Saturday, April 16, 2016

The Mindy Project 4x14 Review: "Will They or Won't They?" (Only Time Will Tell If I Am Right or I Am Wrong) [Contributor: Anne]

Welcome to the spring premiere of The Mindy Project! When people think of spring, they think of beauty, rebirth — the chance to begin something new, to change for the better. Our attitudes toward the future frequently reflect the new season. Spring has sprung! Change is upon us!

The beginning of the episode “Will They or Won’t They?” reflects this change with a fantastic montage to the song “We Can Work It Out” by Stevie Wonder. Apparently the montage was four minutes in length; I remember it almost as a miniature romantic comedy, perfectly reminding us of the sort of attitudes Mindy and Danny left each other with (fighting, fighting, fighting) as well as forwarding the story to a believable point, four months into the future (P.S., does this mean that the timeline has somehow come to our favor again?).

It reminds me that this show has succeeded in the past with being artful, and that when it chooses to exercise its capability to be mindful it can succeed very well. There’s a rhythm to the beginning that is fun to watch — it shows and does not tell how Mindy and Danny went south, making the entire scene impactful, meaningful, and exciting.

And then there was the rest of the episode.

Look, at this point, you know what I’m going to say that I didn’t like. And if that’s the case, then I suspect for you, the review ends here. I’m serious — you will not find another kind word past this point so don’t be angry or surprised at what I am going to say.

I did not hate this episode, because The Mindy Project long ago lost its hold over me by, little-by-little, adjusting my expectations. High expectations can lead to big disappointments; my expectations are now nonexistent, so I am no longer disappointed. It is telling that with these nonexistent expectations, I am still unsatisfied.

Here’s the big problem: everyone will tell you about the vilification of Danny Castellano. At this point, he is a villain who manipulates the woman he loves to sleep with him through “family storytime” and a villain who is so dishonest he cannot tell the mother of his child that he is sleeping with other people and a villain who says things like, “It’s different for guys than girls [to need sex.]” Was that supposed to be a joke? Danny’s said so many things that are equally ridiculous that I couldn’t tell.

As I’ve said repeatedly: you tell a joke through a character’s voice for the purpose of telling a joke and eventually you morph the character entirely. It’s totally believable that Danny thinks men and women need sex differently, or that his behavior is entirely reprehensible, or that his behavior has been reprehensible since (to be honest) “Be Cool.”

“But,” a defender will defend, “Danny has always been a jerk! Look at the pilot!” Yes, but at least then I could defend him. I don’t want anything to do with this guy anymore. I cannot remember what Mindy sees in him.

So you readjust your argument. “God, you are only in this for the romance! This is what real life is like!” Which is annoying for you to say, because real life involves a lot of gross things that I don’t want to see on TV. I don’t want to see a misogynist, abusive jerk on TV. I don’t want to see how he stops being a misogynist, abusive jerk, and I definitely don’t want to see how a woman like Mindy Lahiri learns to appreciate Danny despite his being a misogynist, abusive jerk. It’s unhealthy to use Danny’s best behavior to continue justifying his most common behavior.

I guess that this was done to accommodate Chris Messina’s schedule — word on the street is that he is in this second half of the season as much as he was the first. It’s good to see that they can accommodate his career. But at this point in the story, Danny has been irredeemable for years now. (My turning point, in retrospect, was “Christmas.”) Maybe they can accommodate Danny Castellano the heck out of Mindy Lahiri’s life.

Another problem that I’ve been thinking about for awhile that is almost as dangerous as Danny’s vilification is Mindy’s elevating hero status. Has she ever been wrong in an argument against Danny? Yes, she’s flawed, but in the most basic of ways (she’s a little ditzy, she’s a narcissist, she is dramatic). Her flaws have rarely gotten her into long-term trouble. Even her former adversary Jody tells her that she is a role model in this episode. That may be, but it shouldn’t be the case every single episode, every single moment, in every single relationship she has. What is Mindy Lahiri’s long-term flaw? What has she done to hurt Danny the way Danny has hurt her? Why has the show made it so easy to take Mindy’s side, when it would be far more interesting to explore why these characters are this way — that they are (were?) equally obstinate, stubborn, even selfish?

I feel like there is hesitancy in admitting that Mindy can’t do something at this point. She has, like, three jobs, is a single mother, a devoted lover, a brilliant boss, and a strong woman with killer fashion sense. She faces challenges, but they are external (she is busy; her boyfriend is a douche) rather than internal. This isn’t as dangerous as what’s going on with Danny, but it is dangerously boring.

