In the typical Mindy Kaling manner, their Netflix teen comedy, I have neveris equal parts romantic comedy, coming-of-age story and cultural revelation. The show focuses on Devi Vishwakumar (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan), a first-generation Indian-American teenage girl who is an over-satisfied, whip-smart high school student who also happens to have a short temper that puts her in difficult situations. Although Devi is a self-proclaimed nerd, she is not meek or humble – instead, she is brazen, open-minded, stubborn, and a connoisseur of pop culture. She's ready to take her second year of high school by storm, but Shenanigan's and classic Kaling madness intervene, and she's in the middle of a love triangle.
Somehow, the nerd is torn between the affections of the hot high school jock Paxton Hall-Yoshida (Darren Barnet) and her enemy friend Ben Gross (Jaren Lewison). Devi gets closer to every boy in season one and shares vulnerable moments and an intimate hickey with both of them until the finale. And since we love dramatic tensions like no one else, two POPSUGAR editors have come together to settle the Ben Devi Paxton affair like civilized women and to debate which duo is paramount. Although both editors believe that Devi has a lot of problems that she has to solve herself before serious relationships are made, we are also ready to defend our favorite pairing in this particular ship war.
Mekishana: Obviously a show like that I have never will follow one of the most sacred rules of teen comedies: let the main character be obsessed with the hottest guy in school. Paxton's introduction to the first episode of the series makes him the unattainable Jock God when Devi sees him, the guy who would have to endure a big personality change to fall in love with our protagonists or to show us that he was secretly hiding depths did that will make up for being crazy popular just for the looks. But then Devi Paxton approaches with her crazy desire to make the beasts with two backs, and the object of her affection agrees.
Fast forward to the season finale, where we saw how easily Devi fits into Paxton's circle when the two become something of a friend. Despite their differences in high school social hierarchy, how uncomfortable their relationship began, and how it almost imploded, Devi and Paxton have a palpable chemistry and it's really fun to see them together. It seems like a cliché that the nerd should end up with the jock, but Kaling has given us two characters who are realistic enough to cross their tropics that it doesn't feel like a stereotypical relationship. Despite – or I would argue, maybe because of – Devi's personality out there, Paxton was in love with her from the start (although admittedly it was only sexual at first), and I want to see more about how that could develop.
Grayson: While watching I have neverIt is clear who you should root Devi with. From the moment Paxton appears on the screen, we are as excited about him as Devi is. To get the hottest man in school to not only agree to a proposal for friends with benefits, but actually make friends with him, no one in Devi's position would give up. As she follows Paxton, we get more insight into her strained relationship with Ben. They're rivals, and if there's one thing that people love more than seeing a nerd score the hot person, rivalry becomes romantic.
"Just the way he looks at Devi when they connect during the UN trip has melted my heart."
Throughout the season I was in conflict over how to deal with Ben. At first I thought he was just annoying and wanted Devi to rub his smug face in all of her accomplishments because he was an idiot for her. Then (possibly based on Jaren Lewison's portrayal of him) I started to soften Ben. The very way he looks at Devi when they connect during the UN trip has melted my heart. While Paxton has his merits (and I might want to see Devi researching their relationship), Ben has always seen Devi because of her intelligence. It is only towards the end of the season that he realizes his feelings for Devi (and her for him?). It would be a shame not to see them together as the Sherman Oaks High power couple.
Before Devi and Ben became friends, they improved each other by trying to be the top of the class. Without Devi, Ben would probably not have had the strong motivation to pass all of his classes, and vice versa. Sure, they're both intelligent, so they probably would have done it anyway, but there's nothing better than having a rival to push into the ground. As soon as their relationship changes, they help others take stock of their surroundings and are thankful for what they have and see that things on the other hand are not necessarily greener. Once they become friends, they both stop being such great idiots – Devi for their family and friends and Ben for just about everyone.
