Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The Mindy Project: The Final Three Episodes and Season Four Scorecard [Contributor: Anne]

I'm bad with deadlines, as I'm sure you know. But as time rushed away from me as fast as my hopes and dreams, I figured to myself that it was a good decision it was going to be this way. (Call it cognitive dissonance.) I've been saying in my previous posts that what happened in this show was on a "wait and see" basis, and now that the fourth season of this show is over — after a long, long twenty-six episodes — I have waited, I have seen, and I have a collection of comments on those aforementioned waitings and seeings.

I want to say something first about this show: without hesitation, I do not like The Mindy Project as much as I used to. This show has disappointed me time and time again with its inconsistencies in timelines and characterization. While I definitely believe this season is a huge step up over the third season — at least in having some meaning and drive — it will never be what it once was to me. It is a high school boyfriend, working at the Denny's nearby.

And yet... I cannot think of a show which technically means more to me than The Mindy Project. I cannot think of a show that I have attached more fondness to than The Mindy Project. I made my first friend at college because she watched The Mindy Project. I have dated people because they said they liked The Mindy Project (and for, like, other reasons too). I have become a part of an amazing online community as a result of this show, and I will never be able to disassociate my high school graduation or my first year of college from The Mindy Project.

And this behemoth of a season has been with me for so many important events in my life as well, even as it became less important to me. Throughout this season of The Mindy Project, I have learned more than I have ever learned and genuinely had the best and worst moments of my life. (One of my favorite songs throughout the year was machineheart's "Watercolors," which appeared in the season four trailer of the show.) So no matter what happens, The Mindy Project is always something fond to me.

I wanted to say that because even if I get harsh with this show, or let down, or disappointed, that love is still around, which is why I will keep writing for this show. I know; I'm so sorry. But hey — you're talking to a girl who used to count her laps at the gym with The Mindy Project episodes! ("Pilot," "Hiring and Firing," "In the Club"...)

So without further ado, my review of the final three episodes of the fourth season of The Mindy Project and an overall summation of my season four feelings!

"My Kid Stays in the Picture"

Of the three episodes, this episode is the most sitcom-y. Outside of the farewell to Coach and cliffhanging Jody smooch, the rest of the plot is a vehicle for jokes and silliness. As far as the quality of jokes go, this one isn't wanting; Mindy Kaling has done an exceptional job lately in making Mindy Lahiri's oddball behavior reasonable and endearing, and sells likes about her erotic novel with just the right amount of confidence and cluelessness.

As always, where this episode fails is in terms of consistency. How old is Leo supposed to be again? Wasn't Mindy's boyfriend wanting to visit her kid, like, a week ago? (I know the answer to this one — YES — as it was one of my favorite things about the episode!) I understand totally that Mindy broke up with him for a mature reason, but the means to get there was clunky.

The kiss, meanwhile, was... well, there's no chemistry there, and I'm not sure even now if the show knows what problems it's setting up by trying to make Jody a viable candidate for Mindy's "The One." It is reassuring for Jody to be so supportive of Mindy as a mother in a way Danny frankly has not been, but you can't artificially create chemistry. What's unfortunate is that for all of Jody's strengths — I like having him around, he's got great doe eyes*, he seems to truly care about Mindy — for the strength of a TV show that does not really depend on building detailed, consistent, characters, chemistry is a much better selling point than logic.

One other thing I'd like to bring up, again, is that Colette is not working. I've been loving how Jeremy, Tamra, and Beverly are utilized on the show, but there's something about Colette that's not fun to watch. As I said, chemistry is more important than logical reason, but Colette's presence on the show is disappointing in both ways. She doesn't click with any cast member — not even her brother — and it makes no sense to bring a brasher Morgan on board when Morgan just found his groove.

Stray observations:
  • * Doe eyes is a thing I used to say in reference to how Danny looked at Mindy. (Spoiler alert: Chris Messina remains very good at this talent.) 
  • Mindy's outfit with the cute sweater vest was precious, and her highlighted hair is gorgeous. 
  • Tracie Thoms (I know her from Rent!) makes an awesome appearance. 
  • I got weird, strong Jeremy and Mindy vibes from this episode, and now I kind of want them to have at it again. 
  • And I love how when the soap opera is going on you see the "father" peek his head in and out while the scene goes on.

