Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The Mindy Project 4x17 Review: "Mindy Lahiri is DTF" (Going Against Script) [Contributor: Anne]

"Mindy Lahiri is DTF"
Original Airdate: May 3, 2016

Have you ever watched One Tree Hill?

I’m serious. Or if you haven’t watched One Tree Hill, what about Boy Meets World? Dawson’s Creek? Friends? The Vampire Diaries? The Wonder Years?

Or am I being too exclusive? Let me try this again: have you ever watched a television show before?

Of course you have. And when you have watched a television show — especially a show with an ensemble at high school — have you ever thought to yourself, “Hmm... aren’t these people a bit too young to have found their soulmate?” Or, if you have watched a show with an ensemble, have you ever thought to yourself, “Hmm... isn’t it weird that they can only seem to find love within their relatively small circle?”

That’s not to say that love cannot be found in either of these cases, or that it’s uncommon. If you hang out with a group of F.R.I.E.N.D.S, it shouldn’t be surprising that you connect with one of them on a romantic level. And finding your love in high school is so common that they have a term for it: the “high school sweetheart.”

Neither of these things are rare, so why am I ragging on television’s reliance on them?

It’s because when television constructs things the same way, every time, you get used to it. You don’t get bored of it, but there is a bit of life’s excitement that is lost in television: the fact that things don’t always go the way they should — the fact that not all stories end well, or even end with some satisfaction — the fact that so much of what happens in our lives is random. In life, we take events and we form them into a larger story; in television, they take a larger story and then create the events leading toward it. It’s expected that it has to be this way, but some of the magic is lost in the process.

That’s not to say television should rely on spontaneity, because in my opinion, on TV even spontaneity should be planned. But that’s obviously a lofty and paradoxical request — how can a television show make something real out of something obviously premeditated in a writer’s room?

I say all of this because this episode of The Mindy Project was awesome. End of story. Where other shows would have demanded Mindy “choose,” we instead saw her say — as if speaking to the audience — “You know what? Screw this.” Rather than fall into the same-old-same-old story, and rather than entertain Jody’s hesitation, Mindy takes the story out of the hands of contrivance and instead steers the thing herself.

It’s amazing how liberating an action like that is, especially because Mindy’s the only one acting against type here. Danny’s outrage and Jody’s budding romantic feelings are so standard in a rom-com that they barely register as surprising; in fact, Danny’s intrusion on Jody’s office was the worst part of the episode to me, a moment that I described on Twitter as “horrifically uncomfortable.” Jody, meanwhile, played his part as a jerk-turned-sweetheart to annoying perfection. We’ve seen all of this before in romantic comedies, and the elevated reality of romantic comedies is clear in Jody’s farcical Elementary party. (P.S. Interesting choice of show for comparison purposes, because the showrunners have made clear that Joan and Sherlock will never, ever get together. Hmm...)

But I’m detracting from the main point, which is this: Mindy has no more patience for either man in her life. She’s tired of changing. She’s tired of accepting the reality that they bestow on her, and rather than wait for the next signal, she goes to the bar and propositions the bartender J.J., who is cute as heck. And he says yes!

A part of me has always been irritated by the way Mindy’s courtships go. They’re too easy, too meet-cutesy, and follow the familiar pattern of “man and Mindy engage in mildly belligerent but flirtatious behavior.” Also annoying is how these men often take jabs at Mindy’s weight or undermine her in some other way, including her decision-making.

There’s something so honest about J.J.’s interaction with Mindy, and he circumvents all of these obstacles that even main characters Peter, Danny and Jody have failed to circumvent. The easy joke about Mindy’s eating abilities, for example, is met by a shot instead of a sneer; the person getting made fun of is the disgusting guy in the bathroom; and J.J. never appears anything other than pleasant, straightforward, and interested. I hope J.J. doesn’t stick around long enough to start parroting the same “mildly funny but also mildly racist, misogynist, and offensive” words of Mindy’s other suitors. But we’ll see.

Until then, it’s not just a breath of fresh air for Mindy; it’s a breath of fresh air for the show.

Stray Observations:
  • Danny was horrible, though. “I don’t care about what Mindy wants”? Why would I ever want you to be together with her again?
  • The only problem is that Danny and Mindy still have chemistry. Jody and Mindy do not (although I love watching Jody squirm), and J.J. and Mindy do but to a lesser extent.
  •  The sex dream was so unpleasant that it was very, very funny for me. Mindy’s “eh who cares” attitude was the absolute best.
  • Tamra and Beverly had some good banter in the break room. I really wish we could see more of Tamra — who is she dating now anyway? Does it even matter?
  • Eliza Coupe returns as Chelsea. It was okay, but kind of out of nowhere. I encourage you all to watch her on Casual, though. She and Josh (Tommy Dewey) kill it.
  • Also, Paul Lieberstein was revolutionary in this episode. I never thought I’d want to see Kelly and Toby on a date together, but wowza. I also hadn’t heard of his appearance so I was so pleasantly surprised.


Post a Comment