Why ‘Never Have I Ever’ Is The Perfect Feel-Good Show To Watch On Netflix

By: Amanda Guarragi

If you are a fan of Mindy Kaling, you know how deeply in love she is with romantic comedies. Yes, she started out on The Office but she really hit her stride when she made The Mindy Project. In her show, she paid homage to all of her favourite rom-coms, while creating her own love story. She knows how to pull on the heartstrings and make your heart sore with longing for key romantic moments. Kaling continued her quest for more romantic comedies by producing Never Have I Ever on Netflix. The show highlights the complicated life of a modern-day, first generation Indian American teenage girl, inspired by Mindy Kaling’s own childhood. It has her written all over it and Maitreyi Ramakrishnan who snagged the lead role of Devi is a superstar.

Season one was an introduction to Devi’s world. She was competitive, at the top of her class, had a great group of friends, and of course, she had a massive crush on Paxton Hall-Yoshida (Darren Barnet). The characters on this show are so well-rounded, and each episode explores the people around Devi, as she finds herself as well. After the loss of her father, Devi goes through a massive shift, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. The connection to her and her family is definitely felt and it becomes a universal love story. Not only about crushes on hot boys in school, but the love shared between friends and family.

Meet the Cast of "Never Have I Ever" - Who are the Characters in Netflix's "Never  Have I Ever"
Courtesy of Netflix

The series explores coming-of-age but it also focuses on the lives of women, and how they are treated by men. One thing that can be said about the women in Never Have I Ever is that they are all strong-willed, straightforward, caring, and vulnerable. More importantly, they are all very honest with one another and they lift each other up. Even when Devi makes a mistake – trust me, there are many mistakes that she makes – a family member, or her friends, are there to give her the hard truth. The honesty shared between Devi and her girlfriends, the aspiring actress, Eleanor Wong (Ramona Young), and future robotics engineer Fabiola Torres (Lee Rodriguez) is something I wish I had growing up. These girls all share their thoughts openly and have great communication skills. Even when they get into a fight and they are irritated with each other, they still sit down and clear the air.

There are some crucial moments that shape Devi into a different person after losing her father. The weight of that loss, pushes Devi to look at things differently, at people differently, and each episode shows a different side of her. There are some heartfelt, emotional moments, but Mindy Kaling knows how to balance those moments with some perfectly timed humour. Maitreyi Ramakrishnan is literally a mini Mindy Kaling, it was perfect casting. Not only does she hit the emotional beats, but her bluntness and sarcasm really just make her such a wonderful character. She’s so fun to watch and will keep you coming back for more episodes.

What We Know About 'Never Have I Ever' Season 2 - PureWow
Courtesy of Netflix

In season two, we see Devi in a different headspace – or so it seems – there is almost a level of cockiness that Ramakrishnan adds to Devi. We last see her kissing her rival classmate, Ben Gross (Jaren Lewison), right after scattering her father’s ashes in the ocean. In true rom-com fashion, a love triangle is the center of season two. Devi is struggling to actually choose between heartthrob Paxton Hall-Yoshida, and Ben Gross. This also shows that you can be in love with two different people, at the same time, but for different reasons. In the end, it’s hard to choose who is best for you because you see the best in both of them. So in typical Devi world, chaos unfolds and there is complete madness in Sherman Oaks because of her indecisiveness.

As all this is happening, and Devis ego inflates like a giant hot air balloon, a new girl enters the chat. Aneesa (Megan Suri), another young Indian teenager, transfers schools, and changes the game for Devi. What is important to note here is that Devi is feeling disposable. She feels like Aneesa can replace her, and she slowly starts to spiral in later episodes. It’s really interesting to see how this show handles mental health, and depression, for young audiences, while keeping a light tone. This show has a perfect balance, and really sends its audience on an emotional rollercoaster with Devi.

Never Have I Ever' Season 2 News, Release Date, Cast, Spoilers
Courtesy of Netflix

Never Have I Ever season two is just as strong as season one and it has consistency with its characters. There is so much growth shown in each characterization and it is very natural. It really does pull you back into Devis world quite effortlessly and brings you back to the romance that is severely lacking on-screen nowadays. The cheesy, over-the-top, displays of affection, the longing stares, the awkward smiles, this show has all of that, and it will make you feel so warm inside. For some reason, studios have shied away from romantic comedies, so if you need to fill that void, look no further. If you haven’t watched the first season, then you might as well start binge-watching now. It is such an easy watch and you will instantly fall in love with these characters.

