Mindy Kaling and Lang Fisher’s popular coming-of-age dramedy follows Devi Vishwakumar (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan), a teenage girl trying to survive (and ideally thrive) at Sherman Oaks High School. Since we first met Devi in freshman year, she’s dreamed of becoming popular and finding a smokin’ hot boyfriend like Paxton Hall-Yoshida (Darren Barnet). In Season 3, those dreams are finally realized — sort of — but much to Devi’s surprise she still doesn’t feel fulfilled.
Like seasons past, Never Have I Ever‘s third installment overflows with fizzy pop culture references and razor-sharp zingers. But the show’s inclusion of comedy never detracts from its portrayal of serious issues like mental health.
Amidst lighthearted jokes, Season 3 shines a spotlight on Devi’s turbulent battles with imposter syndrome, self-doubt, and the grief of losing her dad. But rather than push those demons down like she’s done in the past, Devi finally embarks on a challenging, necessary, and heartwarming journey towards self-love.
Dealing With the Pressures of Daxton
Season 3 starts off strong and spicy, with Daxton’s dramatic debut as a couple. As Paxton and Devi walk the halls hand in hand, onlookers literally drop their belongings and spit out beverages in shock. (Rude!) Narrator John McEnroe explains the two have been an item for “a surprisingly PG” two weeks, and “for the first time” Devi is “feeling truly confident.” But if that were the case, her wouldn’t be derailed by mean girls talking smack in the bathroom.
After hearing rumors that Paxton’s only dating her to honor a dying wish or that she must be “a huge slut” because Paxton wouldn’t be with someone who doesn’t put out, Devi asks her friends if their relationship is believable. They assure Devi she’s overthinking things, and she is, but her feelings are justified and her imposter syndrome is relatable as hell. As the pressure to have sex with Paxton mounts, Devi’s friends and cousin advise her to move at her own pace. She caves under the pressure of teen expectations and decides to get sex over with, but Paxton pumps the breaks after realizing she isn’t ready. Just as Devi’s about ignore her haters and move forward with a clear head, Paxton’s ex BFF Haley, whom he had sex with then ghosted, comes back into the picture. Devi convinces Paxton to apologize to Haley, which inadvertently rekindles their friendship and sends Devi into a jealous, insecure spiral.
Devi’s self-confidence plummets to all time low at the start of the season, and her inability to value how intelligent, beautiful, funny, and talented she is stands in the way of her happiness. She starts putting herself down and pressing Paxton for reassurance, which he repeatedly gives her, but it won’t be enough until she looks inwards and heals old wounds, including those sustained during her rocky Season 2 romance with Paxton. Yes, Devi burned Paxton first by cheating on him with Ben, but before the school stud decided to give Devi another chance he refused to date her in public and told her their romantic relationship “didn’t make any sense.” His ego was bruised when he said it, but when Devi hears that same message echo through the halls, part of her can’t help but wonder if it’s true.
Devi finally confronts Paxton and explains no one thinks they make any sense together. He stresses again that other opinions don’t matter, but calls it quits and urges Devi to be kinder to herself. “I think you’re good enough for me. But I can’t keep trying to convince you of that,” Paxton says. “Look, Devi. I really like you, but I don’t think we can have a real relationship until you like yourself.”
Getting Back in the Game With Des
Paxton’s tough love leads to months of wallowing, but it also kickstarts Devi’s internal healing process. When she finally develops a new crush on Des (Anirudh Pisharody), Devi rides a self-esteem roller coaster that further shapes her personal evolution. When Devi and Des start dating, she feels ready to have sex and preps her bedroom with candles and scarves draped over lamps. When Paxton sees the ambiance he asks why she never made that effort for him, and Devi admits she’d have been too worried he’d think it was lame. Slowly but surely she’s showing heightened levels of self-awareness. She’s learning from past mistakes and starting to follow her heart, while worrying less about what others think of her.
Even Eleanor (Ramona Young) says Devi seems more confident and at ease in her relationship with Des, but Devi takes a step back by attributing her newfound maturity to the fact that Des doesn’t know her dorky reputation at school. When Des tells Devi he’s feeling insecure in their relationship because her ex is so handsome and she’s this “super cool, beautiful girl,” Devi backslides again by laughing in his face and calling herself an unpopular loser. But once Des stands by his original analysis Devi starts absorbing, internalizing, and processing the kind words others say about her.
Unfortunately, Desi comes to an ugly end after Devi’s orchestra concert. Des’ mom (Sarayu Blue) finds Devi crying about her dad in the bathroom, and after Devi triumphantly faces her trauma head on, Rhyah tells Des to break up with her because of all her issues. When Devi learns Des listened to his mom, she throws an iced coffee in his face — an action that may seem immature but proves she finally knows her worth. In a heart to heart, Devi’s mom tells her she’ll find someone who loves her exactly as she is, and though it’s taken her a while, Devi’s actually starting to believe that’s possibile.
Finally Choosing Devi
Devi’s series-long growth culminates in the Season 3 finale. She accepts the fact that persevering after an event as traumatic as losing a parent is no easy feat, and she finally gives herself grace for the mistakes she’s made while mourning her dad. In vowing to use his loss as a reminder to live a better life, Devi decides to stay at Sherman Oaks senior year and spend more time with her loved ones. And she feels genuinely content that her friends love her just the way she is.
When Paxton shouts out Devi in his graduation speech, she’s barely phased. Though she thanks him for being a beautiful distraction in wake of her dad’s death, she no longer feels butterflies or heartache when they interact. But she does feel sparks around Ben. Devi no longer needs a pro-con list or an elaborate scheme to tell her what or who she wants, and in the spirit of not wasting another second to follow her heart, she goes after it.
The Devi who felt inferior to Paxton at the start of the season isn’t the same girl who assuredly knocks on Ben’s (Jaren Lewinson) door to propose sex in the finale’s closing moments. Devi had to make her own mistakes, be vulnerable, and fully immerse herself in the messy stages of grief to mature and arrive at a place of self-love. And though it looks like Devi chooses Ben in the Season 3 finale, she’s really choosing herself for the first time in the series.
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