Never Have I Ever Season 3 is unapologetically familiar, bringing back everything we know and love about the show. Devi (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan) is once again dealing with boy drama, vacillating between love interests, stirring chaos, and bumping heads with her mom. She's still obsessed with sex but not having sex, and she remains blissfully unaware Ben (Jaren Lewison) is in love with her. And of course, she continues to make poor choices for selfish reasons.
The new season follows a similar formula to the first two, but what it lacks in originality it makes up for with confidence. Never Have I Ever is one of the rare teen shows that understands its characters and strengths and knows its audience to a T.
Season 3 opens with Devi and Paxton's debut as a couple, and at first it seems all of Devi's — and the audience's — dreams have come true. She's with the hot, popular senior (played by 31 year-old Darren Barnet), and everything she's been hoping to achieve socially since Season 1 has finally happened.
But we all know what's coming: Devi will screw it up somehow, as she always does.
As with any good rom-com, watching Devi struggle with love makes for great entertainment. But the show also does a good job of showing that it isn't just a rom-com.
Underneath Devi's poor and oftentimes selfish choices is grief and a deep sense of insecurity. She's constantly thinking and talking about how it doesn't make sense that that she and Paxton are together, how everyone in school must be wondering why he's with her, and how she's just not cool, pretty, or good enough for him. He can only reassure her so many times before the relationship — like most high school relationships — seems doomed to fall apart.
As an audience familiar with what Devi has been through in the first two seasons, we can sympathize with her, and even during the moments where we just want to scream at her to stop doing whatever it is she's doing, Ramakrishnan makes us feel for her character.
As you might expect, ultimately a new boy comes along, and once again, we find Devi saying and doing the wrong things. For the first time in the show, Devi has an Indian love interest, but her internalized racism almost blows it when she makes the assumption that her mom's friend’s son, who she has to bring to a party, will be "an Indian dork" and "a huge loser." In moments like this, Never Have I Ever grapples with issues that other teen shows do not — issues that many children of immigrant parents deal with, whether it be conscious or subconscious.
The show also continues to deal with the aftermath of grief, but it does so with the knowledge that time has passed. Devi's life isn’t consumed by memories of her dad anymore, but he still comes back in pivotal moments that see Devi's grief once again triggered.
So while the show sticks to the same formula as previous seasons, it understands the subtle growth of its protagonists. In this way, the series, unlike many other teen shows, stays true to the characters and the world they inhabit. Never Have I Ever Season 3 brings back everything we loved about the first two seasons, with slight modifications as characters mature and learn.
The entire third season of Never Have I Ever premieres on Netflix Friday August 12, 2022.
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Deena ElGenaidi's writing has been featured in Nylon, MTV News, Insider, The AV Club, and more. You can follow her on Twitter @deenaelg.
TOPICS: Never Have I Ever, Netflix, Darren Barnet, Jared Lewison, Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, Mindy Kaling