Netflix’s Never Have I Ever is an American coming-of-age story but warmly shines a torch on Indian culture. It deserves a Season 2.
Netflix series Never Have I Ever season 1 will be out on the platform on April 27, 2020. This review contains no spoilers.
When Mindy Kaling created Hulu’s Four Weddings and a Funeral, I was one of the few supporters. Okay, it lacked originality and longevity, but the writing was vibrant, fun, and lighthearted, signaling a strong group of romantically-inclined friends. Teaming up with Lang Fisher I had high hopes for Netflix’s Never Have I Ever.
And I believe audiences will not be disappointed. The Netflix series follows American-Indian teenager Devi, embarking on her sophomore year, viewing her group of friends as ‘nerdy’ outsiders. This is the year she hails that they become cool and ‘get a boyfriend’. It’s the old adage of a teenager benchmarking themselves against the “cool kids”, belittling what makes them beautiful for their own characteristics.
Never Have I Ever follows the usual coming-of-age tropes, bringing nothing surprising, however, it compels viewers with a cultural understanding. Devi is resistant to her family’s Indian heritage, and that encapsulates her teenage growth and perceptions of the world. She embraces being American but puts her Indian life at arm’s length, subtly ashamed of it. It’s a cultural clash that works warmly with the script and is at the very heart of the story that will be appreciated by many generations of immigrant families in America.
And it’s that cultural mantra that drives the plot. Devi is not only desperate to have a boyfriend, but she’s struggling with her father’s death, which psychologically put her in a wheelchair for a short period of time. Never Have I Ever demonstrates grief at ground-level, as Devi navigates life avoiding the true impact of her father’s death. Devi is struggling with her identity, desperate to be viewed as someone she is not in front of friends and peers. Devi is purposefully a likable but frustrating character at the same time — like any teenager. The Netflix series is wildly relatable.
Never Have I Ever is amusing rather than ‘laugh out loud’. Each episode has a theme which is ironically linked to the title of the chapter. It’s a tickbox exercise for the lead character, as she experiences new scenarios and embarks on the trials and tribulations of growing up. It’s an oddly tragic teenage tale.
The series keeps it short and sweet with under 30-minute episodes, but in that time, entire themes are covered with ease that exemplifies the strong writing behind it. The other characters fit the mold, representing other backgrounds and sexualities, offering engaging subjects for various demographics.
The single downside to Never Have I Ever is that a couple of episodes are sub-standard and fail to maintain momentum. The beginning and latter half of the Netflix series is its strongest, but it speaks as an eight-episode season rather than ten. That doesn’t persuade viewers not to binge, but you often find some chapters forgetful.
Netflix’s Never Have I Ever is an American coming-of-age story but warmly holds a candle for Indian culture. It deserves a Season 2.