3.5 out of 5 stars

Having spent her freshman and sophomore year choosing whether to date smart-but-smug Ben (Jared Lewinson) or popular yet insecurity-inducing Paxton (Darren Barnet), Devi (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan) learns that living out your high school fantasies is anything less than ideal. Following season 2’s finale, Devi finally goes public with Paxton but dating the hottest guy in school comes with a lot of baggage.

The third season of Mindy Kaling (The Mindy Project) and Lang Fisher’s romantic comedy matures as Devi starts to learn her lessons. As adulthood looms for Devi and her friends, she starts to realise what she actually wants in life. While this is fantastic for Devi as a character, it does make for a rather predictable 10 episodes of television. The first half of the season spends too much time rehashing old plot lines, and it takes a long time before our characters start to genuinely move forward.

Times are changing for the whole gang: Aneesa (Megan Suri) struggles with her boyfriend Ben, who constantly makes her feel insignificant for preferring football over calculus; Fabiola (Lee Rodriguez) is still timidly exploring her sexuality after her girlfriend Eve (Christina Katchner) moves to Korea; and Eleanor (Ramona Young) starts dating Paxton’s stoner friend Trent (Benjamin Norris), who gets promoted from comedy sidekick to a fully-rounded leading cast member. The show just about manages to cover all these characters and their micro-dramas, although the half-hour format does limit their progress.

Devi’s love triangle gets another addition with the entrance of Des (Anirudh Pisharody), a handsome and smart Indian boy who isn’t like the nerdy boys her mother usually sets her up with. Des’s mother Rhyah (Sarayu Rao) befriends Devi’s own over-worked and mourning mother Nalini (Poorna Jagannathan). Widowed Nalini, who spends her time sheep herding her family and working as a dermatologist, finally gets a moment this season to make a friend and exist outside of being a working mum.

Never Have I Ever has always stood out from the other teen comedy dramas thanks to its heart. At the core of this show are Devi and her family, dealing with grief after her father’s sudden death. Season 3 feels like Devi has moved past this trauma and has grown into someone else. Of course, she misses him, flashbacks often showcasing their warm bond, but she no longer carries the intense grief at his passing.

The intergeneration dynamics of her Indian immigrant family are played for laughs, her grandmother still livid at her cousin’s choice to not marry, that’s when she is not trying to one-up the other ladies from her church. Her cousin Kamala (Richa Moorjani) is dealing with a world of dating as an Indian without an arranged marriage, although her storyline does feel like it has been looked over in favour of the younger characters.

Never Have I Ever isn’t ever afraid to deal with big adolescent dramas. This show is never going to be a rival to Euphoria in portraying drug abuse, sexual violence, and hedonism, but it deals with more realistic topics like social media trolling, self-esteem, and losing one’s virginity. These small but important issues are more likely to connect to the average teenager sitting at home watching Netflix than the Zendaya-led HBO drama.

The message of the show is constantly positive, with Kaling always a supporter of letting women live their own eccentric truth, but it never becomes preachy. Devi is selfish, rude, and sometimes not a nice person, but she’s also real. Her friends may be self-absorbed, self-entitled, and often out of line, but they’re also relatable. People don’t change overnight and just because they make mistakes, it doesn’t mean they’re bad. Never Have I Ever continues to embrace the messiness of life and the fact that bad actions do not equal bad people.

For better or for worse, Never Have I Ever remains consistent. This is never going to be a show filled with shocking twists and turns, but it’s a comforting teen drama that’s ideal for Sunday morning viewing. It remains as smart and as funny as the earlier seasons, and yet still suffers from the same pacing issues thanks to a packed cast of charming actors and short episode runtimes.

Never Have I Ever toes the line between heartfelt and saccharine, instead feeling emotionally resonant and genuine. This is a testament to both the writers’ room and Ramakrishnan, whose charm helps the flawed Devi become an empathic lead.

USA | 2022 | 10 EPISODES | 16:9 HD | COLOUR | ENGLISH

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Cast & Crew

writers: Mindy Kaling, Marina Crockenberg, Asmita Paranjape, Akshara Sekar, Gabe Liedman, Amina Munir, Aaron Geary, Ben Steiner, Christina Hjelm, Beth Appel, Erica Oyama & Lang Fisher.
directors: Maggie Carey, Smriti Mundrha, Kabir Akhtar, Kim Nguyen, Erica Oyama & Lang Fisher.
starring: Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, Poorna Jagannathan, Richa Moorjani, Darren Barnet, Jaren Lewison, John McEnroe, Ramona Young & Lee Rodriguez.