Romantically, Devi is still caught between two boys: rich, intelligent former nemesis Ben (Jaren Lewison) and popular dreamboat sleeper Paxton (Darren Barnet). She’s also still on thin ice with friends Fab and Eleanor (Lee Rodriguez and Ramona Young). The teenage characters are as brightly drawn as the show’s bright pink title card, and their scenes team up with fast-talking, self-assured, ignorantstyle dialogue. They’re mostly familiar high school types—a robotics nerd, a theater geek, a heartthrob—but types innovated through their different cultural, ethnic, sexual, and gender identities. From a hurtful rumor to a prom queen campaign, season two plays well-known scenarios in high school drama, but scenarios revamped and refocused by the specific perspective of who plays them.
Season two gets a chance to explore some of those perspectives in more satisfying detail than last time. For example, Fabiola’s identity crisis doesn’t end when she comes out as a lesbian, and Paxton won’t be the only one educated by a brief exploration of his Japanese family history. Inspired by the adolescence of co-creator Mindy Kaling, Devi’s Indian family still rightly takes center stage, and it’s great to see both her mom Nalini (Poorna Jagannathan) and cousin Kamala (Richa Moorjani) making solid B-plots this time around. have got.
Moorjani faces a sexist workplace conflict that develops Kamala’s character, as he comments on the questionable advice women are often given about “playing the game.” (Although set in a university lab, Kamala, who considers herself the only woman and the only woman of color in a nerdy male clique, may well have parallels with Kaling’s background in the rooms of American comedy writers.) Satisfying Kamala and Nalini, season two doesn’t give Devi a monopoly on romantic complications either.
But really, this is Devi’s show. Actor Maitreyi Ramakrishnan keeps the glittering disco ball in the center. She’s a hugely charismatic protagonist who – like many of Mindy Kaling’s characters – effortlessly crosses the line between egocentric and endearing. Chosen from over 15,000 candidates in an open audition, so the story goes, new face Ramakrishnan is a star with a natural talent for comedy.
She has good support from this cast, which includes fun minor roles such as desperate-to-the-right-of-history teacher Mr Shapiro (Adam Shapiro), the aforementioned Dr Ryan, and Ben’s unwitting mother Vivian (Angela Kinsey). Ramakrishnan’s main opponent is, of course, John McEnroe, who goes on as the show’s unlikely narrator, interspersing Devi’s story with anecdotes from his tennis career and telling us that he respectfully averts his gaze in her kissing scenes. It’s also a pleasure for the series to indulge some of its more magical tendencies with appearances from heroesSendhil Ramamurphy as Devi’s late father Mohan.
Season two of this high-profile self-referential comedy is funnier, more confident and delves deeper into the characters. It is not afraid to show its leading unsympathetic behavior and manages to take on serious matters without losing its comic heart. We may have seen all the love triangles, prom and teen cliques on screen before, but we haven’t seen this particular iteration. It’s a fast-talking, brightly colored, vibrant portrayal of American teenage life that updates high school show conventions with a diverse cast and a modern comedic voice. If the second season can achieve more success as a major content vertical for Netflix, it deserves to turn and run.