"Freedom Tower Women's Health"

Can anyone tell Mindy the truth? Honestly? Can anyone (who is not Morgan) look out for Mindy in an honest and meaningful way? It's so tiresome to watch Danny and Jody both lie to save their own skins; Danny about his engagement and Jody about his chlamydia. And it's refreshing that Mindy has the know-how to at least kick Jody out of her apartment for lying to her.

Seeing Danny again has a dual effect. Chris Messina is a really talented actor, but because of the distance the show has put between him and us, watching him reassume the role of Danny Castellano is a bit uncomfortable. He still has the rapport he used to have with the cast, but when he says things about how he doesn't want Mindy to be happy — even if it's, like, "for the sake of a joke" — it reminds you how much of his character was sacrificed to make his recurring appearance reasonable. Yes, his sacrificed character. You see the way he mumbles about his dad leaving him as a jokey excuse — with the tone of "man, I've used this excuse a lot, huh?" Yes, you have. And it undermined your multi-season arc.

I'm kind of sad that Courtney wasn't given a shot, not because I cared about her in any significant way but because I didn't think the reasons against her were that bad. If Colette really thinks that Courtney is the worst person Jody has ever slept with, I wonder if she's ever wondered how many girls think Jody's the worst person to sleep with.

With that said, I really did love the date between Mindy and Jody; it's charming to hear characters laugh at each other's jokes, or to genuinely express their excitement about a date. Continuing with my comment on the twenty-fourth episode, I really did love Mindy Kaling as Lahiri, and cannot state enough how much she has grown as an actress in four years.

Stray observations: 
  • Danny getting married is ridiculous. I'm sorry, I don't care if he's doing it as a rebound or something — it's way too far, way too fast. Or maybe it isn't. I honestly don't know what the timeline is. 
  • Also, I have failed to mention in an explicit way how enjoyable Ike Barinholtz has become as Mindy's "wife," and love that Mindy is showing her affection for him as well. There were times in the previous season I thought she was too harsh, and I'm happy to see that is no longer the case (at least, not as severely).


First off, the title is two types of amazing. As far as the plots, though, each one is good and bad in its own ways.

I've wanted for years an episode where Mindy and Danny fight on an elevator, and I loved this one. I loved how tender Danny was to Mindy; I thought that for the most part, this episode did a really good job building a case for why we should ever like Danny again. It's not just that he and Mindy have insane sexual chemistry (PILLOWTALK, YOU GUYS!) it's that he and Mindy have chemistry, period, whether they're arguing about who is the "biter" or they are exchanging I love you's.

Here's the problem: what does it mean that Danny flashed back to Sarah just before he kissed Mindy? Does that mean that Mindy is just an excuse for him to run away from his feelings for Sarah? Does it mean that Sarah is a "Courtney" on his way back to Mindy? (That would be absolutely gross!) There was a period of time where I would be able to have my finger on this show's pulse, but now I can't. Because Chris Messina remains recurring, I wouldn't be surprised if the dagger is going to twist a couple more times on his end before we are made to buy Mindy and Danny's happily ever after. (I honestly, truly do not think — outside of maybe Jeremy, for circular reasons — there is anyone new who could be introduced who could match him in terms of chemistry or in terms of making this story a satisfying one. Maybe Bill Hader. That would be fun?)

Meanwhile, in Jody-land, things feel awfully familiar. Mindy is mad at Jody for a perfectly good reason. Jody, who is in love with (?!?!) Mindy, decides to build her a walk-in closet and ends up buying her an entire floor instead. On one hand, I'm a sucker in any shape and form for grumpy men that fall in love (something Tamra points out is a character trait I share with Dr. L in one of these episodes. I think the previous one). On the other hand, how is Jody any different than Danny? I believed that waiting to watch the episodes all together would elucidate how I was supposed to handle the Jody character, and I don't know if it did.

Jody and Danny aren't just equal levels reprehensible; they are of the same cloth, this misogynist thinks-they-know-what-Mindy-wants cloth. And while there's something romantic, I guess(?), to buying the floor above Mindy's place, there's something truly unsettling about it, as seen in his throwing out of her beautiful spiral staircase. I hope Mindys Lahiri and Kaling see the unfortunate resemblance, and not just because Mindy Lahiri deserves better — it's a rehash of an old story in a show that is most consistent for being all over the place. If you're all over the place, why revisit the old territory?