Mekishana: I can fully appreciate the attraction of Devi and Ben's enemies and lovers relationship. It is not for nothing that it is a proven Rom-Com-Trope. There's even a part of me who admires how ruthlessly Devi tries to break Ben's mind and undermine him at every turn. I went to a Catholic high school for girls and wasn't in Model UN, but I understand the thrill of inflicting a rival on a rival. But it is precisely this antagonism that makes me incredibly careful in every relationship between the two. It is really easy to get lost in the idea that former enemies discover their secret feelings for each other – especially if they are as adorable as Devi and Ben, how they find their ground as friends.
But Ben, who has resigned himself to liking Devi, doesn't erase all the terrible things he said about her and doesn't make her better part of their argument either. Her opinion of him is low enough to believe that his "UN" nickname is racist for her friends, and the revelation that it is actually an abbreviation for Unf * ckable Nerd doesn't make it any better. Pulling braids is hardly sweet when the offender is a child; It's especially not cute when they're in high school and take every chance to take advantage of your weaknesses. Like Dr. Jamie Ryan (Niecy Nash) in the pilot says, "I'll tell you the kid is shit and you should ignore him."
But I understand. The two are intellectually equal, teenagers are naturally demons and hormones can confuse things. But I'd rather not see Devi fall in love with the boy she was an asshole for, and vice versa. Their traumas do not excuse their behavior towards each other and it definitely does not indicate healthy relationships in the future. Can you imagine how they react to a problem when they meet up? We've seen Devi Ben instinctively decimate when he annoys her (she tries to destroy him in Model UN!), And considering how emotionally fragile the two are, it gets incredibly messy. Devi takes time to get together in general, but a relationship with Ben would be too much of a minefield of problems for both – building their friendship should be their top priority.
"This is the real sign of someone you have to have in your life."
Grayson: But Ben was always ready to do anything for Devi, even as a competitor. At first, he does everything to be better than her, but after being tied up during Model UN, his point of view changes. You can see how upset he is about what is happening between them (this is probably why he moves them on his birthday because he realizes that he doesn't really hate them). When she runs away from her mother, he lets her stay in his house without question. When it is clear that she is turning, he summarizes her friends and brings them together to reconcile. If she thinks she won't be able to spread her father's ashes, he gets into his father's car and drives her there, although he's technically only allowed and doesn't know how to drive a stick. He even waits for her to make sure everything is fine instead of possibly getting stuck on the beach! This is the real sign of someone you must have in your life.
Mekishana: The idea of having a partner who does everything for you is romantic, but it also leads to a very one-sided relationship. Devi is already selfish by nature – in the selfish way that all teenagers are because feelings as teenagers consume ten times as much – and we've seen how often she takes people for granted. That doesn't mean that she doesn't care about other people, she just tends to think about herself first. While Ben is hungry for affection and can therefore be easily exploited. It is obvious that he has no problems academically challenging Devi, but I cannot imagine how he will fare if they meet and he tries to win her over romantically.
On the other hand, the roles at Devi and Paxton are half reversed. Because of Devi's obvious affection for him, Paxton apparently has the upper hand when it comes to her power dynamics. (I swear I don't see relationships as blackouts, I just endure them with me.) When Paxton writes about an emergency, Devi runs to him, although she is supposed to be dealing with Eleanor's (Ramona Young) mom drama. And there is the whole thing that she has a crush on him and does everything to be in his circle.
But Paxton also helps to support Devi: he stays by her side in the hospital after the coyote attack, he gives her advice on what to do if she has problems during the Ganesh Puja celebration, and he consoles her after Ben's catastrophic party. And as we see in the season finale, Paxton isn't entirely immune to feeling vulnerable to Devi. His fear of being too stupid (which Devi's mother shouldn't have said and is still on my list) is brought to light, and then we find that the dynamics of power that occurred earlier don't tell the whole story. But honestly, it's not about what any boy can do for Devi, because both take care of them in their own way and express it as such. It's mostly about how they work together, which Devi and Ben admittedly do more than they and Paxton. At least academically.
Grayson: Ben and Devi always played enough against each other so that they had to split their extracurricular activities in half so that their paths did not cross constantly. Both are constantly at the top of their class and usually push the other one out for first place. This shows that they are essentially the same, and although opposites can attract you, sometimes you only need someone to put you in a relationship.
