As I watch interviews of the cast speaking about how emotional they were shooting the last season of Never Have I Ever, I feel it’s the same for us viewers. This is the last leg of our journey with these characters, and my last review of the show after covering it every single season. It’s definitely bittersweet , but wrap-up seasons are also immensely difficult to do well. The writers may feel inclined to give these characters the absolute best send-off, with projections into the future that are hyperbolic – like Glee – or remain still so fixated on initial endings that don’t feel authentic to the show and its characters anymore – we all know I’m speaking of How I Met Your Mother.
Never Have I Ever resists the urge to go for the fairy tale, which is to its credit, but as a viewer it’s the season that has disappointed me the most. Firstly, there’s introduction of plotlines that I have no interest in. I mean, I love Nirmala (Ranjita Chakravarty) as a character, but the whole storyline with her and her new white boyfriend Len doesn’t feel authentic to her character, especially when she was so difficult about Kamala (Richa Moorjani) and Manish’s relationship the previous season. Mature love stories need more space in TV and film, but is this really the time to do it, when we’ve spent 4 seasons with Devi (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan) and her friends, and are more invested in their arcs?
I’ve spent most of Never Have I Ever vacillating between being Team Paxton (Darren Barnet) and Team Ben (Jaren Lewison). While I was initially a Team Ben girl, it’s difficult to feel that way after Seasons 2 and 3. The show spent so much time on Paxton’s character arc, and developing Devi and Paxton’s relationship that Ben and Devi’s relationship momentum got left in the dust. It’s especially disappointing to begin season 4 and once again have little to no development between Ben and Devi, after the teaser cliffhanger of the previous season. I understand wanting to ground the show in realism, which does work this season in some occasions, but absolutely fails when it comes to dealing with these romantic relationships.
Losing your virginity can be awkward, and having sex for the first time may not be pleasurable, which is all okay if the characters communicate about it and deal with it. Instead, Ben’s solution is to ghost Devi and get into a relationship with someone else, and if I were Devi, there would be no coming back from that. While I can understand feeling insecure and getting into your own head about the whole situation, you don’t do things like this to someone you care about. Not only that, his relationship with Margot is a mere plot device. The show doesn’t do enough to make us care about her as a character, and it’s saying something when Margot’s father gets more character development than Margot herself.
So where does that leave Devi and her romantic storyline? While all the show’s promotion still teases Team Paxton vs. Team Ben, it’s pretty clear that Paxton and Devi are no longer a romantic possibility after the previous season. Devi gets a new love interest this season in the form of bad boy Ethan (Michael Cimino). Cimino is a good actor, but for some reason he’s been getting typecast as a loveable himbo of late. He played pretty much the same character in both Senior Year and How I Met Your Father, though Ethan’s a bit more criminal in his tendencies.
Considering his work on Love, Victor, I was hoping that his character here would have more depth. And that could have been the case. However, because this is the final season, Ethan was always going to be a short-lived character, which is a shame. Ethan and Devi actually have really good chemistry together, and I found myself warming up to the pair despite my investment in the love triangle.
At this point the writers should have really considered if maybe Devi herself has outgrown the love triangle. Both Paxton and Ben don’t feel like viable options anymore, so why not develop this Ethan relationship a bit more, instead of just labelling it a ‘bad boy’ infatuation and moving on? The one thing I’ve always loved about the show is its care about all its characters, but this season utilises the ‘character as plot device’ method quite a fair bit more than previous ones. Once again, I do think it’s done to hasten things along and get all these characters where they need to be by the end, but I honestly feel that if they needed more time, senior year could have been two seasons, or we could have gotten more episodes so arcs and relationships could be explored more fully.
While season 4 has some disappointments, I really appreciate the college plotlines this season. As we all know, Devi has dreamed about going to Princeton since forever, but we also know that working hard towards something doesn’t always guarantee success. Unlike The Kissing Booth, which makes college applications a bit too breezy and unrealistic, Never Have I Ever fleshes out how competitive and difficult it is to apply to an Ivy. This plotline also allowed for some wonderful moments between Devi and Nalini (Poorna Jagannathan), as well as Devi and Fabiola (Lee Rodriguez). Eleanor’s (Ramona Young) acting dreams and relationship with Trent are also realistically dealt with, and despite these various setbacks, these characters highlight that if you have a dream worth fighting for, you’ll keep striving and working towards it.
Despite the disappointments of Season 4, I still had a blast watching the show. It’s one of the best-written teen comedies on Netflix, and Devi is a fantastic protagonist. She’s flawed yet immensely likeable, she’s an academic beast who also found time to have fun and have quite a few romantic relationships before heading to college. This is how you craft a well-rounded character, so kudos to the writers for that. So as I say farewell to the show, I carry with me my memories of watching all four seasons together with my brother – what a blast it’s been.
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Season 4 is not par with the other seasons. It's still charming and Devi is a great protagonist, but the story beats don't hit as hard this season, and it will feel a little disappointing.
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