Tamil-origin Mindy Kaling’s teen romance drama Never Have I Ever is into its third season now and yet, the creators do not even try to come close to making their native Tamil characters speak the language properly. The Tamilian in me cringed, when halfway through the second episode, two natives “Tamil” characters speak what I first understood to be gibberish, only later to realise that they were actually speaking Tamil. And if that does not irritate you, there are plenty of other elements that will make this season a hard watch.
The 10-episode series tries to explore Devi Vishwakumar’s (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan) pursuit to navigate through her high school while trying to be successful in her dating life. The third season starts with Devi and Paxton Hall-Yoshida (Darren Barnet) walking into the school as a couple, even as life has other plans for the former. She also has a brief love stint with a newly arrived character, an Indian-origin boy named Nirdhesh (Anirudh Pisharody).
Of course, there are some interesting positives about this season. A few unexpected secondary characters get great and sensible developing arcs. The makers, thankfully, avoid templates to give Paxton a refreshing and fleshed-out role, where his character sheds the poster boy image to find his true pursuits. Similarly, his friend Trent (Benjamin Norris), who is otherwise a wastrel, gets a natural redeeming quality in how he looks at life and relationships. There is also an interesting track between Fabiola and Aneesa, two of Devi’s friends, who share tender moments, understanding, and empathy.
However, all these happen to only a few characters of Never Have I Ever. Series regulars like Ben, Kamala, Nalini, or even Devi (Richa Moorjani), are handed a raw deal. Of course, there is delectable screen time given to these characters; we see how Kamala tries to stand up against her family and chooses to be independent in her decisions, Devi trying to make amends amid her oscillating mind when it comes to her personal life, and Nalini (Poorna Jagannathan) attempting to understand her daughter better, but these hardly create an impact.
There is a sense of distance we feel from these characters. But when it works, for instance, in the moments where Nalini and Devi bond over grief and loss, there is a sense of warmth and understanding. We also get to see the exploration of concepts like panic attacks. Also, it is these mother-daughter moments that try to compensate for the lack of recurring appearance of Devi’s father, which we have now grown to love. But these moments hit us in spurts, and the series is largely bland, and almost makes you impatient to skip forward.
This season also reinforces a lot of Indianness and the country’s obsession with marriage. In one of the early episodes, when Nalini convinces Kamala of an arranged marriage, citing her own example, she goes on to speak about how she chose her husband for love. The scene reeks of irony because Nalini wants Kamala to accept a marriage of convenience just to follow social constructs and not think of...love.
Coming back to Devi, the series follows a rather predictable route in resolving her love life. And what’s worse is that the writing in these portions is just abysmal. We don’t really root for any of her suitors and actually, we don’t root for the resolution either. The narrative is lethargic, and the longer it goes, the clearer the mediocrity. Never Have I Ever Season 3 might give a sugary sweet vibe, but it is more like candy floss... tempting on the outside, but hollow and cloy inside.
Never Have I Ever S3
Cast: Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, Darren Barnet, Benjamin Norris, Poorna Jagannathan
Creators: Mindy Kaling, Lang Fisher
Streaming on: Netflix