The second season of ‘Never Have I Ever’ gives us more of its best — and its worst

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The Washington Post 15 July, 2021 - 08:00am 9 views

Who does Devi end up with in Season 2?

She is told not marrying an aristocratic Indian boy would be her one-way ticket to social ostracisation by the diasporic Indian community. She eventually decides to end her relationship with Steve, and settles for an arranged marriage with Prashant. FirstpostBefore Never Have I Ever season 2 premieres on Netfl.. a recap of notable developments from first instalment

Devi’s desire to be understood and well-liked—a feeling she experienced mostly through Mohan, who lovingly called her his “perfect girl”—continue to drive her questionable choices. She’s messy and flawed, but that’s what makes her deeply relatable. Ramakrishnan’s confident, empathetic performance makes it easy to root for Devi despite her ability to self-sabotage. Like Euphoria’s Rue Bennett and Julie And The Phantoms’ Julie Molina, Devi’s mourning fuels an identity crisis.

Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, Poorna Jagannthan, Richa Moorjani, Lee Rodriguez, Ramona Young, Jaren Lewinson, Darren Barnet

Half-hour comedy; complete second season watched for review

Never Have I Ever manages to distinguish its heroine (and itself) because it’s the rare show to spotlight an Indian American family. Co-created by Mindy Kaling and Lang Fisher, the series’ lighthearted humor and quirky character traits are reminiscent of The Mindy Project. Kaling was called out for the lack of South Asian representation on her previous show, but here she draws from real-life experiences. Never Have I Ever’s greatest asset is its exploration of the Vishwakumar family dynamics, which now includes Nalini’s kindhearted mother-in-law, played by Ranjita Chakravarty. Through Devi, Nalini, and cousin Kamala (Richa Moorjani), the show examines and subverts stereotypes instead of simply tacking them onto the characters. NHIE doesn’t try to represent an entire and richly diverse community, but it does tell a range of stories about women’s troubles and joys. Kamala battles sexism and misogyny while working with white male colleagues, and there are hints of a love triangle of her own with boyfriend Prashant (Rushi Kota) and Devi’s English teacher, Manish Kulkarni (Utkarsh Ambudkar).

Nalini can easily be categorized as a typical Asian helicopter parent, but NHIE thoughtfully threads the needle by delving into how she is moving on after the death of her husband, especially as she considers dating fellow dermatologist Dr. Jackson (Common). The two actors have zero chemistry, thanks to Common’s laborious performance, but this arc does give Jagannathan, the show’s MVP, room to expand on the depths of Nalini’s grief and loneliness, as well as her parenting techniques. Nalini and Devi’s different world views—Mom prefer her daughter’s focus to be on getting into Princeton instead of making out with her crushes—still set the stage for friction in the household, particularly when Devi accidentally bullies a friend or spies on Nalini. Their interactions are layered with sarcasm and tearjerking sentiment, proving that the mother-daughter duo remain the heart and soul of the show.

Unfortunately, season two spreads itself thin with subplots, which takes away from meaningful time spent with the Vishwakumars; there’s also a serious lack of Ramamurthy as Mohan in flashbacks. Devi, who spent a ton of time trying to hook up with hot swimmer Paxton Hall-Yoshida (Darren Barnet) ends up also falling for her nerdy nemesis, Ben Gross (Jaren Lewinson). The second season kicks off with a very CW-esque love triangle sure to spark more debates about Ben versus Paxton. Devi thinks she can handle dating them at the same time without the other finding out. They obviously find out, and once again, Devi’s selfish decisions end up hurting and alienating the ones she loves, so she spends the rest of her time trying to get back into their good graces.

What’s especially compelling about the second season is the fact that no one lets Devi off the hook for her actions. She’s actually held accountable by her family members, her best friends Eleanor (Ramona Young) and Fabiola (Lee Rodriguez), the two boys she juggles, and even her favorite professor Mr. Kulkarni. The show doesn’t brush past her misdeeds but lets Devi confront the root of her chaos: her depression and inability to cope with any kind of loss. After being branded as “Crazy Devi” by everyone she knows, the second half of the season evolves poignantly with a sharp focus on her well-being. Her sessions with her therapist, Dr. Jamie Ryan (a sublime Niecy Nash), are pivotal to her growth. It’s exhilarating to watch a show about an Indian American teen delving into mental health (still an underexplored subject for TV) and the benefits of therapy in the diaspora. Ramakrishnan does justice to Devi’s emotional upheaval when she slips off her character’s vexed, determined façade.

Devi’s weighty, remarkable path to maturity is the highlight of season two, but NHIE remains joyful, full of witty one-liners and fun performances. Rodriguez and Young are somewhat sidelined by all that goes on, but they make the most of their time. Suri brings lots of charm to her role and fits seamlessly into the show’s vibe. Unfortunately, the show doesn’t address the dissonance of a career-driven, independent woman like Nalini, who wants her daughter to get into an Ivy League school, pressuring Kamala to get married. Tennis player John McEnroe returns to narrate Devi’s inner thoughts, but though the schtick worked previously, once it was revealed that McEnroe was Mohan’s favorite athlete, there’s still a disconnect in having an old white man chronicling Devi’s life. The first half does tend to feel repetitive of Devi’s season one issues, but the payoff is well worth it. Never Have I Ever is ultimately about her coming-of-age, and season two tackles it with vibrancy and much-needed introspection.

Read full article at The Washington Post

'Never Have I Ever' Season 2: Maitreyi Ramakrishnan Interview — Devi

TVLine 15 July, 2021 - 01:47pm

Never Have I Ever‘s Devi Vishwakumar spent Season 1 of the Netflix dramedy grappling with grief from her father’s unexpected death. She made missteps. She navigated tricky relationships. She drunkenly tried to commune with an angry coyote. But even after all the progress she made, series star Maitreyi Ramakrishnan says, don’t expect a fully evolved Devi when Season 2 drops on July 15.

“She dumped her dad’s ashes in the oceans in Season 1, and she’s starting to confront her grief. But in Season 2, its not that it’s just, ‘OK, done. Thanks for hanging out, Mohan, goodbye now,'” Ramakrishnan tells TVLine, referencing Devi’s dad (played by Heroes alum Sendhil Ramamurthy), who continues to appear to his daughter in dreams. “Because that’s not how grief works. That’s not how that happens. So it’s nice to see her have to feel and cope with that.”

The show’s sophomore season opens right after the events of the Season 1 premiere, with Devi and Ben kissing in his car after Devi’s family spread her father’s ashes at the beach. Soon after, though, Paxton apologizes for icing her out after their make-out session in his car… and things get even more complicated from there.

As we know from the trailer, an offhand comment from one of Devi’s closest friends sets up a season-long arc in which our girl tries to juggle both swimmer/slacker Paxton and smug brainiac Ben as romantic partners — because why choose?

“My brother has a really good theory that if Fabiola never said, ‘What are you going to do? Date two guys at once?,’ [Devi] wouldn’t be in this situation,” Ramakrishnan says, laughing. “For such a smart girl, she can be so dumb at times!”

But all of this is on Devi’s periphery, as she keeps the plates spinning on the Ben-Paxton situation and encounters Aneesa (played by Megan Suri, Atypical), whose introduction “shows that jealousy that happens, that POC-to-POC tension, when you feel like there isn’t enough room for the both of you.”

Don’t worry, though: All of those sessions with Dr. Ryan have made some impact on Ramakrishnan’s all-over-the-place alter ego.

“She’s now actually trying to be a better person,” the actress says.

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