Never Have I Ever
With its season-two finale, Never Have I Ever boldly asks the question: What if we left this season on the exact cliffhanger as season one and also answered absolutely no questions, if anything leaving viewers with even more questions? I know it sounds sarcastic but I promise I’m being sincere — “… been a perfect girl” is spectacular and sets an amazing, albeit high, precedent for the coming episodes.
The penultimate episode ended with Paxton referring to Devi as “pal,” even though he had just hooked up with her the night before. This episode, we open up to Devi having a nervous breakdown about it. When she confronts Paxton about his shady behavior, he gives her the typical fuckboy diatribe of “Labels are cheesy and I hate PDA.” She begins to wonder if she’s his girlfriend or just a side piece and, with the school’s winter dance coming up, her window of time to figure it out is slowly closing. She figures that if he thinks of her as more than a hookup, he’ll ask her to the dance. As the days drag on, she begins to worry more and more. Finally, after seeing Aneesa ask Ben to the dance, she is inspired to take things into her own hands and asks Paxton to the dance herself, only to get rejected very publicly. As she’s crying to herself in the girls’ bathroom, Ben (who saw everything unfold) comes in and attempts to cheer her up. Why would he care about Devi getting rejected? Does he still have feelings for her? Oh, brother.
For the second time, she confronts Paxton about the way he treats her in public. He admits to her that he likes her a lot but that he cannot be dating her publicly because everyone at their school would think Paxton was a joke for getting back together with the girl who cheated on him and also ruined his swim career. His reasoning actually makes sense. This entire time, he came off as a superficial douche, but this sincere moment reminds Devi that she hurt him a lot when she cheated on him, even if he didn’t show it to her. She agrees to continue dating in secret.
Later, however, her father visits her in a dream and tells her that the mistakes she made doesn’t mean that she should settle for less. (Arguable, honestly. It seems as if everyone in this show has conveniently forgotten how terribly she acted toward Ben and Paxton, including Ben and Paxton.) When she wakes up from the dream, she promptly heads over to Paxton’s house and breaks up with him. It’s an admirable feat of strength considering most teenagers would not have done the same in her position, especially with someone as hot as Paxton.
Elsewhere, Fabiola’s season-long crisis between her love of nerdy things and her desire to impress her super-suave girlfriend comes to a satisfying conclusion. After she finds out she’s been barred from the robotics team for missing too many practices, she realizes just how much she’s let her new relationship affect her day-to-day life and decides she will never compromise any part of her personality ever again. She’s nervous to tell Eve this, but when she finally does, Eve tells Fabiola that she will love her no matter what. The moral of the story here is a familiar but always relevant lesson: Always be yourself.
Kamala’s Ph.D. clinical-rotation problem solved itself after she confronted her supervisor for leaving her off the paper and tricked him into finally giving her the credit she deserved. However, it raised a problem in her relationship when Prashanth was not as supportive of her decision to be assertive as she would have liked him to be. When Prashanth’s family flies out to Sherman Oaks from India for an impromptu visit, she is filled to the brim with anxiety that he is going to propose to her. While at dinner she panics and flees, leaving her boyfriend and his parents behind at her house while she runs off to meet Mr. Kulkarni for karaoke instead. If there’s anything Mindy Kaling loves, it’s her love triangles.
At home watching TV, Paxton’s weekend plans are disrupted by a call from his school counselor telling him that his semester grades were impressive and to keep up the great work. He’s elated by the fact that he actually has a chance of getting into college and realizes he has Devi to thank.
Back at the school dance, Ben and Devi run into each other on the dance floor and share some awkward banter before Ben seemingly prepares to ask her if she wants to dance. He’s barely gotten a word in edgewise when Aneesa interrupts and demands he dance with her. Awkwardly, he obliges. Devi looks around her and realizes everyone, even Eleanor, has someone to slow dance with. Depressed by the realization that she is all alone, she leaves the dance.
As she exits the school, she’s nearly run over by a vehicle, a Jeep. That looks familiar. When she comes to, she realizes it’s Paxton’s car — poetic justice seeing as she indirectly caused Paxton’s car accident in the first part of the season. Paxton is scrambling to see if she has a concussion from the collision but Devi is too preoccupied asking him why he came. “I came as your boyfriend,” he says to her before leaning in for a kiss. As they slow dance on the dance floor, Ben looks on bitterly: “Of course, it’s always been him.” Eleanor, who’s standing nearby, tells Ben that’s not true at all. In fact, Devi had been pining for Ben for a long time and only recently switched tunes to Paxton. Ben’s facial expression changes upon being given this new information: Is it too late? Or does he still have a chance?
And so, Never Have I Ever ends the season with the two same guys still in love with Devi, apparently not having learned their lesson from being cheated on. Which one will she choose? She’s with Paxton now, but only because Ben had made it clear earlier that he wanted to date Aneesa. Would she change her mind if she knew Ben still loved her?
The season-one finale set the bar high for season two, but, in my opinion, this season delivered. Notably, the writers this season shifted away from things that drew criticism in the first season: passive casteist and nationalistic rhetoric, playing into Indian stereotypes, etc. This time around they focused more on the characters as individuals and challenged a lot of the stereotypes that they got called out for in the last season. Nalini’s character gets a gold star for character development, and Poorna Jaganathan delivered an Emmy-worthy performance. And Aneesa and Nirmala are fantastic additions to the cast and set the stage for all sorts of intriguing story lines next season, alongside the love triangle that just won’t quit. Until then!