Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Mindy Project 4x15 Review: "2 Fast 2 Serious" (Fairytales and Sitcoms) [Contributor: Anne]


“2 Fast 2 Serious”
Original Airdate: April 19, 2016

Sooo… what do we think about Jody and Mindy?

I know that there are a lot of things with this episode that maybe historically I have hated or have indicated I would hate. For one, I have spoken out vocally about a Mindy/Peter relationship because I felt that there needed to be at least one male in the office that Mindy hadn’t pursued any manner of romantic relationship with. I also have, I think, made it clear that I could not care less about Morgan and about Colette, and that I would love to see greater depth with Tamra and Jeremy. And I think that — if I haven’t said it out loud by now, I have certainly thought in my head — Mindy pursuing a romantic relationship with anybody else but Danny is something I really did not want to see.

All of these things are true. They remain true. And to be fair, my biggest issue with this episode — which I will now go into with some detail — relates to how it makes the show seem in terms of what it wants to be and how it wants me to look back on the previous three-and-a-half seasons.

WHAT IS THE "HAPPILY EVER AFTER"?


If this really is a road bump on the way to Mindy and Danny’s long-term happy ending, the show’s exhibiting a huge weakness by not showing Danny’s handling of the same situation. It actually makes it improbable for us to ever “buy into” their coupling again, because as always we lack humanity from one half of the core romantic relationship. There’s no other way to spin it; it’s an incomplete story with a muddled message.

And of course, as I’ve said before, if this really is the end of Chris Messina — someone pointed out that his name was not in the credits for the first time ever, signaling something concerning for all two remaining Danny/Mindy shippers — then we’ve been gypped, in a way. Yes, it’s called The Mindy Project, but let’s be real: it was, at one point, The Mindy and Danny Project. We’ve seen more of Danny’s home life and examined more of his problems and character flaws. If you don’t believe me, think of the ├╝ber-romantic “Mindy and Danny” episode as evidence (and I was someone who didn’t love that episode!). We were sold a rom-com lemon.

Why am I rehashing all of these old arguments? This episode is the first one without Danny, and I’ve now spent a decent amount of time in this review talking about something that happened a long time ago.

It’s because with this (frankly) exciting new chapter of Mindy Lahiri’s life, I want to know what to expect as a viewer. What is Mindy Lahiri’s happy ending? What am I rooting for?

I talked about the possibility that Chris Messina returns as a reformed Danny, and he and Mindy give it another go. Is that her happy ending? I don’t think so; we’ve spent enough time with Mindy at this point to understand some major irreconcilable differences between her and Danny — furthermore, issues that neither of them have done a very good job diffusing or confronting. Because of Danny’s limited role, that is not my happy ending as a viewer either. I love good characterization, and without a present character, that ending would feel cheap and unearned. Obviously Kaling and company have written convincing romance before, so perhaps I am speaking too soon.

I also talked about the possibility that Danny and Mindy don’t get together moving forward, whether or not Chris Messina comes back. Then what is her happy ending? Is it a successful business? Personal happiness? Mindy Lahiri already has a successful business. She doesn’t even really have trouble being a great mother, either. Is her happy ending exciting research opportunities and ventures? The last time the show tried that, it failed to commit in any convincing way, devoting little time to an interesting plot and knocking Mindy up before enough time could pass.

Mindy’s beau Bryant, played by Ross Marquand, is the first in what I’m sure will be a string of goofy suitors. Is her happy ending with one of them? I’m pretty sure we both know the answer to that — these characters are guest star and joke devices more than they are plot propellers.

Is Mindy’s happy ending with Jody? I don’t think so. Jody is very similar to Danny — antiquated and old-fashioned, but charmed by Mindy’s youthful energy and professional prowess. Their relationship even began in a similar way: belligerent, with Mindy threatening to quit. Would the show really decide that this is the best path for Mindy?

So what is the answer? What is my happy ending? It’s kind of cool that The Mindy Project has a guest star from The Walking Dead, because as far as this show goes with plot, characterization, or ensemble, it is The Walking Dead. Anything can be axed in an instant. Yes, this is Mindy’s show, but if there is no element that can remain constant besides Mindy, it’s hard to root for anything as a viewer. Heck, if Mindy remains constant — a good mother, a good doctor, a wacky personality but the better half of any romantic relationship — it’s hard to root for anything, too, because there’s no compelling inner conflict going on.