Mekishana: It's true, Ben and Devi are more compatible when it comes to their academics. As Devi tells an incredulous Ben during her Model UN trip, Paxton is just "consistently bad at school". (Which is one thing; some people just don't thrive under the rigid structure of the education system!) But that doesn't mean Paxton is stupid, and it doesn't mean that Ben and Devi are romantically matched. If anything, their scientific competitiveness could be a problem, since neither of them is very good at playing fair or good when it comes to the other. The one time they tried to work together it ended in World War III.
Especially when Devi and Paxton work together, she shouldered much of the work – it is implied that this is why he asked them to work with him at all. But Paxton knows he's not stupid and hasn't shown any other cases where Devi has been used for her intelligence. In fact, he probably considers it part of their craziness and goes on. A big focus of their relationship is often on Devi's attraction to Paxton and how he's a stereotype of the stupid jock, but if you actually look at the material, Paxton was in love with Devi from the start. At first, it's mainly him who has sex with her, but after her first fight (and probably after realizing that she's a virgin), the two set off to make friends. Devi thinks of a possible connection to the strange girl Paxton loves. He has no problem integrating her into his group of friends, likes to go to parties with her and doesn't get caught in the trap of being a douchey jock, as he usually occurs in these scenarios.
"Paxton likes Devi and if he puts the Bullsh * t away he's ready for what he wants."
The two are really friends until Paxton learns that Devi has fueled the rumor that they slept together, and his reaction to total betrayal is a sign that his actions really hurt him. We can now see that he really saw Devi as a friend and the thought of being used by her is painful. The fact that Paxton is still looking for her help with his sister Rebecca's photo shoot is another big flag that he sees Devi as more than just a strange hanger. Considering how protective he is of his sister, it shows that Devi is still one of the few people he likes to trust, even if they fail.
It was only in the last episode – after the two shared a sweet kiss – that thanks to Rebecca, Paxton confronted his feelings for Devi. He puts on this douchey jock cap for a hot second and notices he's cool, while Devi is known to be part of the National Spelling Bee (which is a real feat, TYVM). Rebecca pokes around in his defense, forcing him to realize that "if you blow it off, you're actually stupid." It's a moment with a lightbulb taken right out of the best Rome coms and doing its job well – now we know Paxton likes Devi, and if he puts the Bullsh * t down he's ready for what he does wants to do. But Ben has already made his move! The only question is where to go next.
Grayson: Although I'm Team Ben, I'm not an anti-Team Paxton. Both boys have their advantages and disadvantages, and I would be happy if Devi ends up with both. That being said, I'm more of a Devi team that needs to bring their lives together and don't apologize before putting a boy into the mix. She is young and high school is all about finding out who you are and what you want out of life. Is that Ben? Is that Paxton? No matter who she chooses – the answer to that will hopefully be examined in a second season (will you hear that, Netflix?) – Devi has to remember to put herself first and not allow a boy to consume all her life.
Mekishana: It is difficult to agree that Devi must bring her whole situation together for the sake of her sanity and the sanity of everyone around her. And not just because I like more from Nash's Dr. Ryan, who regularly gives out the ultimate advice. "Having just a friend, whoever he is, won't make you happier or change who you are," says Dr. Ryan at the start of season one to Devi. "Do you really think you'd be a good friend now?" Wiser words have never been spoken to a young Indian-American teenager who was just starting to walk again after being so traumatized by her father's sudden death that she lost the use of her legs for the summer.
So yes, I hope Devi takes the time to find out her grief before jumping into anything with Ben or Paxton. But because I know better and am a fan of fictional teenagers who make fun of romance, I would also like to see Devi and Paxton build on their chemistry even more. They differ just enough from the stereotypical nerd / jock trope to be interesting, and there are so many ways that their relationship can lead to serenity. It would also be great to see Devi Paxton get to know what she built him up to be in her thoughts and allow him to show that she doesn't have to be "cooler" to get attention to earn. But whichever way I have never I firmly believe that Kaling and Lang Fisher will deliver their story with the same lovable awkwardness that they gave us in season one.