The final season of hit Netflix television series Never Have I Ever continues a trend of smart writing — and a character who makes plenty of decisions that are anything but smart. Season four of the young adult comedy sees audience’s favorite (or maybe not) teenager, Devi Vishwakumar (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan), going into her senior year at Sherman Oaks High School. With that comes juggling an unsteady love life, college applications, and new discoveries about family and friendship.
Season three left off with Devi knocking on the door of her nemesis-turned-sort-of-lover, Ben Gross (Jaren Lewison), with the proposition of sex. What happened behind those doors remained unclear, but this season that question is answered: Ben and Devi did indeed lose their virginities to one another, and it was not…great? Or rather, both of them didn’t know how they felt about their encounter, and it ended up in a very awkward aftermath where Devi didn’t know where she stood with Ben. Ben realized that he and Devi were both too similar to truly be together, and he abandoned her to get together with artsy student Margot (Victoria Moroles).
Obviously, Devi’s not too happy with that, and when fighting with Margot over Ben leads to negative consequences, Devi turns to bad boy Ethan Morales (Michael Cimino). Ethan has somehow glowed up over the summer and has now caught Devi’s eye. But wait, apparently Paxton Hall-Yoshida (Darren Barnet) — who fans will remember as the popular jock who was a top contender for Devi’s heart since season one — has returned to high school as an assistant swim coach for the boys’ swim team. His brief first weeks at ASU didn’t work out, and Paxton decided that as someone who peaked in high school, maybe college wasn’t the right place for him. Maybe for Devi, there’s still something about her first love?
Three guys are in the race for Devi’s heart now, but ultimately the love of Devi’s life will always be Princeton. And as she sends in her college applications, the question is: will Princeton love her back?
Although this season does tend to overemphasize Devi’s romantic pursuits over her familial ones, there are still many moments when the series brings up resonate, relatable coming-of-age experiences. College dreams and whether or not they’ll come to fruition are a major narrative arc for Devi and her friends Eleanor (Ramona Young) and Fabiola (Lee Rodriguez). Although there are many wins, there are also devastating losses. Along with those losses, everyone learns a little bit about not letting their college results define them. As the penultimate season, the overarching arc of these 10 episodes are satisfying. Audiences get to see these characters move toward the milestone of graduation, with their individual college choices uniquely reflecting who they are and what audiences have come to understand about them.
Devi’s character development is also evident, even if she’s still prone to bouts of emotional (bordering on manic) energy that cloud her decision-making abilities. In season one, she started off as a horny high schooler still in the throes of grieving her father. Now, Devi’s still undeniably horny and just as much of an impulsive mess, but she’s learning how to be okay with moving on. This includes letting her mother, Nalini (Poorna Jagannathan), find new love, which means Devi willingly sacrificing her own comfort as part of the process.
Devi’s acceptance of changes doesn’t come smoothly, but when she does, the results are well-wrought. They exemplify the show’s sense of when it’s OK to be funny and when it needs more serious reflection. The prospect of college means the inevitable separation of Devi and her friends at Sherman Oaks, but it also means the potential separation of the family unit. Members of Devi’s household find that there might be something pulling them away from each other, maybe just a bit more than there’s something keeping them together.
Independence is an idea that the show’s creators touch upon liberally in this season. After all, leaving one’s family and comfort zone is often the first sign of becoming an adult. Never Have I Ever’s clearest strength is finding lessons about growing up in the most realistic of situations, which happen to be true to Devi’s Indian American heritage.
The importance of the family unit is examined in Devi’s multi-generational household, which harbors Devi, Nalini, Devi’s cousin Kamala (Richa Moorjani), and grandmother Nirmala (Ranjita Chakravarty). The writers ensure that each character gets an equal amount of attention and their own narrative arcs, even if Devi is the protagonist. Most pressing is how Devi is forced to confront her fear of leaving home, her mother, and the beloved setting of Sherman Oaks. It’s a struggle that will likely be relatable to those who have ventured outside what they know.
As opposed to other seasons, this season’s script feels a bit clunky in certain moments. That might have more to do with how the dialogue is written, as even the talent of the cast can’t seem to fully lift up the stiff deliveries. This might be attributed to the flaws in the characters’ tendency to over-explain what they’re thinking and feeling.
It’s not necessary, for example, for Paxton to explain to his best friend Trent (Benjamin Norris) over a call about how he doesn’t quite fit in at ASU when there’s already been multiple scenes showing exactly that; that just feels repetitive. Similarly, Eleanor doesn’t need to talk at length about her pity for her mother in another scene when there’s already been an encounter that shows just that. The dialogue comes across as overly explanatory, feeding into the predictability of the plot that seems more pronounced in this season than it has in previous ones. There are also certain storylines that aren’t touched upon again, specifically that of Aneesa (Megan Suri), who audiences will remember in her previously significant role as one of Devi’s friends. Aneesa barely shows up this season, which makes her story feel lacking in closure.
There are some weaknesses in the season that don’t quite pay homage to the strengths of the previous three. Still, it’s bittersweet saying goodbye to the beloved and hilarious characters at Sherman Oaks High. Although “see you next year” might not be the yearbook message of choice anymore, many congratulations are in store — for the students, the teachers, and for the cast members who can say: never have they ever let us down.