Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Mindy Project 4x03 "Leo Castellano is My Son" (Taking the Next Step) [Contributor: Anne]

"Leo Castellano is My Son"
Original Airdate: 

I found last season with The Mindy Project that it became hard to write reviews because I was consistently displeased by the same things. I mean, I think I’ve been pretty upfront about where I stand on what I’m looking for in a television show like The Mindy Project and have found a million ways to express my discontent.

Well, now I am in that situation, but reversed. Instead of rehashing discontent, I'm rehashing content. Because this is yet another strong episode of The Mindy Project. The notable thing about this episode, despite it being the third consecutive nearly flawless episode, was that it was the first episode that questioned what a normal episode would look like for this series, moving forward. Getting engaged, having a baby — these are sweeps-like revelations. Meeting Eliza Coupe, while DOPE, is not a sweeps-like revelation, and so this episode made clear what we should expect to see from week-to-week. (Comedies like The Mindy Project are serialized but the brunt of the material is flexible.)

Last season, Jenn, Jaime and I were talking about the show and Jenn made an awesome formula outlining what essentially every episode (or every other episode) of The Mindy Project looked like in season three:

  • Danny and Mindy have a conflict of personality/belief/etc.
  • Instead of dealing with it, they lie to one another.
  • The lies come out.
  • Danny walks away from/dismisses/hurts Mindy.
  • Mindy vocalizes how hurt she is.
  • Danny makes a ~big romantic gesture~ to apologize.
  • Rinse and repeat 18 more times.
This season is similar, but note the differences, as this episode shows:

  • Danny and Mindy have a conflict of personality/belief/etc.
  • They argue about it.
  • Often, one or both of them will try to dupe the other.
  • The lies come out.
  • Danny and Mindy argue about it.
  • Danny and Mindy realize, whether on their own or with the help of someone else, the point-of-view of the other person, or the shortcomings in their own position.
  • They take the next step.
  • Rinse and repeat three more times, likely more.
What are the big differences? There is the substitution of arguing instead of dismissing or, more importantly, hurting. Mindy and Danny disagree on a lot in this episode, fight a lot, and lie to each other.

But arguing is so much funnier than actually hurting someone. Arguing also reveals more about a character than hurting does. Hurting muddles the argument for why Mindy and Danny should be together, while arguing implies an equal playing field. The “duping” is also more playful than some of the third season (Danny ditching Mindy’s application; Danny laughing at Mindy’s outfit when she is pregnant).

There’s also a lot of independent conclusions that are reached by the characters in these episodes, such as when Mindy says in her dream, “I don’t want a husband, I just want you!” These are often right on-the-nose, which is passable by me (this is a comedy, after all, so any amount of development — even if it’s explicitly stated — is impressive).

And on that note, the last thing I wrote in my formula — that Mindy and Danny “take the next step” — is so important. It means that, even if the content of these following episodes is not totally serialized, Mindy and Danny are still developing. And it’s not like development is a straight line, either; Danny can learn that his antsy behavior towards Mindy is because he wants to do this whole parenting and relationship thing 100% right, and Mindy can learn that this sort of behavior, while kind of annoying, is also endearing. But neither of these revelations necessarily have a conclusive next step, and that means that every episode from here on out will be unpredictable, but not worthless.

Speaking of annoying, by the way, both Mindy and Danny are annoyed by each other in this episode (Danny even questions how such a beautiful boy could have such a crazy mother), but annoyance is such an honest emotion, immediate and selfish and honestly healthy, because annoyance, unlike resentment, passes as well as pales to the overwhelming love Mindy and Danny have for each other this episode. “I love you but you drive me crazy” is so much more fun to watch than “I love you, but I don’t know how to treat you because of my past.”

It’s equally illuminating, too! Danny is trying to be a perfect dad because he didn’t have a great one; Mindy also doesn’t want to mess up, but she also understands that she can do things her way and still succeed as a parent — which is actually a nice understanding she and Danny come to, considering that she was so afraid in the previous episode of her ability to do things.

So as I said — if the third season was me rehashing, again and again, what was going wrong, this season will seems to be leaning towards me rehashing, again and again, how many things are going right. I won't repeat myself, of course. I will just flesh out my argument in different ways. I will just work towards taking the next step.

