Ever since the show’s debut in 2020, Mindy Kaling and Lang Fisher’s coming-of-age dramedy Never Have I Ever has been lauded for its nuanced South Asian representation and poignant portrayal of grief. At the center of it all lies Devi Vishwakumar (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan), an Indian-American high schooler dealing with typical teenage problems — budding romance, friendship drama, and self-discovery — while also grappling with unprocessed trauma following her father’s untimely death.
That all may sound a bit heavy, but Never Have I Ever thrives at maintaining a careful balance between its light-hearted wit and emotional depth. The fourth and final season continues that pattern, delivering a hilarious yet heartfelt portrait of the uncertainties that come with being 17 and figuring out the person you hope to become.
The show picks up directly following the events of the Season 3 finale, where Devi cashes in her “one free boink” with Ben (Jaren Lewison) and finally loses her virginity. Despite achieving such a major milestone, the subsequent awkwardness creates a series of unfortunate miscommunications that once again hinder their ability to just be together. Instead, Devi enters senior year without Ben as her boyfriend as he finds solace in a new relationship with Margot (Victoria Moroles), much to her chagrin. Of course, Devi wouldn’t be Devi if she didn’t attract drama, and she once again finds herself in an escalating feud that blows up in her face.
But rather than dwell on what-could’ve-Ben, Devi channels her energy into securing her future at Princeton, a dream she once shared with her father and desperately clings to as a lifeline. Her determination, while at times commendable, does lead her to make a few impulsive decisions that do more harm than good, such as screwing up her first impression with the university’s admissions officer, or refusing to apply to any safety schools. Ramakrishnan remains as dynamic as ever, exuding all of Devi’s charm, confidence, and vulnerability with an ease. While her temper tantrums are still abundant, there is a noticeable maturity this time around. It really does feel like Devi has grown up.
Meanwhile, Lee Rodriguez has a brilliant arc as Fabiola, who finds herself on the opposite end of the spectrum. Unlike Devi, Fabiola lacks a clear direction on her future and is searching for that collegiate spark. Her storyline is compelling because it realistically captures how daunting it is to try and figure out one’s place in the world, especially at such a young age. Even Devi, who outwardly appears to have a clear vision of who she is, is plagued by the same uncertainties and struggles that Fabiola faces, and it resonates greatly.
The overarching theme for the season is change. As college aspirations take center stage, Never Have I Ever explores a fundamental question: Who are we once we leave the comfort and safety of our home? We see that play out especially with Paxton (Darren Barnet), who returns to Sherman Oaks after a mere two weeks at ASU. Struggling with feelings of failure and disbelonging, Paxton takes on the role of assistant swim coach, seeking a sense of familiarity and a return to his senior year glory. But coming back to his high school doesn’t do much to suppress his insecurities — it actually amplifies them, as narrated by Gigi Hadid in another lovely Paxton-centric episode.
Although it takes a backseat in terms of narrative importance, romance remains interwoven throughout the season. Devi’s fiery new relationship with resident bad boy Ethan (Michael Cimino) provides her with a fun albeit brief escape, while Trent (Benjamin Norris) and Eleanor (Ramona Young) navigate the ups and downs of their zany love story. And despite Ben happily dating Margot, the lingering connection between him and Devi continues to supply a delightful dose of will-they/won’t-they anticipation. Even Nirmala (Ranjita Chakravarty) receives a comical new romance, mixing up the household dynamic.
Perhaps the most riveting romantic storyline — besides Ben and Devi — occurs between Nalini (Poorna Jagannathan) and Margot’s dad, Andres (Ivan Hernandez), who is a far more interesting match for her than Season 2’s Dr. Chris Jackson (Common). The duo engage in a sweet enemies-to-lovers arc, initially clashing due to their daughters’ war but still finding themselves drawn to one another. It’s a trope that Kaling cannot resist and happily implements throughout her body of work — along with Never Have I Ever, The Mindy Project and The Sex Lives of College Girls all serve as love letters to the rom-com genre.
While the season succeeds at building rich character development, there still remain a few blind spots. Aneesa (Megan Suri), who was introduced in Season 2, suffers from a stark cut in screen-time. It’s almost as if she was forgotten by the writers, considering she only briefly appears in a handful of group scenes with very little to say. It’s disappointing, especially since there was great potential in delving into Aneesa’s bisexuality post-Season 3, but it’s ultimately ignored. Similarly, Kamala (Richa Moorjani) receives noticeably less attention compared to previous seasons, which explored both her career and romantic endeavors in great depth. While she is still allotted a small storyline in Season 4, the conclusion feels rushed.
Nevertheless, Never Have I Ever’s beating heart lies within Devi and Nalini. As Devi prepares to embark on a new chapter of her life, change permeates their dynamic. Following the pattern set by previous seasons, the latter half of Season 4 focuses on their mother-daughter relationship — specifically, how their fears about their imminent separation manifests in different ways. Their journey is ultimately a profound exploration of love, growth, and the inherent challenges of navigating life transitions, and it is within this intricate dance of emotions that the show finds its true strength.
Never Have I Ever Season 4 is now streaming on Netflix. Join the discussion about the show in our forums.
Dianna Shen is a TV Writer at Primetimer based in New York. Her work has been featured in Paste Magazine and Decider, among other outlets.