The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
As most of my fellow brown girls know, the third season of Never Have I Ever dropped at the end of this summer, and I think I speak for most of us when I say that this season was the best by far. There were so many important moments of character development that seemed missing in the earlier seasons and the relatable moments finally seemed to outnumber the outlandish ones. The writing for this season seemed a lot more mature, and it appears the writers took audience feedback into consideration. There’s a lot of great material (and definitely many spoilers) to unpack, so buckle up.
Devi’s Character Growth
To put this review into context, it’s important to acknowledge the issues of the previous seasons that made this one less initially appealing to my friends and I. Devi, the main character, was not a very likable person whose mistakes could be chalked up to naivete or miscommunication. Her wrongs ranged from spreading damaging rumors about her friend to cheating on her two boyfriends–the very premise of her character seemed based on her rashness. And, while her hot-headedness was a welcome change from previous representation of brown kids as quiet, nerdy side characters, it seemed overdone and too extreme in the other direction.
Thankfully, the writers seemed to take such criticism into stride and mature their writing for season three; the character growth was so well done this time around. Devi had far more reasonable reactions to her large emotions, like the time when she decides to ignore what the three gossipping girls outside the bathroom have to say about her relationship with Paxton, which is a far cry from the vengeful antics she would have pulled before. The nature of her impulsive and ‘unhinged’ behavior was also better explained and resolved throughout this season as a response to her trauma over losing her dad. While this has been the premise of the show since season one, this was the first time it felt like there was a breakthrough and she was listening to her therapist about how she needed to react to her feelings. Devi began to think through her actions and how they aligned with her priorities before acting rashly.
This also shone through in her decision to finally give up on Paxton in the last episode. She said that Paxton “had been a dream” and he was a wonderful diversion from her issues, but he wasn’t a realistic choice for her. This was a decision that was far more mature than most disney-esque shows depict, but it was a signal that Never Have I Ever is finally becoming more relatable to its audience (even though her relationship with Ben seemed untouched this season before she finally chooses to be with him).
Brown is Beautiful
My other big gripe with the show before this season was that Devi was never paired with a brown love interest, or even one of color. There is nothing wrong with having a white love interest here and there; however, it feels like everytime I see a character of color on the big screen (especially for characters that Mindy Kaling, the co-creator of the show, has played) they are pining for a white character as if the show is a tale of character growth that culminates with the greatest possible thing a brown woman could want: a white man’s love. However, I was pleasantly surprised by how the tables turned this season.
Although the love triangle with Paxton and Ben still didn’t retire this season, a new player entered the stage: Des. Where Devi expected him to be a brown guy with no personality trait other than being the nerdy comedic relief like Ravi from Jesse or Baljeet from Phineas and Ferb, she instead found a charismatic (and, yes, still intelligent) one. Des was just the wake up call that Devi needed to check her internalized racism and meeting him enabled her to accept that being brown did not make her uncool or undesirable. This was the healing she needed after her insecurities ended her relationship with Paxton and the confidence she needed to gain. While Des and Devi did not end together, I am so glad that their relationship proved to herself and the audience that being brown is beautiful.
By extension, this is also why having shows like Never Have I Ever is so important: seeing people that look like us being main characters, finding love and being desired makes it easier to imagine that being brown is not a hindrance to living our lives, but something to be celebrated. Seeing brown characters constantly portrayed as stereotypically nerdy characters without social skills that only serve to be mocked or used for their homework can be psychologically damaging to the brown kids that grow up watching this. When we constantly see ourselves in undesirable characters, it becomes difficult to love our ethnicity and cultural background. I didn’t think that the lack of proper representation was such a big deal until I watched Never Have I Ever and realized what my childhood was missing. So, while I can’t say I agree with every character decision made about Devi and her family up until now, being one of the first American coming-of-age tv shows to cast a brown lead is still something to be applauded. Hopefully proper representation will become the norm and the overwhelming pressure on Never Have I Ever to represent every brown teen in America will thus lessen.
Improving Mother and Daughter Relationship
Last but certainly not least, my absolute favorite part of this season was the scene where Devi chooses to continue her studies at Sherman Oaks high school so she could spend more time working through her relationship with her mother. This scene had my friend and I absolutely bawling because we understand how complicated relationships can be with immigrant parents and how important it is to talk them out and sometimes take steps yourself to do this. Although brown communities often place great importance on family, we weren’t raised in the same generation or culture that our immigrant parents were, so it can feel like there is a gap in how we express our affection and care for each other. Suffice it to say that this scene hit very close to home.
Going forward, I do hope to see the show dig more into Devi’s relationship with her culture rather than just the couple scenes where she mocks Hinduism and her heritage in season one. While I’m glad they didn’t turn it into an unrealistic Hallmark production where everything is resolved simply, I think I’d like for them to have Devi make progress in her journey towards cultural appreciation. Perhaps her and her mother, Nalini, could bond over their memories of Mohan, the father, at the temple.
If you’ve still not gotten over your post-show hole after this season or are just hungry for more Never Have I Ever content, opinion has a great video essay up on her channel that goes into a more detailed breakdown of the show.