Never Have I Ever Season 4 Review: Flawed Characters and Missed Opportunities
Mindy Kaling and Lang Fisher bring us the final season of their campy show centered on South Asian representation in America. This season, Devi Vishwakumar, one of Netflix's most flawed protagonists navigates the challenges of her senior year in high school. Unfortunately, this season fails to leave a lasting impact, much like its forgettable predecessor.
From the very beginning, it becomes apparent that the show follows a predictable formula. Each episode can be easily picked up, providing an instant understanding of the storyline, character stereotypes, and foreseeable outcomes. This familiarity may be comforting for some seeking lighthearted entertainment, but it also limits the potential for surprises or genuine moments of growth. The addition of Rashmika Mandanna's Saami song does little to elevate the overall mediocrity.
One of the major disappointments lies in the lazy writing surrounding romantic relationships. Almost every character seems to conveniently find a love interest this season, which feels contrived and lacks genuine development. Rather than exploring complex dynamics or delving deeper into the characters' emotional journeys, the show resorts to clichéd portrayals of love and relationships. However, it seems fitting for the show's Indian representation theme that everyone ends up in a happily ever after with a partner.
Several characters in this season lack substantial storylines and appear to be included merely because they were present from the beginning. Particularly, Kamala, who was previously portrayed as a serious career-oriented woman and a voice of reason for Devi, now has a single storyline revolving around her grandmother. Michael Cimino's character also feels underutilized, with only two episodes and most of his screen time dedicated to making out. The recurring theme of Devi needing a guy (often the wrong ones) to discover herself feels clichéd and reminiscent of a reverse Imtiaz Ali film.
On a positive note, the show does make some improvements with its protagonist. Flawed characters are compelling to watch, but Devi Vishwakumar's flaws often crossed the line into annoyance. This season, however, she appears more mature, handling situations in a better way. It seems that the writers have taken note of past criticisms and made necessary adjustments. And like every season Poorna Jagannathan’s portrayal as Nalini remains pitch perfect. I would love to see a show based on her character and her struggles. Sendhil Ramamurthy’s lovable Mohan appears in only two episodes which I think is a bad choice by the makers as he is one of the best aspects of the show. But I understand the point as not having to depend on him and his memories indicated that both Devi and Nalini have finally moved on. The show is at its best when it focuses on this mother-daughter dynamic as theirs is the only emotional core that it has to offer.
While Never Have I Ever intended to be a show about South Asian representation, it falls short by mainly focusing on sarees, dance routines, and strict moms as the representation. It missed an opportunity to delve into the struggles of immigration and racism, which could have elevated it beyond just another high school drama.