To be quite honest, when The Mindy Project moved to Hulu this season, the only reason I kept watching was because I had access to a Hulu Plus account. A higher barrier of entry would have likely stopped my viewing entirely, as I was almost completely turned off by the accidental pregnancy story line introduced in Season 3 that seemed to be pushing the limits of believability even for this show. All this season I’ve felt the same, especially confused as to why Mindy was spending all her time with a new doctor Jody Kimball-Kinney, played by Garret Dillahunt. It seemed as though the writers felt like her relationship with Danny was stale, and that they were trying to inject some new sexual tension via verbal sparring to spice up the show.
But somehow, with the mid-season finale available this week, I’m newly intrigued. It appears that the episodes where Mindy was frustrated because she was at home with a newborn while Danny took care of his long-estranged father had an ultimate purpose: to show how inherently different they both are. In this newest episode, entitled “When Mindy Met Danny,” the show flashes back to Mindy’s first day at Shulman and Associates. Tightly written the way her Season 2 finale was, it showed how good the show can be when it doesn’t get distracted with its own in-jokes—and also did something legitimately interesting for the future: set up a world where Mindy might be raising her child as a single mom, after she recognizes that being with a man who is overly controlling and always thinks his way is best might not be for her.
It seems likely that Mindy and Danny will end up together in the end, as these things go, but it’s also interesting to show Mindy’s character develop during their back-and-forth, offering the opportunity for her to be alone if it suits her better. Since Mindy has given birth, Danny has made it clear that he’d prefer they have a more traditional relationship, with her having lots of children and not working and him bringing home the bacon, a preference Mindy has struggled with. In last week’s episode, the fight they had about their differences was so real it almost hurt to watch (for a sitcom at least). Mindy has successfully helped the first patient at her fertility clinic birth a child, and when she goes home to tell Danny—full of excitement—he tells her they should postpone their wedding, still upset that she lied to him about going on birth control (despite the fact that he himself tried to trick her into getting pregnant again). That’s a confrontation they had had during a screening of When Harry Met Sally.
“First date? Yeah, good luck with that pal!” Danny had said to a man in the audience who had told them to quiet down their fighting. “Real relationships are not... they’re not like a movie.”
In Mindy and Danny’s fight later, that quite obvious, slightly meta statement was laid quite bare.
“Every time you disagree with something I do, it’s a referendum on my character. If I want to go to work, it means I’m a bad mother. If I have a second glass of wine, it means I’m out of control,” Mindy tells Danny, who ends up calling her selfish.
“Whenever you decide to do something, it’s selfless. And whenever I decide to do something, it’s selfish. You get to choose all the definitions,” she continues. In the finale, you see her measuring Leo’s crib, then measuring the closet in her old apartment to see if it will fit. That she’s evolved enough to be willing to give up closet space for her son but won’t keep compromising on her career to give Danny a larger family right at this very moment speaks more than even their fight did. It’s the quiet after the storm, and it’s when you see that though she can be insecure and flighty, all that puffed-up self-confidence isn’t entirely fake.
The Mindy Project is always its strongest when not tied up with side characters, but focused on the strict structure that a sitcom romantic comedy provides. Look at each episode as a movie, and you start to feel as though Kaling should really just be making films; scenes like these are well-executed and striking enough to be stand alone. But then you realize if it was a movie, there’d be no Mindy and Danny back-and-forth, no evolution of their characters and relationship. Their story would be simpler, and for how annoying it can be, it’d actually end up being less realistic.
As Emily Nussbaum wrote in her review this week, the show “has been consistently inconsistent from the pilot on,” so expect a change now would be like Mindy expecting Danny to be different than he is. And since she seems to have sadly resigned herself to his truth, our relationship with the show will be the happiest if we do the same.
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Image via Hulu