‘The Great’ Review


By: Amanda Guarragi 

The Great is a series, that is based on the play created by Tony McNamara, which focuses on the history of Russian Emperor Peter III and the fearless Catherine the Great. It is a satirical, comedic drama that follows Catherine’s (Elle Fanning) journey as an outsider, as she navigates her way to solidifying her position as a ruler. It is a fictionalized series, that details Catherine’s early twenties and her plot to kill her deranged and sadistic husband. The Great on Hulu is completely unhinged, daring and humorous because of how exaggerated their behaviour is.

It is a series that is so bold with its storytelling because of how honest and vulgar the dialogue is, especially when Emperor Peter III (Nicholas Hoult) is speaking. It is a strong piece on the Catherinian  Era that really has not been done before. It is incredibly entertaining, charming and does not shy away from the possibility, that people in that era, would have been just as heinous in their personal lives. It is eye opening because it is believable that the murder, torture and poor treatment of women in the Russian Kingdom, under Emperor Peter III’s rule, would have been that brutal.

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Courtesy of Hulu (left) Nicholas Hoult, Elle Fanning 

The character development for Peter and Catherine, shift immensely from the beginning of the series and it is almost as if they began to pull traits from each other. At the start, Catherine is this love struck, naive, young woman, who is pulled into the authoritative, violent hands of Emperor Peter III. She was taught that love conquers all and that her kind heart will serve her well in this life. She had this romanticized perception of the palace life, until Peter broke her innocence. Catherine’s loss of innocence was probably the most moving aspect about this series because she had to quickly adapt to the situations unfolding around her.

Peter, on the other hand, did not care about anyone else but himself and his narcissism got the best of him. He has a gigantic ego and pleases himself in anyway he can. He does not care for his Kingdom, or his subjects and did absolutely nothing to help his people. He would drink, eat, torture and have affairs with whomever he wanted. Catherine took notice of his unbearable behaviour and any romantic feeling, that could have developed between the two of them, seemed impossible. The sex scenes between Catherine and Peter, were cold, rigid and neither of them felt anything, they went through the motions because it had to be done, in order to conceive an heir.

The first half of the series shows Catherine’s crushing realization, that Peter was not a normal human being. In fact, he is one of the most peculiar characters I have seen on a series in a while. He is so complex, in an obscure way and just when you think he falls into some kind of normalcy, he surprises you. Catherine builds up her power and forges a plan to take down Peter, through her network of people that have sided with her and against the Emperor. Catherine slowly develops the same raw, animalistic and daring traits as Peter, but utilizes them against him. She was cunning and knew that in order to take Peter down, she had to feed his ego and in doing so, she became more powerful than he could ever be.

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Courtesy of Hulu (center) Elle Fanning as Catherine the Great

The humour was also quite refreshing and honest and I think that’s why I fell in love with this series. It is definitely unconventional and Nicholas Hoult gave one of my favourite performances of the year as Emperor Peter III, his line delivery and presence on screen really carried the series and made it so entertaining. The script was filled with dirty one liners and ballsy dialogue, that you normally would not hear in a comedy today. Hoult and Elle Fanning had such powerful chemistry, that with every scene they shared their feelings became more palpable and the closer that their characters got to each other, created more playfulness that resulted in a great finale.

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Courtesy of Hulu (left) Elle Fanning and Nicholas Hoult 

Elle Fanning was a dream as Catherine the Great, she embodied her perfectly and had a fantastic performance alongside Hoult. It was just such a beautiful portrayal because of her journey and her development as a ruler and a woman. She was fearless, ferocious and stopped at nothing to get what she wanted. She perfectly manipulated him with her intelligence, wit and faux naivete that proved she would be the better ruler. The finale was well written and executed so well, that the final shot of Catherine, obviously left me wanting more and thankfully there will be a Season 2.

The Great on Hulu is one of the best series that has come out this year; it is fun, sexy, hilarious and unique, which will leave you wanting more after each episode. The energy from Hoult and Fanning is infectious and their chemistry carries the entire show. The endless cycle of manipulation creates a very entertaining atmosphere for the ensemble and everyone wants to take a jab at Emperor Peter III. It is incredibly binge-worthy, that you will be able to hopefully finish it in one sitting. If you loved this Era of history, then this show is definitely for you!

 

 

Little Fires Everywhere Review


By: Amanda Guarragi 

Little Fires Everywhere is a Hulu Original series, that is adapted from Celeste Ng’s novel. The series explores the residence living in Shaker Heights, specifically the picture-perfect Richardson family but when a mother and daughter, move into their rental home nearby, things take a dramatic turn. It has a very strong narrative structure, it is well written and shows the complexities of each character extremely well. The show tackles racial discrimination, microaggressions, the meaning of motherhood and a woman’s right to choose.

We first meet Elena Richardson (Reese Witherspoon) who is standing on the sidewalk, staring at her mansion, burning to the ground. We can understand that something has gone horribly wrong and someone else has set her home ablaze. The opening title sequence is stunning as well, showing plenty of important objects and pieces that symbolize how materialistic the residence in Shaker Heights can be. The opening sequence, to any show, is the tipping point because it gives so much away and no one even realizes it, that’s why it is one of my favourite aspects in a series.

Elena had a perfect home, a perfect family, a picture-perfect life but she was unhappy with herself. She has always been confused about what she wanted. Did she want to have a career or did she want to have four children? Naturally people would say, that she could have both and live that picture-perfect life but it is unrealistic. No one’s life is perfect because people are not perfect. Elena wanted to have a family and have a career, but the more children she had, the more she resented the fact, that her journalism career was dwindling. This was such a perfect role for Reese Witherspoon because she plays the privileged, broken woman so well.

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Courtesy of Simpson Street & Hello Sunshine 

The idea of perfection is what causes the most harm in anyone’s life. The pressure to be perfect and to always make the right choices is exhausting. Everyone doubts themselves and if they made the right choices in their lives. At the end of the day, we never really know until ten years later, when you realize how much time has passed and you reflect on your life. This is the case with Mia (Kerry Washington) and Pearl Warren (Lexi Underwood) who have been relocating, their entire lives because Mia is an artist, with a very dark past.

Mia first meets Elena when she takes a look at her rental home, which is down the street from the Richardson house. When Elena speaks to Mia, she is very passive and delivers lines with a discriminatory undertone. Elena reeks of white privilege and Mia is very transparent, when having discussions with her. The racial issues, are not only discussed throughout the series, but they are planted in the very passive dialogue, from white characters and it shows the microaggressions quite effectively. It is all about the way things were said to Mia and to Pearl, it is almost hard to stomach at times because of how oblivious Elena is to her own vocabulary.

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Courtesy of Simpson Street & Hello Sunshine (left Kerry Washington and Reese Witherspoon) 

Elena makes the attempt to welcome Mia and Pearl into her home, they became friends and had discussions about motherhood. The flashbacks to their former selves, played by Tiffany Boone and AnnaSophia Robb, were placed properly as well, so the audience can come to their own conclusion of how “motherly” these characters were. What does it take to be a mother? Are all women fit to be mothers? How does one even define motherhood? Is it really a choice to even be a mother or is it more of an obligation to the gender role? These constructs have women in a box, in a cage, if you will and once they get locked into a role or a life, they did not plan on having, it leads to difficult decisions.

What was most interesting about this show, was the character dynamics, between Mia and Izzy Richardson (Megan Stott) versus Pearl and Elena. Pearl wanted to live a normal life, she wanted to attend school and go to homecoming dances, maybe even experience her first love and stay for a while. Izzy hated her small town life, she did not want to feel boxed in and her art was her freedom. Both Izzy and Pearl, essentially, wanted to switch lives and switch mothers. Izzy and Pearl, saw who they wanted to be when they were older. Izzy saw herself, as a free, artistic spirit like Mia and Pearl saw herself, in a huge home, with a picture-perfect husband and a family like Elena.

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Courtesy of Simpson Street & Hello Sunshine (top) Kerry Washington and Lexi Underwood (bottom) Reese Witherspoon and Megan Stott

The final three episodes of the series, is when all the demons and secrets, creep out and wreak havoc on everyone close to the Richardson family. Their perfect family is torn apart by lies and poor decisions made by Trip Richardson (Jordan Elsass), Lexie Richardson (Jade Pettyjohn) and Elena. The central story, eventually shifts, to a legal battle between Elena’s friend, Linda McCullough (Rosemarie DeWitt) and Mia’s coworker, Bebe Chow (Lu Huang), who fight for custody of young Mirabella/May Ling. It leaves everyone questioning, who is the right fit, to mother this child. Is it the birth mother or the adopted mother? As that heartbreaking storyline unfolds, we find out who Elena and Mia really are through flashbacks.

Little Fires Everywhere is one of the best series I have seen this year and it will keep you in it, until the very end. This cast is extremely strong, Kerry Washington and Reese Witherspoon are incredible in this! The show is very important because it is very subtle in its delivery, that you won’t even realize how many issues are boiling under the surface. It slowly creates this atmosphere of doom like a slow, burning fire, that will ignite at any second. The final episode shows the privilege literally burning to the ground and I think it is a wonderful metaphor.