Never Have I Ever : Season 2
Might contain spoilers.
It stumbles at the beginning thanks to some uninspired writing (especially the trite storyline about two boyfriends) and Devi’s frustrating near-villainy—whatever I liked about the first season initially seems to have disappeared—but recovers afterwards and makes significant improvements towards the end, once she displays some self-awareness. Kamala is more of a supporting character this time around, which is a shame considering Richa Moorjani’s comedic talents. Nalini is just as unlikeable and unsympathetic as ever. Ben is still the wrong choice for Devi as he tries to lay the responsibility for his happiness on her shoulders. (The fact that all his reasons for considering Shira important to him center on her body doesn’t help.)
The false Indian accents and the constant conflation of the Indian-American experience with Indian culture continue to grate on my nerves. I can’t decide who has the worse ‘Indian’ accent between Prashant and Kamala: they both make me wish for a selective mute button. The sections in India are more tolerable, though Nirmala’s voice and accent in particular are odd. It’s very unfortunate that I watched this so soon after the immeasurably superior We Are Lady Parts .
None of that matters in the end, because this is Paxton’s season. Darren Barnet’s portrayal of his story is the highlight of the show. His friends are still as funny as ever, and more interesting than Fabiola or Eleanor despite Trent’s unmitigated lack of depth (which Benjamin Norris gleefully embraces). Ben’s episode in the first season, ‘…been the loneliest boy in the world’, was a welcome relief; this time around, ‘…opened a textbook’ tells Paxton’s tale, complete with amusingly disinterested narration from Andy Samberg (after he evicts a returning Gigi Hadid) instead of the always annoying John McEnroe, and is enough to make one dream of what might have been if this were the show.
The next three episodes all suffer from having to follow that one, with its naturally compelling plot and easy storytelling. They show us a Ben whose justifiable anger only makes him a repetitive bore, an Eleanor who’s trying to replace her boyfriend with a shiny new one, a new Indian student (Aneesa) whose life Devi immediately destroys out of predictable jealousy, a forgettable budding romance between Nalini and Dr. Jackson, and of course, Devi being unpleasant or nasty to everyone she calls a friend. It’s all quite tedious. I’m just glad Aneesa’s situation is eventually resolved, because she didn’t deserve any of what Devi did to her (deliberately or not).
‘…begged for forgiveness’ is an improvement. Mohan and Nalini’s argument over him not
attending her awards ceremony is one of the better things the show has done, with unexpected writing
choices, nuanced performances, and the complete absence of Devi as a subject in the argument, which
allows Nalini to be more than just a terrible mother. Meanwhile, although the story of her romance
with Dr. Jackson started poorly, I enjoyed the way the final scene unfolded, with his
were going for a hug? meeting with a thoughtful
I was… before she decides she does want to
Fabiola has never been closer to being interesting than when she’s passionate about robotics. Malcolm is hilarious, and I wish we had seen more of him interacting with Paxton, which had me laughing more loudly than I should have. I wish we could see more of Mr. Kulkarni too—he feels like a visitor from a better show.
The final two episodes are the strongest. Devi’s devastation when she starts to genuinely question her own sanity is a heartwrenching moment, and the turning point in her story: the real Devi is finally able to emerge from under the obnoxious façade so she can start to heal. Her romantic moments with Paxton are very well done—those seem to be where the heart of the show lies. Nalini is always easier to stomach in memories with Mohan. Mr. Shapiro’s reaction to Paxton bringing in his grandfather is hilarious, not to mention his reactions to Paxton and Devi in general.
The finale is so enjoyable. There is much that bothers me about this show, from the accents to the
writing to the well-trodden storylines, but in the end, who can resist the charm of high school
drama? Being about more ordinary teenage preoccupations is an advantage here. Devi finally gets to
exist apart from her general antagonism. The adults are on the periphery. Fabiola’s story is
touching, especially her accidental mutual declaration of love with Eve. Aneesa looks so nice and so
happy. Trent asking
Erica (Eleanor) out made me giggle. Kamala running off with Mr. Kulkarni
is quite amusing, though I have to imagine there will be repercussions: what of Prashant?
Paxton making his appearance in the end is a triumphant, romantic, and heartwarming moment (and presumably a dripping wet fantasy come to life for Devi)—John McEnroe popping the champagne to celebrate is the perfect response. I won’t applaud simply not doing the wrong thing in the end, but it was still an act of courage: he’s right to be concerned about what his contemporaries will think of him, considering how Devi’s treated him. At any rate, it continues to be a relief that she doesn’t turn around and choose Ben at the last minute, which I was very afraid she might do in Paxton’s absence.