Stray Observations:
  • A bit of a shorter review this week because, as I have repeated (ironically enough), I don’t want to repeat myself. I also feel like this space is better for actually stating parts of the episode I liked and did not like, outside of what storytelling things I thought were cool.
  • Business class also taught me that white space is preferred, so I’m playing towards science. Yeah, science! (Jenn, did you get the reference?! Jenn's Note: I DO NOW. Thanks, Netflix!)
  • I loved Eliza Coupe. I love Mindy having female friends (it is so refreshing) and I also think Eliza’s delivery fit really well on this show. I hope she sticks around.
  • Speaking of sticking around, adieu to the most worthless character this show has ever cooked up, and we’ve had Betsy, Maggie, and Kendra Wilkinson. And Dana White! God, this show has a track record.
  • I didn’t really love the B-plot. I would fast forward it if I watched it again. However, Ed Weeks kills, as always, everything he is given, as does Xosha, who is just so cool.
  • The running gag about Sheena at the White House was so, so funny.
  • This was a Grandy episode, and those normally are my favorites as I find them to be the most funny. While I do think Warburton’s episode last week was just straight-up the funniest, I laughed a ton at this episode. “Go out and make us some money, okay? I have very expensive habits.”
  • I also loved Danny talking in Italian. It was appropriately comedic and also entirely realistic.
  • While the B-plot was very predictable, I was curious about Whitney being a cocaine lady. But, I mean, the hairstyle says it all.
  • (Would you guys be into Jeremy and Tamra? Because I totally would. She loves attention, he needs attention — c’mon, Betsy’s long gone! You know you wanna!)
  • The Gyllenhaal book was called Grilling Hauls. A+.
  • Oh! I’ve been trying to grade the episodes. The first was an A+, as was the second. This is probably a B+/A-, which business class also taught me is a grade that you can receive, inexplicably.
  • Thank you guys for your patience and for reading! Please let me know what you think.


  1. Thank you for writing this! It cleared up what it was that I am not liking about Mindy and Danny this season. I don't believe them, they don't feel as real. I am not feeling the connection of the previous seasons. Last season was all about reality, how romantic comedies aren't real. They had them fight yes and it could feel formulaic but I didn't see it that way I saw that there was a clear long run seasonal plan. They were so real and funny and fresh and I feel like this season they are over correcting because they got complaint about Danny not being the perfect fantasy romantic comedy boyfriend and they've overcorrected.

    To me last season showed Mindy's journey to independence, learning romantic comedies and fairytales aren't real, that meeting the "perfect man" will not mean that all her "problems are solved forever." She learned was there was no perfect man, that relationships are complicated and hard and that she can't rely on a man to fill what is missing so she grew. We watched her become more independent, a better doctor, teacher, she expanded her career. She went to Stanford, developed a new specialty and opened her own business. She no longer needs Danny she is now choosing Danny (better), but she doesn't need him and we've seen that this season with her never asking for him when she is in trouble she just figures out how to handle it herself.

    Yes sometimes last season Danny was harsh, and there were definitely points where I was like how could they not let Mindy call him out, but I think she just took deep breaths and moved forward with her life (which I think she is still set up to do IMO). Danny learned that his not letting go of his previous issues could cost him all the things that he has always wanted and he has to grow with his partner, and that he needs someone. But he wasn't super sweet he never has been.

    I miss the banter and the biting of season 1-3 of Mindy and Danny, now maybe they are in their honeymoon phase and we will get back to it, because I see a lot of potential set ups for great real conflict this season and I love it but I am not buying them as a couple because it doesn't feel real.

    I have loved this season, not so much Danny first time I have really not liked Danny. I hated the Italian, it worked for comedy but made him so unattractive to me. That being said I loved loved loved that they wrote Mindy as a good mom!! That was something most shows don't do and I am thrilled they continue to show Mindy growing as a person and her strength. Loved Chelsea (Eliza Coupe), hope she sticks around but it did make me miss Peter (Adam Palley) even more. God I hope he guests.

    I also loved the B plot, Tamara steals every scene she is in. I seriously just love her and to add in a little bit with Cousin Scheana was perfection! No I don't ship Tamara and Jeremey I am all about Tamara and Rishi!

    Like I said I am really enjoying this season so far, my favorite part is that there has been ZERO MA!!! How I wish that would continue she is the only thing I disliked about season three.

    (sorry this was long)