The love triangle is basically an obligatory part of the teen show experience, and Never Have I Ever’s love triangle of Devi-Ben-Paxton has certainly gone through the wringer across the show’s four seasons. Not only has it been a back-and-forth between nerdy Ben and hunky Paxton, but in between the drama with the two main guys, Devi’s also flirted with and dated a handful of other boys.
The way Never Have I Ever deals with the romantic threads this season might please some and disappoint others. But the truth is the show actually nails its core love story; Devi’s most important relationship is already shored up.
[Ed. note: This post contains major spoilers for the final season of Never Have I Ever.]
Photo: Lara Solanki/Netflix
This season, Devi’s romantic life took some new twists and turns, but — surprise! She ends up with Ben. Yes, after four seasons of bickering, will-they-won’t-they tension, Devi and Ben finally end up together. It is not as satisfying as it could be, considering they get together at the last possible moment of this season, after spending half the season barely interacting with each other, and their future is up in the air as they set off for two different colleges. But hey — at least they get to redo their awkward sexy encounter from last season and actually have a good time! That counts for something, right?
Whether or not Devi’s romantic arc came together nicely is up for debate, but here’s the thing: As fun as those romances were, they were never the most important relationships in her story. Ending on a clunky and open-ended note is actually pretty true to the high school experience, which the show has always done pretty well. But the important thing is that Never Have I Ever did right by the actual best love story in Devi’s life: her relationship with her mother.
For four seasons, Devi and Nalini have slowly but surely worked to better understand one another. Their relationship is basically the bedrock of the entire series. Devi has a lot of interesting and fulfilling relationships with other characters — her best friends Fabiola and Eleanor, her absolutely perfect cousin Kamala, and, of course, her romantic interests. But while those connections ebb and flow throughout the show, Devi and Nalini’s relationship is constantly in the background, a throughline tying the entirety of Never Have I Ever together.
Teenage girls and their moms often have tense, complex relationships. Add to that the overwhelming grief of losing Devi’s father, Mohan, and the added tension of a cross-cultural story, and you get the core of Never Have I Ever. When we first meet Devi and Nalini back in season 1, their relationship is fractured. Even before Mohan passed away unexpectedly, things between them were tense, but after his death, it completely splintered.
Overwhelmed with their grief and unable to talk about it, they both leap to the worst conclusions when interacting with one another. Devi thinks her mom is strict and overbearing, while Nalini thinks Devi is hot-tempered and impulsive. When Devi rebels, she’s not just rejecting her mother, but her culture. That hits harder with Nalini, who tries to hold on tighter. Things get a lot worse before they get better — with a lot of explosive fights and deep-cutting words. But by the end of the first season, they’ve tentatively taken the first step in the right direction and share a cathartic, tearful moment together as they spread Mohan’s ashes on a beach.
After four seasons, their relationship isn’t perfect, but they’ve come a long way. They used to fight, but now they choose each other repeatedly — and stand up for each other even when the other person isn’t around. They both work to understand one another. Perhaps most importantly, their relationship hasn’t completely mended. They still argue, because they are still two very strong-willed women who butt heads. But now they can see where the other is coming from, and express their own love and feelings for each other. Nothing exemplifies this better than their last scene.
Nalini, stressing about planning her mother-in-law’s wedding, keeps nagging Devi to pack for college. Devi keeps putting it off. Neither of them can expressly say what they actually want to: Devi is sad to be leaving, and doesn’t know the first thing about packing her entire life into a suitcase; Nalini doesn’t want Devi to go. They bicker about packing, but with none of the malice that colored their fights in earlier seasons, till finally Nalini goes to help Devi and they have a tearful heart-to-heart while sitting on the floor of Devi’s room.
Photo: Jessica Brooks/Netflix
It is an incredibly sweet, real moment — and one that hits harder than Devi and Ben’s big romantic encounter! For one thing, Ben and Devi barely talked this season, and when they did, their relationship seemed to regress. They never really actually talked about the problems they had with each other. Sure, it’s a sweet moment, but there are so many elements that undermine it. But in Devi and Nalini’s final scene, we know that the serious tension has been resolved. They can squabble, but still love each other and confide in one another in a way they were incapable of in the first season. The packing scene cuts right to the heart of Never Have I Ever, bringing it all back to Devi and Nalini and showing how much both of them have grown.
By the end of the show, many of Devi’s relationships are up in the air as she enters a very transitional point in her life. She celebrates one last big get-together with her high school best friends and tentatively embarks into a romance with Ben. But there is comfort in knowing that Devi and her mother, at the very least, have a relationship that will always be there.