Never Have I Ever Series-Finale Recap: Fade Into You

Never Have I Ever

…gone to prom/…said goodbye
Season 4 Episodes 9 and 10
Editor’s Rating 5 stars

Never Have I Ever

…gone to prom/…said goodbye
Season 4 Episodes 9 and 10
Editor’s Rating 5 stars
Photo: Jessica Brooks/Netflix

There’s so much to go through as this series wraps up, so I’ll keep it short off the top. Just know I’ll be mourning the loss of this series for a while and praying Devi style (“What’s poppin’, gods?”) that it’s not too long before we see another show that embodies such nuanced and ambitious and genuinely FUNNY storytelling for brown people. Never Have I Ever truly felt singular.

Picking up where we left off: After Devi lets out a shriek, Nalini rushes into her room, wondering what college Devi got into. Still reeling, Devi lies and claims she got into all of them — a clean sweep of the Ivies. And word travels fast; when Devi arrives at school, her friends congratulate her, followed by the entire student body. I guess it’s only appropriate that before the series ends, Devi creates what might be her biggest mess yet (though Aneesa might like to have a word).

After school, she tries to come clean about her dishonesty to her mom. But then Nalini expresses that, despite how hard it was moving to America with Mohan, seeing Devi’s accomplishments makes the struggles worth it. So that shuts Devi right back up. At this point, Devi’s lie is not about pride; she doesn’t want Nalini to believe her suffering was in vain. That immigrant-child guilt runs deep.

It’s time to head to prom! Fabiola and Eleanor roll up in a limo stocked with leftover vodka and driven by a man named Stoo (Ken Marino). When Eleanor toasts to her friends’ achievements, Devi reaches her boiling point and lets out another animalistic shriek, causing the limo to crash. The floodgates are open and Devi cries, admitting she didn’t get into a single college. Fab confesses she wants to go to Howard University (it’s so refreshing to see an HBCU highlighted as the preference over a standard Ivy League institution), and Eleanor shares how Trent inspired her to pick up directing. Devi tells Eleanor it’s clear she still loves Trent and she should tell him. When Stoo pulls up with a tow truck, the girls decide to skip the dance altogether. A hat tip to the writers for having a prom episode where none of the kids even end up going!

You know who does make it to prom? Paxton, as a chaperone! He and Lindsay — who looks stunning in a silver sequined number — are assigned bathroom duty. They bond over how rewarding their jobs are; she talks about how a teacher changed her life and made her want to do the same, and Paxton admits how good it felt helping Eric fulfill his dreams. Paxton says he wouldn’t mind doing that kind of work for a living, and he also wouldn’t mind hanging out with Lindsay outside of work. Teen dramas routinely give the losing casualty in a love triangle a consolation prize, but it feels ridiculous to consider Lindsay that way given all she has to offer – she’s a catch and a half, and they have good chemistry! Plus, her keener sensibility suggests she and Paxton might create that adorable nerd-jock dynamic that Daxton shippers loved so much.

Eleanor arrives at Trent’s house to shoot her shot. When he opens his door, she launches into a spiel about life’s uncertainties, citing Devi’s failure to get into college as an example. Ben, who happens to be hanging with Trent, overhears. (His concern when he asks, “Is she okay?” is palpable and very sweet.) Ben leaves, and Eleanor continues her confession to Trent, saying she’s certain how much she wants to be with him. Trent’s psyched and they kiss. These two are such wonderful scene partners; it’s kind of a shame they’re reuniting so late in the season (but I get it).

Ben takes a page from his former romantic rival’s playbook and climbs through Devi’s window, winded. He tells her key truths: She’s not pathetic, she’s not a quitter, and she should write that damn supplemental essay for Princeton. As they lie side by side on her bed, she apologizes for calling him mean and says it’s nice of him to be there for her. After a beat, Ben says he didn’t mind being called mean, but he’s haunted by the fact he said they shouldn’t be together. Unfortunately, Devi snoozes through Ben’s admission that maybe he was wrong.

They wake up the next morning to Nalini screeching. (There’s a lot of screaming in this episode.) She confronts Devi about lying about her college count and, in the heat of the moment, asks how she could be so stupid as to only apply to Ivies. Nalini immediately tries to backtrack on her wording, but the damage is done. Devi says she’s right and apologizes that her mom left India for nothing.

