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Back for its second instalment, the much-awaited series Never Have I Ever picks up where it left off, immediately pulling us into the juvenile yet well-meaning teenage antics of protagonist Devi Vishwakumar. After all the hype, you can’t help but wonder: can it recreate the magic of the first season? For the most part, Never Have I Ever does bring back all the elements we loved it for.
AT A GLANCE
- Starring: Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, Darren Barnet, Poorna Jagannathan, John McEnroe, Richa Moorjani, Adam Shapiro
- Created by: Mindy Kaling and Lang Fisher
- Rating: * * * (Three stars)
Warning: some SPOILERS
The season opens seconds after the last one left off, with Devi and her rival Ben (Jaren Lewinson) kissing in his car. Their time is cut short after her mum Nalini catches them, but it leaves Devi with a difficult choice: will she choose the classic heartthrob Paxton Hall-Yoshida (Darren Barnett), or the underdog with a sprinkle of academic-rivals-to-lovers Ben Gross?
Well, the answer is easy: she chooses both! As Nalini travels to India to prepare for a move from America, both mother and daughter undergo life-changing realisations. This is when culture clashes are most apparent: Devi is a first-generation South Indian immigrant, but she is also a teenager who grew up on a diet of suburban LA culture. Played to perfection by the wildly funny Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, our protagonist Devi is complex and selfish, but often she is everything, all at once. She does not seem to learn from her past mistakes and often goes around parroting the same apologies to different people. Her story arc sees her continue to grapple with the grief of her father’s death and her semi-sociopathic desire to get what she wants –– no matter the cost to other people. This personality trait, once again, shows her experiencing conflict with almost every other character in the series.
Still, portraying grief on-screen is a difficult feat when everyone experiences it differently. There is no fixed time frame after which things are better, and it’s a lesson Devi and her widow mum Nalini (Poorna Jagannathan) continue to learn this season.
On her part, Nalini faces a journey of her own, realising the sheer distance that exists between her and her family in India outside of geography. As an immigrant, it is easy to think that things ‘back home’ are closer to you than they are and that you can feel connected to your culture with the drop of a hat, but this is not always the case. And so, this epiphany is followed by a new addition to the Vishwakumar household– Nalini’s mother-in-law and Devi’s pati (grandmother) Nirmala (Ranjita Chakravarty) who might be one of the best discoveries this season.
As for Devi’s cousin Kamala, who was portrayed as the perfect desi mould, we see a powerful transformation into a self-assured, confident woman. As the tables turn, Kamala goes to Devi for advice on how to deal with having credit taken away from her at work, and she finds herself being more assertive. No spoilers, but her arranged marriage plotline, too, sees some interesting developments.
The second season also brings back the supporting characters we grew to love, like endearing misfits Eleanor (Ramona Young) and nerdy Fabiola (Lee Rodriguez) who are on journeys of self-discovery in their own right. There’s even a spanner thrown in the works with the introduction of a new Indian classmate, Aneesa (Megan Suri).
The show stays funny, sassy, and heartfelt, and feels as though it has matured intelligently like its protagonist. For one episode the narrator even switches to supermodel and multi-hyphenate Gigi Hadid.
Never Have I Ever remains a celebration of family and individuality, in the same breath calling out the monotony of life. People make the same mistakes over and over again. Your family is simultaneously your biggest enemy and most fervent supporter. But its uniqueness stems from its suspension of disbelief: the characters and setting are exaggerated, as are Devi’s tantrums and Nalini’s endless patience with her. You might mirror or appreciate any of her teenage actions, but that is not the important part: you’ll relate to her anyway.
READ ALSO: Review: Never Have I Ever
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