Over four seasons, Never Have I Ever has charmed us with its relatable coming-of-age story, juicy love triangles, heartwarming family relationships, and lovable cast. With its fourth and final season now streaming on Netflix, fans are probably wondering, Is this really the end?
It seems so, as the season 4 finale wraps everything up for our characters: Devi (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan) graduates high school and gets into Princeton, she ends up with a boyfriend, and both Nalini and Nirmala open themselves up to love again. Even Devi’s besties Eleanor and Fabiola find happy endings, graduating early to pursue a film career and studying robotics at Howard University, respectively.
While this marks a bittersweet goodbye, we knew the end was coming for a while now. Netflix announced in March 2022, ahead of its season 3 premiere, that Never Have I Ever would end with its fourth season. The cast has also made peace with the show’s ending, ever since wrapping the last season last summer.
Darren Barnet (Paxton) remembers that on his last day, he and co-star Ben Norris (Trent) “gave each other a hug and started crying,” he previously told ELLE.com. “And it was crazy. We both were like, ‘I did not expect to cry.’…It really was that kind of aha moment, like, We did this.”
Mindy Kaling, who co-created the series with Lang Fisher, has skipped promo this final season due to the writer’s strike, but she previously explained why this felt like the right time for NHIE to end.
“Every year the cast is getting older and we want them to be believably in high school,” Kaling told Today last August. “We knew how we wanted to end the show when we started the show. And four years does seem just to be like the perfect amount of time for a high school show.”
She added, “I think it feels nice to us now to have four seasons for four years in high school because high school shows are hard. You don’t want everybody to be in their mid 30s still in high school, you know. So you have to let them grow up a bit.”
Ramakrishnan hinted last year that season 4 would be the “perfect sendoff” for the show, emphasizing that this is, indeed, the end. “I think the way the writers approached this fourth season has been with such care and with such tenacious and meticulous planning that I think we all feel comforted by the fact that it was a perfect sendoff,” she said. “This fourth season is perfect.”
Her co-stars are happy with how their stories wrap up too, like Richa Moorjani, who plays Devi’s cousin Kamala. A finale scene where the cousins dance together at their grandmother Nirmala’s wedding showed how much their relationship has evolved over the seasons. “It could not have been a more perfect ending,” Moorjani told ELLE.com. “I didn’t think I was going to be emotional because I was like, oh, season three hasn’t even come out yet. But I remember when I wrapped, everyone was there and I just collapsed on the floor.”
And Poorna Jagannathan, who plays Devi’s mother Nalini, was also pleased with how the story allowed its women to grow and evolve, especially beyond the confines of widowhood. “Women’s lives, there’s always desire, there’s always a need for fulfillment. And…there’s always been periods put on South Asian women,” she told ELLE.com. “The story is so compact and done, one and done, but it doesn’t end there. There’s so much, many more narratives and iterations that happen in real life. And I always say that, finally, our outsides are matching our insides, how we’re portrayed is matching who we are in real life.”
Ramakrishnan knows it’ll be hard to say goodbye, though. Not only has NHIE offered respite during COVID-19 lockdown and become a comfort show for teens and adults alike, it’s also represented Indian American families in a modern, nuanced way. Ramakrishnan offered us some comforting words of wisdom this week: “For the fans that are like, ‘Oh, we’re going to miss the show. No, what are we going to do without it?’ Just wait a little longer because something better than Never Have I Ever is going to happen. It’s only inevitable. That’s the only way I’d see minorities of all different identities coming around: bigger and better.”
The show’s impact also stays with the actors, who feel forever changed by their characters. “Not just the character, the whole show has changed me,” Moorjani says. “It’s changed everything. … I’m leaving this show feeling so empowered where when I go to other sets, I’ll be so much more confident than I ever was before.”
For Ramakrishnan, embodying Devi has taught her “a lot of life lessons,” including “the fact that it is way harder being a young, Brown woman because I was 17 when I started.” It has also helped her understand herself—“how I process emotions, how I feel, and the fact that I am someone who also has a lot of emotions and there’s nothing wrong with that. It makes us very human.”
In fact, Devi’s humanity and flaws (trouble-making, temper, and all) was the “best part” of portraying her. “Because that’s a real character,” Ramakrishnan says. “All I want to do is portray real characters and that is real.”
But in the same way that she has hopes for more diverse shows on screen, the actress also looks forward to playing more real characters, especially as more projects highlighting layered Asian and South Asian women surface, from Polite Society to Joy Ride.
“I used to think, the thing I’m going to miss the most about Never Have I Ever, is playing such an amazing character,” Ramakrishnan says. “But … there’s so many other projects that are coming out that also portray just as rich characters, not similar, like copy and paste. They’re all unique, but they’re also just as rich and that gives me hope that I’m not going to miss playing a character like Devi at the level of her character depth because there’s more to come.”
Erica Gonzales is the Senior Culture Editor at ELLE.com, where she oversees coverage on TV, movies, music, books, and more. She was previously an editor at HarpersBAZAAR.com. There is a 75 percent chance she’s listening to Lorde right now.