Hilarious and heartfelt, Never Have I Ever remains one of streaming’s best series.
This review of Netflix’s Never Have I Ever season 3 does not contain spoilers.
Never Have I Ever has consistently been one of streaming’s best sitcoms. It’s a relief to tell you the third season has been a smashing success. Mindy Kaling’s first-generation, East Indian slice of life is consistently hilarious while touching on meaningful issues of a teenager and adult’s winding maze of grief. However, let’s understand one thing. The show has always been about the main character’s infatuation with the popular side of life while torn between her modern trappings and the cultural bubble at home. All while still dealing with the loss of her father, particularly at an age where any teenager is attempting to form their identity. Mindy Kaling’s series, with an entire multi-cultural cast, is a cultural touchstone in sitcom history.
Starring the marvelous Maitreyi Ramakrishnan as Devi and narrated by the incomparable John McEnroe, we last saw our favorite California girl finally landing the great whale — Paxton Hall-Yoshida (Darren Barnet). They are now official, and of course, they don’t tell her mother, Nalini (Poorna Jagannathan), who doesn’t allow Devi to date. She still has her close and loyal friends. You have Fabiola (Lee Rodriquez), who loses her first girlfriend. Eleanor (Ramona Young) still sees Trent (Benjamin Norris) despite having nothing in common. That sums up Ben’s (Jaren Lewison) and Aneesa’s (Megan Suri) relationship. So, Devi must be on cloud nine, right? Wrong. Just like her friends, she manages to have reservations. Devi cannot get over Paxton’s choice to be with her. She openly questions it because everyone else is incredulous about it. It looks like no one’s coupling up is on solid ground.
Where Kaling and co-creator Lang Fisher (Brooklyn Nine-Nine) excel is where most shows tend to falter — they do an excellent job introducing new characters. Two from last season are Manish (Utkarsh Abudkar) as Kamala’s (Richa Moorjani) and Devi’s grandmother, Nirmala (the hilarious Ranjita Chakravarty). Both take on more prominent roles in this season, which are strokes of genius. They throw a wrench into the plans this season with two new characters. Each changes the social dynamic for Devi and Nalini.
The other is how Never Have I Ever season 3 has so many ways of throwing levels of clever comedy to the viewer, all without being afraid to utilize characters’ inadequacies for laughs. This can lead to touching scenes. For instance, a brilliant episode is when Devi typically hates Valentine’s Day. The writers fold in a heart-swelling memory of her father (Heroes‘ Sendhil Ramamurthy) being her valentine. You are then given a hilarious scene where Devi is being matched with an odd duck who isn’t Paxton.
Then there is the psychological component of the show. This is relevant since humor is often used to deflect. Devi still sees her shrink (played by Niecy Nash), and we realize all the hormones and head-in-the-cloud infatuation with being popular are not just teenager hormones. Yes, that is a part of it, but this is also a way for Devi to cope with grief. This season reaches new heights and a mother-daughter bonding over the loss you rarely see on television. All of this, while McEnroe delivers priceless lines while either keeping Devi honest or validating the viewer’s feelings. This is the backbone of the show’s humor. If I had to choose between listening to Morgan Freeman or McEnroe give a narration, for my money, I am picking the SuperBrat every goddamn time.
Kaling’s show has already been renewed for a fourth and final season. Never Have I Ever remains hilarious and wonderful entertainment. Not just Netflix, but one of streaming’s best series today. In today’s day and age, coming-of-age comedies don’t get much better than this.
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