In the second season of Netflix’s Never Have I Ever, impulsive and charming main character Devi Vishwakumar shines, and the ground-breaking Indian-American representation that captured our hearts becomes more nuanced.
Devi, played by Mississauga native Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, is caught in a predictable but endearing high school love triangle between athlete Paxton Hall-Yoshida and frenemy Ben Gross. She also struggles with her grief over the sudden and very public death of her father two years prior, often projecting her negative emotions onto her friends and her mother, Nalini.
The representation in Never Have I Ever is revolutionary. There’s always room for criticism and improvement, especially because any mainstream show with a minority as the lead will be catered towards a white audience, but season two continues to embrace the immigrant struggle with candor and ease.
The immigrant struggle is complex and can’t be accurately represented by simply one character. To showcase the diversity of experiences, Never Have I Ever gives us three nuanced Indian women: Devi, Kamala, and Nalini.
Devi’s beautiful cousin Kamala, who is undeniably traditional in a way that Devi isn’t, is pushed to find her voice as she works in a male-dominated, sexist lab environment.
In addition to Kamala, Nalini receives a solid B-plot in the latest season as she grapples with her own grief and a potential romantic interest. As a successful dermatologist and mother in the Western world, Nalini’s character humanizes the immigrant mother trope, creating depth beyond an Indian accent and fights with her teenage daughter.
To balance the depth of Indian-American identity is sharp writing and natural dialogue—which is as witty as it can be for a teen comedy written by millennials—and a blossoming love triangle.
Though many viewers were team Ben after the first season, Paxton’s character undergoes major development in the new season. He embraces his Japanese heritage for a school project and transitions into a self-reliant student after being injured outside Devi’s first and only house party.
Whereas viewers were initially hit with the juxtaposition between brainy Ben and jock Paxton, the latter’s journey towards self-improvement makes the latter him an easy love interest to root for.
One of my favourite additions to the second season is Aneesa, an effortlessly cool new brown girl at Sherman Oaks. Nicknamed ‘Devi 2.0,’ Aneesa triggers a wave of insecurity and complex feelings about Indian-American heritage for Devi, especially as she grows closer to Ben.
Never Have I Ever is the first show I’ve seen reveal the underlying competition between brown girls in predominantly white institutions, and the tendency for other students to immediately compare minorities.
It’s an embarrassing phenomenon that pushed me to distance myself from other brown girls in middle school and junior high—a phenomenon I never thought I’d see on a coming-of-age TV show.
Ramakrishnan leaps from anger to jealousy to introspection in a moment. She’s the star of the show for a reason—Devi is narcissistic and unbelievably unaware of her shortcomings, but we love her, nonetheless. Watching her playoff her friends, love interests, and family is a genuine pleasure.
If there’s one thing missing from season two, it’s an Indian teenage boy who’s also struggling with his racial identity to interact with Devi—and maybe even complicate the love triangle plot.
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