So I’m going to be real with y’all: I don’t see where the show is going, or what the happy ending is.

BUT THIS IS NOT A FAIRYTALE — THIS IS A SITCOM


“I wish you hadn’t wasted so much energy and time overanalyzing The Mindy Project,” my sister recently said to me. “It’s, like, a breezy 30-minute sitcom.”

True.

I’ve griped about The Mindy Project so much I feel like Hamilton writing The Federalist Papers (“HAMILTON WROTE THE OTHER 51!”), and a lot of the reason behind that is just that for however massacred I feel the Danny Castellano character is, and for all of my big-picture concerns, I also didn’t adore it as a comedy. There’s just not a ton of comedy to be mined out of what I consider an abusive relationship. There’s really not a ton of comedy to be mined out of being a single mother, either. But now the relationship is over, the kid is on the backburner, and Mindy Lahiri is dating again — far more mature than she’s ever been.

I had to preface with literally 1,000 words on my lingering concerns for The Mindy Project because I thought it was important, in light of this newness, to evaluate the show’s past and its future. I also thought it was important to point out that this new step was something I had a lot of trepidation for. I didn’t want to see Mindy dating, I didn’t want to see extra Morgan/Colette, and I didn’t want to see another co-worker relationship brewing.

But honestly, over 1,000 words later, I confess: “2 Fast 2 Furious” was a surprisingly pleasant installment. It was funny and it was interesting.

I’m going to talk briefly on New Girl here. (I am not the resident New Girl expert, so I’m interested what you all think as well as what Jenn thinks! Hi Jenn!) New Girl also had a central relationship with Nick and Jess. They lasted for about a season before a really, really abrupt break-up. The showrunner confessed at one point that she didn’t know how to write two people in a relationship, assuming, I think, that single, unsatisfied people are more interesting to watch than happy people in a relationship. And although New Girl and I are on solid “meh” terms, I believe the word on the street is that the last few seasons have improved on the third season when Nick and Jess were together — making Liz Meriwether’s words a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Why would that be? Because Liz Meriwether is sort of right. People need to be unsatisfied on television. It’s that conflict that drives plot and keeps characters growing.

With The Mindy Project, Danny didn’t make Mindy dissatisfied. He beat her down and from a viewer’s perspective dragged her into unfunny fights that weighed the show down.

But as a single mother, Mindy is unsatisfied — she’s searching for something. So is Jody. That excites me and interests me.

As far as what I think about Mindy and Jody, I really do not think it’s a long-term thing. The Walking Dead, you know? But I think that the exploration of this dynamic is important for both of the characters. This isn’t Mindy’s first co-worker rodeo, so I don’t think she will act the same as she did with Danny. That’s cool and interesting and makes this plot development unpredictable. As far as Jody, I am a sucker for the curmudgeon discovering his heart, and I think that development can happen without Mindy and Jody being “endgame.” I have hope that, no matter what happens, Mindy and Jody’s interactions with each other will serve as positive jumping points for their personal development.

I also really enjoyed the A-plot. I was worried about Mindy dating again because I didn’t want to see rehashed season one plots, and her newfound maturity reinvigorates what could have been dull. Although one of the most frustrating things with this show is its unsteady ensemble, there is some benefit to the revolving door of guest stars; Ross Marquand was funny and convincing in his role.

The B-plot was innocuous fun. I got to see a lot of dogs! And as the B-plot centered on Colette and Morgan making a change in a major way, I have another reason to be excited. Their living together presents opportunities for more organic storytelling, which I will appreciate in spite of my feelings toward those characters. (I will appreciate it even more if they keep showing the dogs.)

This is a new chapter of The Mindy Project. I’m not sure where it’s going, or what it wants to be. But this something new is something exciting. Let’s see what happens.

Stray Observations:
  • I’m not “rooting” for Jody and Mindy, but I adored the final moments between them. That sort of awkward, sudden, charged energy is pretty spot-on, and Garret Dillahunt has really expressive eyes.
  • I have listened to “We Can Work It Out” by Stevie Wonder all day. So I have plenty still to thank The Mindy Project for!
  • Mindy’s outfits remain amazing and cool.

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