The Mindy Project left us around the holidays looking like Danny and Mindy were headed for a split. In a fun four-minute montage set to Stevie Wonder’s version of “We Can Work It Out,” the show (in this episode written by Mindy Kaling and Matt Warburton), ably demonstrates how the relationship finally disintegrated for good. We can go back and forth forever about what Chris Messina is doing in his down time, or his reasons for a lessened presence on the show, but let’s just deal with the ramifications here: Mindy is now a single mom.
The show’s demonization of Danny is still a bit hard to take, adhering some nasty traits to this guy we used to love. When he tries to entice Mindy into staying after storytime for hookups, he’s clearly disinterested in hearing about her life, and work troubles, and more interested in getting her into bed. Then, it turns out, he’s sleeping with other people anyway (Mindy’s look when he tries to spin how sex is different for guys is epic). Still, it’s hard not to feel a bit bad for the guy when he says, “I never thought I’d be single again,” and I maintain, somehow, that Danny and Mindy are end game. This episode title even points to the fact that life can get tough once the will-they/won’t-they part of our (even fictional) relationships is over.
Kaling as Mindy continues to be so fun to watch, and her new independence comes along with the issues that she and Danny fought about in the first place: Her successful new fertility clinic with Jody and Morgan; her dishy apartment that she’s moved back into; the family she’s forged at Shulman And Associates, which no longer includes Danny. Mindy’s closest confidants are male characters who elevate a standard trope. Adam Pally’s Peter (and who among us did not cheer when he showed up in the montage to help paint the baby room? Well, I sure did) offered an inspired twist on disgusting frat-boy hijinks. Ed Weeks’ Jeremy started out as a dashing Hugh Grant-type character, who actually turned out to be riddled with self-image issues. Now Garret Dillahunt’s Jody gives us a sexist, antiquated Southern gentleman who would be repulsive if not for his honeyed accent and hilarity mixed with etiquette (the bourbon in his office is only for patients who have male children; he’s been so corrupted by New York City he once ate with his elbows on the table). His sister Colette is a bit less developed, but overall, Mindy has a good gang to bounce off of (including the always unsettling Beverly and the always formidable Tamra) on her days at the office.
So as Mindy’s main relationship dissolves, she sets up a spring break for college girls who want to freeze their eggs. While embarking on a variety of foolish escapades (the girls’ habit of unleashing pets is ironically called “leashing’), the college girls offer a nice parallel to Mindy, who is making some foolish decisions of her own as she continues to sleep with Danny. In college, as in life, it’s easy to follow the path of least resistance toward the most funtimes, with little heed to the consequences. Mindy knows she shouldn’t be blowing off Hamilton (really, how could you blow off Hamilton?) for Danny, just like Chloe (proper pronunciation: Shlow) shouldn’t be trying to hook up with Jody or tracking down where Lil’ Wayne overdosed. Mindy is able to find Chloe and talk sense into her because even though she’s a few years older, she knows what’s like to make dumb choices, especially when your heart wants something that may not be the best for the rest of you. It would be so easy for Mindy to stay in this kind of relationship limbo with Danny, but as she tells him at the end, although things aren’t that bad, “They’re not good, either.” Unless she cuts off from Danny completely, she’ll never be able to stand on her own.
But stand she will, so I look forward to this season undoubtedly full of awkward first dates and wayward suitors, and Mindy continues to dazzle us with bright dresses and bizarre one-liners (my favorite this episode: When Mindy realizes the groundswell movement after the girls “leash” Seth Myers’ dog: “I saw dozens of those gray ribbons on the subway! I thought it was to prevent old people from driving!”). Mindy Kaling herself usually pens the most pivotal episodes like mid-season premieres (like this one) or finales, and they’re usually the ones most imbued with yes, too many one-liners for me even to write down here, along with amazing doses of heart. In the rom-sitcom world, that’s as good as it gets.
- I like how fervent Tamra’s feelings are about the national bank. I like everything about Tamra anyway.
- Leo is showing signs of being a mini-Danny: “The other day he knocked a Dorito out of my hand and said, ‘Mama, no!’ It was chilling.”
- That Jaws music as Danny moved in for a post-storytime kiss was on-point. But who could possibly resist stories about a hat guy and a monkey?
- “Is that a lasagna I smell, or one of your weight-loss candles?”
- Not a surprise that Jody’s favorite movies are Ulee’s Gold and Gran Turino.
- Friend of the show Seth Myers showed up as a Mindy date in season one, but has an even better appearance here as he despairs over his lost dog on national TV (“I can’t believe that our last conversation was a fight”) and lets Morgan guest on his show.
- I might have rewound Morgan’s entrance on said show about eight or nine times.
- “Oh, you didn’t like that? You liked it all over the bedspread.” Kaling and Messina still have so much amazing chemistry, which is why I feel confident that this is not the end for their characters. Danny’s mournful looks at Mindy across the office, and his continued efforts to have her stay after storytime may mean more than just hookups. Granted, this could be the unbridled rom-com fan in me.
- Mindy’s best outfit: So many this episode, but that coral dress with matching leather jacket right after the montage was stunning. Bright jewel tones look so good on her.
- Welcome back, Mindy fans! These next 12 episodes go all the way through July 5, and I will be posting these reviews as close to the episodes’ streaming time as possible. Even with Mindy and Danny’s ups and downs, I have loved season four so far, and really enjoy watching these episodes with all of you. Stay Frisbee strong, everyone.
- P.S. I feel like I would be remiss if I didn’t mention this: Last week we had a kind-of body positivity roundtable here at The A.V. Club, and I called out Mindy Lahiri for being one of the few characters we see who’s gorgeous, actually eats, and is never insecure about that fact that she’s not a size 0. This was followed by a pair of tweets that further explain some of Mindy Kaling’s motivations on this show: