‘Not a perfect protagonist’: ‘Never Have I Ever’ season four review


AP Photo/Chris Pizzello

Jaren Lewison, Maitreyi Ramakrishnan and Darren Barnet, from left, cast members in “Never Have I Ever,” pose together at the Season Four premiere of the Netflix series Thursday, June 1, 2023, at Regency Village Theatre in Los Angeles.

By Carissa Canzona, Staff Writer

After three successful seasons, the final season of “Never Have I Ever” premiered on Netflix on June 8. Created, directed and written by Mindy Kaling and Lang Fisher, the show follows Devi, played by Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, an Indian girl navigating high school, friendships and relationships following the sudden passing of her father. 

Kaling, one of the co-creators of the show, based Devi’s experiences off of her own years in high school. Kaling made it a point to fill the writers room with young Indian women in order to accurately depict growing up as a South Asian American woman. 

Devi lives with her mother, her grandmother and her cousin Kamala, who came from India in order to pursue her education. The intersection of these four storylines is refreshing to see on screen, as all of these women are still learning at different stages of life. 

Kamala gains the courage to go against the expectations of her family and decides not to have an arranged marriage. Devi’s grandmother, Pati, is seen still caring about what her peers think of her. Devi and her mother, Nalini, often butt heads over their differing views but are extremely close and persevere together through their grief.

In the first three seasons, viewers come to learn that Devi is notorious for making questionable choices. She rejects her faith, lies to her family and even has two boyfriends for a period of time for the sake of a “real American high school experience.” 

While some of Devi’s actions have you wanting to physically look away, it makes the show feel that much more realistic. The secondhand embarrassment you will feel for her will only make you that much happier when something finally goes her way. 

Some fans of the show have compared Devi’s actions to “playing Sims with no gems.” This is what precisely makes Devi such a relatable character for so many young girls — she is not a perfect protagonist, and she represents a culture in the media that is often neglected. 

Season Four consisted of the final ten episodes of the series, taking place in Devi’s senior year of high school. While being at the top of her class, she simultaneously expresses her interest in partying, boys and pop-culture references, which Kaling said was intentional. She wanted to portray Devi as a “new kind of nerd,” one that has interests outside of the classroom.

During the first three seasons of the show, viewers are torn between Devi’s two main love interests, Ben and Paxton. Paxton is a year older than Devi and, as captain of the swim team, is the most popular guy at their school, whereas Ben is her longtime academic rival.

Ben and Devi are always seen bickering and throwing insults at each other, but as time goes on, they come to respect one another for the drive and ambition that they both share. They understand what it means to work yourself to the bone in order to succeed, as well as how it feels to not always say the right thing and feel left out in social settings. 

When they end up together in the series finale, it feels like so much has been building up to it. They applaud each other’s accomplishments rather than tear each other down, which showcases their growth over the show.

Season Four also picks up right where season three left off, with Devi in her senior year focusing on her admission into Princeton. Devi, Ben and their group of friends throw themselves into the college admissions process, and the show portrays this very realistically. 

Devi is thrown off by how highly competitive the admissions process is and is shocked when things don’t go how she planned, which is accurate for a lot of students going through this same time period in their lives. 

By the conclusion of the series, Devi is finally content in being alone, and it isn’t until she comes to this realization that she can finally end up with Ben. Her character development is vital to the show as it really feels like audience members have grown up with her. 

When Devi’s mom starts to date again after the loss of her husband, Devi does not react well in the earlier seasons —  she feels like this would be replacing her father, and Devi goes as far as to sabotage her mother’s relationships. 

By the end of the show, though, she encourages her mother to date again. She even makes an effort to mend some of the bridges she burned in order for the mother’s dating life to work out. It’s a perfect way to show her arc over four seasons, especially when it comes to the mother-daughter relationship.

Part of the reason why the audience feels so inclined to root for Devi is because of how flawed she is. She isn’t afraid to fight with her best friends or make selfish decisions, and this is all a part of being a teenage girl. She shows viewers that it’s okay to make mistakes and that while her ambition might have hurt her at times, it ultimately got her to where she is. 

Season Four showcases an immense amount of growth for Devi’s character. After watching her grow closer with her mom, grow more confident, embrace her culture, make progress in therapy, thrive without a boyfriend and graduate high school, the series finale is extremely satisfying for long-time viewers of the show.