In a whopper of a therapy scene, Devi is forced to reconsider her idea of success. “When I first met you, you were a closed-off, angry little thing,” recalls Dr. Ryan. “But look at you. Look how far you’ve come. You faced your trauma, and you came out on the other side.” Dr. Ryan gets teary-eyed, admitting there were times she was genuinely worried about Devi, and it’s a reminder of just how dire things were when Mohan died (in the pilot we learned that her legs had stopped working). But Devi’s a survivor.

When Devi finally writes her essay, we see how much she’s matured. She writes about how she’d been told (in season one) to write about her dead father but didn’t want to because it felt exploitative. Now she realizes it’s impossible to truly know her without knowing about him. She talks about prematurely losing her favorite person, his unbridled optimism, and their shared dream of Princeton for her; she admits she’s clung to that dream as a way to hold on to her dad. But now she knows, with or without Princeton, she’ll never lose him.

Since grief never really ends and often hits in unexpected waves, I questioned how this element of the show could feel meaningfully resolved. But grief is just a form of love, and the goal isn’t to resolve it but to learn to live with it and ideally transmute it into something positive like Devi does here. Her realization that her father is forever a part of her becomes a comfort and a strength — a superpower.

While the penultimate episode is mostly anxiety-inducing, the series finale feels like a welcome celebration. To kick things off, we find out our girl Devi got into Princeton! (How could she not after that essay?) She invites Ben to celebrate with her over the summer, but he drops a major bomb: He’s leaving right after graduation for an internship in New York. It dawns on them that this is good-bye. Ben says he’ll miss having a nemesis, and she suggests he’ll forget all about her, but he knows (and we all know) that’s impossible.

Next, a series of photos and handheld camera footage takes us through graduation (Devi was valedictorian!) and the summer until it’s the final weekend before college, which also happens to be Nirmala’s wedding weekend. As Kamala applies mehndi to Nirmala’s hands, the bride-to-be expresses excitement over wearing a Thali again, if only to help keep the boys away. (There’s a lot of significance behind the Thali, but simply put, tying this necklace around the bride’s neck signifies the bond of marriage — it’s similar to wedding rings in Western ceremonies.) Devi asks Nalini if she should be taking off her own Thali now that she’s dating Andres, but her mom says she’s so used to wearing it, and Andres doesn’t mind.

Despite her approaching departure, Devi wants to avoid packing. It’s too scary and daunting. Sooo she just doesn’t do it! Instead, she sends one of her sporadic texts to Ben and mentions how her grandma invited her friends to the wedding (Nirmala puts a special request in for Carfax, a.k.a. Chex Mix, a.k.a. Paxton to attend). Meanwhile, Ben, who’s sitting in a New York nightclub, gets interrupted by another intern who shows off negging texts he sends to a girl he likes. Ben questions his M.O. “Aren’t you worried that she’ll move on to someone who’s nice to her?” Ben, who’s been notably kinder this season, has turned a new leaf. But when Ben realizes he never actually told Devi his feelings for her (though, to be fair, there were attempts), it’s clear he still has work to do.

It’s time for Nirmala and Len to get hitched! Honestly, it’s such a great call to have an Indian-Jewish wedding as a send-off for the show instead of a generic prom episode. Spirits are high, decorations are dazzling, and everybody looks damn good.

Of course, there’s some drama. At the wedding, Nalini scolds Devi for still not having packed for college. Nirmala then takes Nalini aside and says she’s only picking fights because she’s scared of Devi leaving. As Devi plays “Unchained Melody” on her harp, and Nalini lightly touches her Thali, Nirmala leaves her daughter-in-law (and maybe the entire NHIE fandom) with a bittersweet message: “I know it’s hard to let go, but it’s time.”

