Friday, July 16, 2021

REVIEW: 'Never Have I Ever' - Devi Feels the Urge to Compete with a New Classmate on Everything in '...had an Indian frenemy'

Netflix's Never Have I Ever - Episode 2.04 "...had an Indian frenemy"

Devi instantly resents the new Indian girl at school, but is taken by surprise as they get acquainted. Kamala struggles to be respected at her lab.

In 2020, the television industry aired 493 scripted shows across numerous outlets. The way people consume content now is different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, it's less necessary to provide ample coverage of each episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site provides shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the next episode of Netflix's Never Have I Ever.

"...had an Indian frenemy" was written by Amina Munir and directed by Lena Khan

Devi doesn't believe she has to befriend Aneesa solely because she's Indian. And yet, every component of her life makes that comparison. Her peers at school view Aneesa as the better version of Devi too. She is effortless in everything she does. The show doesn't dispute that fact either. So much of the story is told through Devi's insecurity. She doesn't want this comparison to be made. She views Aneesa as competition for her good standing in school. She is trying to work her way back into the good graces of everyone she has alienated. Aneesa presents as a viable alternative so that her peers don't have to engage with Devi the way they did before. Devi wants to make things right. She simply has no clue how much she hurt people. She continues to view her agency and independence as more important than whatever is going on with her friends. She believes Eleanor doesn't have any Chinese friends solely because Devi isn't close with anyone her age who is also Indian. She projects that sensibility onto Eleanor. They are two American teens who have an awareness of their culture but don't hold it as a sacred definition in their lives. That isn't true at all. Devi has developed a strong work ethic because of her heritage. She can relate in so many ways to Aneesa. They can actually be great friends. The obvious connection can inspire more to take hold. Aneesa wants to explore that dynamic as well. Devi simply can't handle the competition. She is used to be the one given praise. She stands out as special in an environment where so many aren't trying hard at all. Aneesa is a threat to that narrative. That's true both in school and in her personal life. Aneesa immediately fits in with her classmates. The teachers respect the skills she brings as well. Again, the narrative highlights how so much is ultimately effortless for Aneesa. She is intrigued by Devi because she has never met a rebellious Indian teenager before. It's an exciting new opportunity for her. She also provides structure and understanding to Devi's life. Devi knows the demands placed on her by her family. Aneesa understands that experience as well. That means they can plan for how to explain any rebellious behavior away as an example of trying to appreciate their culture. They are powerful and strong together. They understand the experience. That means they know how to exploit it because they know how their parents will react. That part of their dynamic can be known immediately and acted upon. Nalini appreciates having a guest in her house who actually treats her with dignity and respect. She has never gotten that from Eleanor. Meanwhile, Aneesa comes from a culture that respects its elders and prays for their good health. She makes that good first impression. That too gives the teenagers the leeway to act out. Devi gets a nose ring. It's something that should cause a big fight with her mother. It doesn't. Devi appreciates Aneesa as a result. However, the moment Aneesa and Ben show an interest in each other the tables immediately turn in Devi's mind once more. Aneesa is suddenly no longer a welcome part of her life and social circle. It's easier for her to blame this newcomer than to reflect on her own behavior. She lied to Ben. And then, she showed her true colors in running after Paxton when he spun out from the betrayal. She left Ben behind. That was clarifying. They can never be friends again. That may be an extreme reaction. It's how Ben feels as a result of what Devi did. He doesn't have to forgive her. She craves that. She found a way to get back into a friendship with Paxton. She believes that can easily be achieved with Ben as well. It isn't. Instead of reflecting on that, Devi once again decides to blame outside forces. That means she is probably going to make even more irrational decisions soon. That's the pattern of her life and the story at large. It's expected. As such, the show better have a way to disrupt the expectations the audience has to all of this. The conventionality can be saved for Kamala as she struggles to gain any respect at work until she has to pretend to be interested in the activities of her mediocre white colleagues. She has a way to escape through her bond with Prashant. That alleviates some of the drama. It's still annoying that she has to go through this. She grins and bears it though. That shouldn't quite be acceptable. But it's also part of a story that continues to develop. It's just more tangential than the high school antics that frequently drive most of the storytelling.