‘Never Have I Ever’ Charms as it Deals with Grief and Growing Up

Never Have I Ever returns this week for its sophomore season, and it seems like our protagonist, Indian American teenager Devi (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan), has not learned her lesson from last season on how to be a better person. As shown in the trailers, the second season starts with Devi having to deal with two romantic suitors — Paxton Hall-Yoshida (Darren Barnet) and Ben Gross (Jared Lewison) — and attempting to juggle them both. Of course we know it will lead to heartbreak for the trio and leaves Devi in a really difficult place trying to make things right. There were many times I felt aggravated watching Devi make mistake after mistake and felt like she was never really growing as a person. The thing is, nobody is perfect and as annoying as Devi is when mistakes are made, Never Have I Ever still finds a way to make it as charming and relatable as possible. 

What the series did wonderfully last season was really explain grief and the long-lasting effects it can cause, but grief isn’t something you can process in only one season. Grief can last a lifetime and I’m glad the second season of the series doesn’t just have Devi move on from her father’s passing. Instead, she’s still processing this pain while also dealing with being a normal teenager who yearns to fit in. This is why, as much as Devi does have a lot of cringe-worthy and awkward moments, it’s hard to not feel her suffering behind it all.

Ramakrishnan does a fantastic job being awkward yet endearing as Devi and beautifully balances the comedy and emotional turmoil that could erupt at any time. I mean, Devi is a hot mess, but there is something so enchanting that Ramakrishnan brings to the character. You can’t help but feel like you were in her shoes at one point in your life. 

NEVER HAVE I EVER (L to R) MAITREYI RAMAKRISHNAN as DEVI VISHWAKUMAR in episode 201 of NEVER HAVE I EVER Cr. ISABELLA B. VOSMIKOVA/NETFLIX © 2021

It is not only Devi who is dealing with grief. Devi’s mother Nalini (Poorna Jagannathan) struggles to come to terms with the loss of her husband and tries to find that spark of joy again. This comes possibly in the form of a potential relationship with dermatology rival, Dr. Chris Jackson (Common). Though the show is centered around Devi, it’s important to understand how loss affects the entire family — including Mohan’s loving mother (Ranjita Chakravart), who moves in with the family.

There is a moment in the series when grandma reveals the last thing she ever said to Mohan before his death and it stings — making Devi realize how much this loss not only affects her, but the rest of the family. So often, when dealing with loss, we feel like we’re the only ones going through this pain. In an emotional scene with her therapist Dr. Ryan (Niecy Nash), Devi questions why she does all of these things that labelled her as ‘crazy,’ and, like a good therapist, Dr. Ryan tells her, “You had a big loss and the hurt that comes from that can come out in surprising ways.” 

When a new Indian American student Anessa (Megan Suri) arrives at the school, Devi can’t help but compare herself to the new girl and immediately feels threatened. But with the introduction of a South Asian friend for Devi to have, it allows for more in-depth conversations about culture and having that commonality with someone who gets it. There was a moment in the series when Devi is asked if she has any Indian friends and she responds she has her cousins. After getting to know Anessa better, Devi begins to realize how their shared upbringing in an Indian household made them even closer.

NEVER HAVE I EVER (L to R) MAITREYI RAMAKRISHNAN as DEVI VISHWAKUMAR, MEGAN SURI as ANEESA, and, DARREN BARNET as PAXTON-HALL YOSHIDA in episode 204 of NEVER HAVE I EVER Cr. ISABELLA B. VOSMIKOVA/NETFLIX © 2021

As for the other storylines and subplots in the series, there is a lot going on for the supporting cast. After meeting her handsome betrothed Prashant (Rushi Kota) the last season, Kamala (Richa Moorjani) thought she had it all figured out. She had a top-notch academic rotation with a Nobel Prize-winning scientist and a handsome boyfriend who dotes on her every whim. But as the only woman scientist in her lab, she deals with sexism in the workplace and a boyfriend who tells her to essentially deal with it and move on. Like the stereotype of the “good Asian,” Kamala has to figure out how to confront her situation at work and it ends up being really satisfying.

Devi’s friends Eleanor (Ramona Young) and Fabiola (Lee Rodriguez) all have their own set of problems to deal with and although they don’t get a lot of time and feel a bit rushed, their moments are really refreshing. For Devi’s love interests, there were attempts made to make Paxton more than just the hot guy — apart from the random shirtless scenes of him — by giving him a Japanese internment storyline that also felt really rushed and uninspired. It’s actually really bothersome that the white love interest gets a fuller emotional arc than the Asian guy, but let’s just hope there is a season three to give Paxton more reasons to love him.

Overall, the second season of Never Have I Ever follows the same formula as the first where Devi hurts people, not for the sake of hurting them, but because she is so overcome with her own pain that she doesn’t realize what she’s doing to the others around her. But she is still a good person and the writing is still so good. Devi is just a regular teenager trying to figure her life out. Yeah, it’s awkward and irritating to watch her make the same mistakes over again, but, just as Dr. Ryan tells her, it doesn’t mean she’s crazy. It just means she’s human.

One thought on “‘Never Have I Ever’ Charms as it Deals with Grief and Growing Up

Leave a Reply