While I’m on the subject of characters, I think there’s a huge issue that all of the men in this show are introduced as gross and fratty and are now the closest of chums with Mindy. (Even Jeremy at one point, and hey, was Jeremy even in this episode?)

Not only is the dynamic basically just back-and-forth lazy, sometimes offensive jokes, it also makes me uncomfortable that the lesson here is “Ladies, if a guy is treating you badly or is a bad person in general, just deal with it and maybe you will find some heart underneath all of that grotesqueness!” This is true of Mindy’s three closest allies — Danny, Jody, and Peter. Morgan, I exclude, because he is not grotesque and is just kind of dumb.

Oh, so what happened in this episode? I... don’t know. Something something spring break? Was there a B-story? Danny had a woman’s lipstick in plain sight? Also, he’s looking really grey-haired. Also, Mindy’s outfits were amazing. Can I go watch other TV now?

Stray Observations:
  • I know this seems weird to mention after a basic beat down of The Mindy Project, but I am really happy to have found the time again to contribute to this website. I love writing and even writing kind of mean things is refreshing for me, so I am truly happy to be here and would love to hear general discussion in the comments. Or you can troll me! I mean, I am kind of getting too old for that so I won’t indulge it but I do like getting the comment count up.


  1. I think I quit when he sabotaged her birth control. Gross, controlling, gross, misogynistic, and gross. Oh, and nonsensical, since they had a young baby anyway. Do you really need a new one already? I used to like Danny enough that I didn't really notice what a jerk he is. Now it's all I see.

  2. Ok I am the last person you'd call a Danny fan- personally I don't even get the Chris Messina fascination. IMO he is mildly attractive and an ok actor but not worth the hype this fandom gives him. I'd rather watch a Duplass brother or Adam Palley, but I do like Mindy and Danny.

    That being said I think because people are being so reactionary (in general not you specifically) to this story and it not being the fairy tale they are missing the brilliance of this story or how it has been building since eye patch not to mention heavily throughout season 3. The ground breaking nature of this story. And the honesty of this story. This is such real thing that effects women and men. It is 100% believable Danny would feel this way and its been made so clear by the show why he does.

    People say Danny has always been a jerk look at the pilot but screw the look at the episode fans are obsessed with and rave as one of the shows best Dinner with the Castellans! Danny dismissed Mindy the entire episode, he didn't view her as family, didn't feel she/or her opinion mattered when making major life decisions. UNTIL he found out she was pregnant with his seed!! What does a person think a man is going to be like after that child comes? He is going to view that woman as the mother of his child, as if that is her value. But fans ignore it because well he chased her and they played Beyonce so in typical rom-com fashion the woman just says oh ok you were an inexcusable jerk but now your sweet its all good and fans swoon. She stopped swoon.

    Look at the opening episode. Danny loves Mindy right? He wants to have a family with her but he didn't know what her father looked like? He knows nothing about her culture? He forces his religion and Italian crap on her and their child. Never even considering Hidu or looking at Mindy's culture. He is rude to her parents and brother, he just wants her to be his.

    Now on to why this story is brilliant and as someone in their early 30s I can't rave about it enough. These things are real, men aren't expected to make sacrifices for kids, women are. The questions Mindy is forced to make the attitude that is being shown to her for wanting to keep her incredible career (one that has surpassed Danny's) are real. No show does this, sitcoms always have the mom stay home or work because they have to. It is a rare show that they work but then it is a non issue. Mindy is pointing out that it is an issue. And sadly women are judged and the only ones still expected to make the sacrifice. When a woman says she is pregnant at work the response is "congrats; what are you going to do about your career" when a man says his wife is pregnant its "congratulations you must be excited." No questioning him.

    My lord there are entire political debates about the right way to "raise" a family. This was worse in the 80s and 90s; when there was a massive push back to the women's movement. This is also when Danny was growing up abandoned by his father. Hearing constantly that a woman's place was in the home, a man's job is to support the family. That a first lady who wasn't dedicated to doing nothing but bake cookies was a failure as a woman. This would have an impact on you- to grow up hearing your family was wrong; that you are being damaged and hurt because of it, that your mother isn't doing her best for you. Just like rom-coms colored Mindy's views on relationships; these sitcoms and debates colored Danny's views on family.

    Finally the sex joke- was a joke and also him sort of trying to say he didn't want Mindy to move on. He wanted her back to be his. And the trying to sleep with her after story time was trying to get back what they had and almost had.

    Sorry I know this was a long rant but I really am liking this story- I can see why some people are confused by it, but again as a person in their early 30s this is honest, funny and so just highlighting all the feminist issues facing society.