Never Have I Ever… Been So Proud of Devi Vishwakumar
[Spoilers for ‘Never Have I Ever’ Season 3!]
The much awaited ‘Never Have I Ever’ Season 3 came out this weekend, and so much has changed since we first started reviewing this show, so let’s get straight into it. In our review of the previous season, we saw a huge improvement in storytelling, writing, and overall acting in the show compared to its initial release. And with that success, Season 3 shows that ‘Never Have I Ever’ is going from strength to strength and becoming a highly popular comedy show, and not just for the South Asian community looking for representation.
This season kicks off with Devi finally achieving her high school dream – becoming Paxton Hall-Yoshida’s girlfriend. With all that’s happened with Devi, it was amazing to see her seemingly finally happy in a relationship, focusing on things outside of school and managing her grief over her father. This season also gave us a Devi that was much calmer and less prone to extremely questionable decisions. Along with a much-improved relationship with Nalini, the Vishwakumar family as a whole saw such huge character growth and improvement compared to how it began (A.K.A Devi wishing Nalini had died instead of her father). Not only was the character development of the Vishwakumar family so satisfying to see, but as a viewer, the storyline this season was just so much more entertaining, especially with seeing Devi coming into her own and being confronted with her internalised racism (shoutout to Des for calling her out).
The biggest change, and most heart-warming one, for me was Nalini and Devi learning how to fix the cracks in their relationship since Mohan’s death and navigating a new mother-daughter relationship. We saw Nalini choosing to meet Devi in the middle instead of outright dictating what she is and isn’t allowed to do, and Devi learning that she can lean on her mother and depend on her for support. All of this culminated in Devi choosing not to go to the Shrubland school and getting a leg-up for her future ambitions, and instead deciding to stay and appreciate the little time she has left with her mother. Something that Season 1 Devi would have never done. The difference between Nalini and Devi’s relationship this season, compared to how the show began was like night and day. Both mother and daughter chose not to lean on each other since Mohan’s death when the show began, and it was beautiful to see the two discover how to become a family on their own.
Now let’s talk about the most disappointing aspect of the show – the way that Aneesa’s character was completely thrown to the side with no character development. When Aneesa was introduced last season, despite a lot of criticism, I was so happy to see the inclusion of such a normal every-day Muslim character. In Season 2 we saw Aneesa overcome a history of an eating disorder and learning how to make an entirely new set of friends. When it ended, I was excited to see what would happen in the next season, especially when she became a part of Devi’s close friends circle. However, Season 3 was unbelievably disappointing for her character. Not only was she given such limited screen time compared to the other main characters of the show, but when the creators were given the opportunity to explore Aneesa possibly discovering her queer identity, they did nothing. It’s one thing to go the route of normalising LGBTQIA+ relationships by not making it all about their coming-out story, but as we saw in Season 1 with Fabiola discovering who she is the writers of this show are willing to explore that and include it as part of her story. In the case of Aneesa, they simply chose not to. It may have been the case that considering her Muslim background they did not want to accidentally offend or insult the community, and although understandable, queer Muslims are just as deserving of representation as anyone else is. Simply throwing in and discarding such relationships without any explanation does them a disservice, and if they weren’t willing to explore that aspect of her character it should not have been included at all.
Another thing that I was hoping to see but was not really explored was Devi learning to love her South Asian background. Although I loved the inclusion of Des, a South Asian love interest, that immediately called her out on her internalised racism, beyond that there wasn’t much change. Just like in the beginning of the show, being Indian was still being seen as synonymous to being a ‘nerd’ or ‘unattractive’ – Devi was literally described as going back to “her normal nerdy, Indian virgin self”. South Asians get a bad enough reputation for being deemed unattractive and having people from our own community continue to perpetuate that (*cough Mindy Kaling cough*) just makes it worse.
Regardless of the criticisms, ‘Never Have I Ever’ has made huge strides in carving out a space for South Asian women in mainstream television. Is the show perfect? No. Do I expect them to always tackle the hard conversations and nuances of our community? Also no. At the end of the day, this is a comedy show and a coming-of-age story of a high school girl that has gone through the unimaginable and just wants to fit in. ‘Never Have I Ever’ Season 3 was entertaining, made me laugh, and Devi being messy kept me on the edge of my seat – which is what it was supposed to do. I hope that with Season 4 being the final season, we can see the show continue to improve and end on a note that doesn’t make this the only piece of representation we see again for a while.
'Never Have I Ever' Season 3 is available to watch on Netflix.