Spoilers ahead. In episode 8 of the final season of Never Have I Ever, there’s a subtle yet romantic moment that anyone who’s had long-term BFFs will recognise. Sitting in a circle in Devi Vishwakumar’s childhood bedroom, Devi (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan), Fabiola (Lee Rodriguez), and Eleanor (Ramona Young) chat about their prom dates, or rather, their lack of prom dates. Despite the fact that Devi and Co. have spent the past four seasons chasing crushes, exploring sexual awakenings, and figuring out what works for them romantically, when it comes to attending prom — the culmination of their high school experience and a teen rite of passage — going as a trio is a no-brainer. “You two are the best relationship that I’ve had in high school, so it’s only fitting that we’d go together,” Devi says.
It’s a subtle moment, a seemingly throwaway comment from our heroine, but coming from boy-crazy Devi, who was desperate to break free from “The UN,” as their friend group was called, it’s actually kind of a big deal. And for viewers of the fan fave Netflix series, this moment emphasises what many have known to be true for its four-season run — despite the emphasis on romantic love and whether or not you’re #TeamPaxton or #TeamBen, the women and their relationships with each other are the true heart of the show.
In many ways, the fourth and final season is full circle from the first, bringing it back to where we all started. “While [the fourth season is the most] big and dramatic, all cards on the table, it gives me a lot of vibes similar to Season 1,” Maitreyi Ramakrishnan tells Refinery29 shortly before the final season premiere. “The roots [of the show], where it's all about the girls, the Model UN, and their friendships, but also the Vishwakumar women really finding their footing as a family with Kamala coming in and Devi trying to seize her new life.”
The big difference between Season 1 and Season 4 is, of course, that we’ve seen the women — specifically Devi — grow. Much like Devi’s processing her grief over the passing of her father, it’s been subtle, but it's there. As Devi’s therapist (Niecy Nash-Betts) points out during their final therapy session, when it comes to emotional growth, Devi is anything but a loser. “When I first met you, you were a closed off, angry little thing. You didn’t wanna get in touch with your feelings, your pain, your trauma, you just wanted to break stuff,” Dr. Ryan says. “… But look at you, look how far you’ve come. You faced your trauma and you came out on the other side.”
This work has manifested itself in many ways, as Devi later realises she’s less angry, and less intent on looking to others — specifically guys — for validation. Throughout all these personal changes, the romantic heartbreaks and emotional work, the show has been about Devi’s relationship with her friends Fabiola and Eleanor, as the trio have repeatedly broken apart and found their way back to each other. “I feel like the relationships between our friendship has definitely been a safe harbour for all the growing pains that our characters go through,” Ramona Young tells Refinery29. “We always had each other's backs through the ups and downs.”
It’s this trifecta that has remained steadfast during the tumultuous and uncertain period that is high school. (The same can be said for the actresses off screen as well, who have formed equally as strong a bond throughout the show’s three-year run). For Ramakrishnan, Devi’s growing appreciation of the women in her life makes sense because it’s an understanding that often comes with time and age as we slowly start to realise that no matter what happens — romantic love interests come and go, college acceptances happen or don’t — it’s these relationships and people that will always be there for you. “When we are younger, because of internalised misogyny, we’re often set up as young women and young girls to hate on another woman, which is really, really unfortunate, and really unfair,” Ramakrishnan says. “Truly, my friendships with my girls in my real life are some of the most important ones. … It's lovely to have support from another woman because there's just simply things that no matter how supportive a man can be of a woman, they may just simply never understand.”
And that doesn’t just apply to friendships. In the same episode Devi and her friends decide to go to prom together, the Vishwakumar women have a similar moment of appreciation for their special bond, after Kamala — whose spent much of the season avoiding a potential new job and move to Maryland by investigating Pati’s boyfriend Len — tries to expose Len as a cheater (spoiler alert: He’s not after Pati’s money and the woman Kamala sees him with is his realtor). At the root of Kamala’s discontent, as Nalini points out, is something deeper. She’s not really afraid that Pati’s new boyfriend is intent on swindling her grandmother for all she’s worth; she’s dedicating her time and energy towards a wild goose chase because she’s afraid of moving forward with her life and leaving the carefully built and lovingly cultivated relationship the women have. As she tells them: “This little family unit has become particularly precious to me.”
It’s a long way from the first season of the show, when Devi, in a fit of rage, tells her mother “I wish you were the one that died that night.” For Richa Moorjani and Poorna Jagannathan, this specific dynamic, and the relationships between the women in this multigenerational household are the heart of the show, as we watch them all grow and evolve — both individually and together. Looking back on the first season, “we were all foils to one another,” Jagannathan says. “[In] Season 1, there's an antagonistic relationship between Devi and her mom, Kamala and Devi, and Kamala and Pati, and by Season 4, it's such an arc of growth to go from foils to someone who supports you and [who you] learn from, and you can really see that transformation.”
And ultimately, it is this transformation throughout the four-season run that assures us that once the camera stops rolling, these women we’ve come to know and love will be alright. As Nalini assures Kamala: “I know it's scary, our lives are changing, but change is good, change is necessary.” And, as they’ve already shown us once before, wherever they may end up geographically, they’ll always have each other.
Season 4 of Never Have I Ever is now streaming on Netflix.