalini’s marriage with Mohan has always had a dreamy element to it. It is clearly shown that they had their troubles, but they were ideal because they were two people willing to work together on themselves and for each other’s sake. This is the fairytale that happens after someone says, “I do.” But that didn’t prevent tragedy from entering Nalini’s life, and by extension, that tragedy did not prevent further happiness either. Whether Nalini got to live her fairytale till the end of her days or not is irrelevant because the lesson is that she continued to grow and evolve as a person, and the nature of the happiness she found also kept changing. The Nalini of season 1 would never have allowed her daughter to date or agreed for her not to go to Colorado, but we saw that in season 3.
Additionally, we also remember how she and Devi struggled with the idea of her moving on, but the scenario was very different in Season 4 when both had gained some peace and maturity. Finally, Nalini of Season 1 would never have made a chip salad for her daughter, and we consider that character development. On the other hand, Kamala’s journey has seen its ups and downs throughout the seasons, though as a person, she has remained largely unchanged. However, that is the age and phase she is in, when change is felt in sweeping seconds rather than over a gradual period of time. But the part we enjoyed the most was the difference between hers and Pati’s dating lives. Kamala is making her mistakes and learning her lessons through her clicks and inconveniences, but her Pati, never having had any click except that of an orthodox life that was predetermined, is completely clueless about someone taking advantage of her. That was the result of her lack of effort in understanding people and giving precedence to traditional roles of behavior over gauging what people want and what they can do to get that. This is a problem most older people face, and it was as heartbreaking to see it as it was satisfying (that’s our petty side talking).
Finally, there is Devi. For once, it was nice to see her be the one let down by her friends. It was also nice to see her have the maturity to deal with it through conversation that did not involve breaking things. Devi has always put in effort, be it for Paxton, for Ben, or even for her dream school. She always wanted to be a cool kid, but this journey of four seasons made her realize that she was already that due to her courage and the people she had by her side. Her happy ending looked a little different from what she had envisioned at the beginning of Season 1, but this was a journey of wanting what she needed and not the other way around. As for Paxton, it was time for him to learn about the value of effort. He has always complained about not being seen as anything more than a good-looking guy. But when he finally reached a place where the privilege of good looks did not matter all that much, he ran back to his safe place. If he wanted to be more than “hot,” he needed to work for it, and that was his lesson. This is that part of the story where every kid finally wonders what it even means to be cool and if being “uncool” really means that they have missed something in life.
The fact is that the series ends by giving the characters everything they had wanted in season 1: a sweet love and a bright future for Devi, a way to move on for Nalini, and letting Kamala know that the sky’s the limit. We admit that we don’t like a lot of the show’s dialogue. The humor is dated, and despite the pop-culture references, we just don’t connect with them. But we have loved the characters and the journeys they have had, as well as every moment that Nalini, aka Poorna Jagannathan, is on screen. There should be a series based on her. A spinoff charting her dilemmas would be welcome since Devi is going off to college, and she is free to make her own mistakes now. Never Have I Ever is not a series for the history books, but it was a sweet watch while it lasted, and dare we say, it ended when the time was just right and on the perfect note.