Back in her room, an overwhelmed Devi struggles to pack, and an apparition of her father tries to provide calm advice. “You can’t help me. You’re not even here. You’re not even real,” she cries at him. Just then Nalini arrives, suggesting they pack together. Devi confesses she’s scared to leave the home where she lived with both her parents. Nalini admits she’s also scared. She tells Devi that Mohan would’ve been proud of her and she’s proud too — meaningful words after Devi felt pressure to justify her parents’ sacrifices in the previous episode: “I will miss having my little girl here, but I just can’t wait for the world to see what you can do.” If you aren’t crying by now, I don’t know what to tell you. The mother-daughter relationship here is so incredibly beautiful; it kills me. I know it’s easy to get fixated on Bevi versus Daxton, but I fully believe the real love story of the show is between Devi and Nalini. They’ve both been through so much and come so far, and it’s been a gift to watch their relationship deepen.

Back at the wedding, Kamala and Devi surprise everyone with a choreographed Bollywood-style dance to “Saami Saami,” a song originally from the Telugu action flick Pushpa. (Note: They use a Tamil-dubbed version here, presumably because the Vishwakumars are Tamil.) Devi proves she’s not a coconut (i.e., brown outside, white inside), and Richa Moorjani, who plays Kamala and is a trained dancer, gets a chance to show off her skills. (Fun fact: This isn’t the first time Maitreyi and Richa have danced together; they did a dance cover to Sheila Ki Jawani a couple of years ago.) Paxton and Devi share a moment alone at the wedding. He talks about enrolling in Teachers College at ASU (a place he wouldn’t have gotten into without Devi’s help), and he gives Devi her varsity letter. Pax tells her not to change — advice that means a lot coming from the boy she used to put on a pedestal — and that he’s a phone call away if college life gets hard. She tells him that he was a great boyfriend but an even better friend.

Now it’s time for the Grand Romantic Gesture! The gang is playing a game of, yup, Never Have I Ever when — surprise — Ben shows up at the wedding!!! (His entrance is set to a cover of “Fade Into You,” which feels appropriately romantic and dreamy.) Sweet Ben says he hopped on a plane because he needed to tell Devi he liked her. And then, because he’s done shying away from being vulnerable, he corrects himself: “Actually, I think I love you, Devi.” She says “I love you” back, and the looks they exchange are so soft and happy. They leave the wedding together with Kamala offering to cover for her cousin (another full-circle moment).

Devi and Ben sleep together — this time it goes better. (We’re also treated to a shot of Devi’s mehndi-decorated hands on Ben’s back — a quick but sexy image I’ve never seen before on mainstream TV.) The next morning, Ben says he thinks they should be together. Columbia and Princeton aren’t that far from each other, and they decide to give it a go because, well, love.

At home, Nalini comes downstairs to find Devi packed (!) and ready to head out. She just has one last piece of unfinished business. And so Devi runs upstairs and lands where we first met her in the pilot: kneeling in prayer and chatting candidly with a motley crew of Hindu deities. She expresses gratitude for the loving people in her life and asks for her mom to be taken care of: “She deserves to feel really lucky too.” She tells a photo of her dad she’ll see him at Princeton.

We’re treated to a montage of each major character moving on to their next chapter, emphasizing just how far they’ve come: Nalini and Andres laughing and falling more in love; Fabiola killing it at Howard’s robotics lab; Paxton studying to become a teacher; Eleanor directing and starring in a spy-thriller with Trent’s help; and Kamala and Manish (!) together in Baltimore. The final shot of the series is Devi and Ben cuddling happily in her dorm room — a situation that felt inconceivable four seasons ago. And as time runs out on this gem of a show, John McEnroe teasingly declares he’s signing off, “for now.” Say what?? There you have it: one last (?) cliffhanger! Never have I ever been so charmed by a show.

Extra Credit

• “Oh, Ben. I thought he was one of your dolls.”

• Eleanor’s prom dress and her overall wardrobe this season have been killer!

• I got a kick out of the sequence where the uncle and aunties quiz Devi on her college plans.

• There’s a quick scene toward the end of the finale where Nalini takes off her Thali, which obviously made me want to sob out of happiness for her.

• I would love to see outtakes of Ben and Devi trying to drape her sari.

• I can’t wait to see what everyone in the cast does next, but especially Maitreyi Ramakrishnan. She’s been such a total joy to watch!

Never Have I Ever Series-Finale Recap: Fade Into You