We leave this season at an interesting place, at least. I genuinely don't know where the show is going to go, although I'm confident that Danny and Sarah won't get married. I'm afraid it can't go romantic, because I don't know how Mindy and Danny get back to somewhere truly beautiful when Danny is recurring and still kind of a jerk, and I don't think Jody can do the trick. But we'll see. Remember where we were a year ago? So many places left to go.

Stray observations:
  • In spite of myself I want Mindy and Danny to be together, without "Danny and Mindy" or the third and fourth seasons involved. Oops. (I hate how Danny blamed Mindy's work schedule. I guess that's consistent at least. At least Mindy stood up for herself!) I mean, could you imagine if she didn't have that pesky, probably 4-year-old kid? 
  • Also, can we keep Eliza Coupe and Cristin Milioti? 
  • Jeremy is so great in all of these episodes. I wish Ed Weeks had more to do. 
  • The music this entire episode was truly perfect; "Bailando" is my favorite song, ever. 
  • I love how Danny remains a great storyteller, consistent with the second episode of the show! 
  • "If you Quaker sons of bitches don't drop your goddamn oats" is probably the biggest laugh-out-loud moment for me. 
  • Oh, wait: "That story made me feel offended, outraged, and vengeful: my three emotions." 
  • Oh, WAIT: "I'm not much of a talker. I'm more of a shy, pretty nun." 
  • And on a quiet, meaningful level, I loved: "It was so fun watching you when you didn't think anyone was looking." 
  • (Also, I love how there was a literal Chekhov's gun.)

A Summary of the Season

If you're one of the precious, precious few who has made it this far, thank you so much. I'm afraid that you will know what I think about this season because I feel like the strengths and flaws of this show have actually been pretty consistent.

This season was notable in that Mindy finally dated someone(s) of color; that Mindy finally made female friends; that Mindy became a successful mother in addition to fertility doctor and gynecologist; that Jeremy, Tamra, and Beverly found their place on the show; that the show became confident in its sense of humor, at least; and that The Mindy Project has never been as provocative as it was in this season, for better or worse.

This season will also be remembered for the total ruination of Chris Messina's character for reasons we're supposedly not allowed to know. It will be remembered for abandoning Dot and Ma, which is not a shame except for feeling like a waste of time. It will also be remembered for creating a character who is almost exactly identical to Danny, except for much of the romantic charm. It will not be remembered as having boyfriends who change personalities at the drop of a hat, because that's what this show does best.

I am happy that this show gained confidence in its fourth showing, and that it is successful on Hulu. I have found myself enjoying the episodes more this season than last, and maybe that's in part because it accepts its place as a cozy, light-hearted sitcom. While its highest highs both in this season and beyond were when it aspired to be meaningful in the romantic comedy universe, these moments made the show inconsistent, so that when moments fell flat, they fell hard and painfully.

Thank you all for listening to me, though, through it all. While The Mindy Project is at its heart a romantic comedy, let's be real: it is you and I who will have the happily ever after. It's been fun and I'll see you in October. Until then, I think I'm going to watch Mindy and Danny make out to "Pillowtalk."

Best episodes of the season: "While I Was Sleeping," "C is for Coward," "Will They or Won't They," "Mindy Lahiri is DTF," "Princeton Charming," and "Homewrecker."

Worst episodes of the season: "Road Trip," "Under the Texan Sun." While "Road Trip" was definitely the worst showing of the season (and I so badly wanted to like it!), "Under the Texan Sun" was so irritating to me in a way that may last longer.

I don't want to end my reviews for this season on a negative note, though, so to conclude, here is a link to the beautifully romantic song for season four. What will season five bring? I'll see you then!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Ann, thanks so much for writing these reviews, I really enjoyed your thoughtful and clever take on the show! I think you make some great observations, and I couldn't agree more with you on so many points!

    I would, however, say that the show is actually at its best when it is trying to tell the story of Mindy and Danny. Yes, the "ruination of Danny's character", as you call it, definitely came out of the blue, but at least the episodes had a purpose, a point they were trying to make. From the start, I loved the realness of Mindy and Danny's relationship, despite the sitcom madness going on around them (trained by sitcoms, there were many situations when I expected them to break up, but they luckily lacked the puzzling over-sensitivity of other show's leads). Sadly, I missed all of that in the second half of this season.

    The finale, though, was back on point - because the writers stopped wasting time with forgettable flings and sitcom plot diversions, and focused on the real stuff. All I can hope is that we will get to see more of that in the next season!