Around the Water Cooler: “The Mindy Project” – The Season 2 Finale and Mini Season Recap (MAJOR SPOILERS)

THE SPECS:

Who: “The Mindy Project” aired on network TV, specifically on FOX, Tuesdays at 9:30 PM during the 2013-2014 season.  It has been renewed for season three.

What: “The Mindy Project,” a situation comedy about a thirtysomething, Indian gynecologist, Dr. Mindy Lahiri (Mindy Kaling), who is looking for love and life fulfillment, despite being a unique personality with a curvy body type and despite the fact that she works in an OB/GYN office filled with other unique personalities (for a more detailed Synopsis, read here:http://www.aceshowbiz.com/tv/mindy_project_the/summary.html).

When: The Season 2 finale aired on Tuesday, May 6, 2014, on FOX at 9:30 PM.

Where: The show is set in New York City (Manhattan specifically), primarily in the OB/GYN office in which Mindy works.

Why: I think Mindy Kaling (formerly Kelly Kapoor on The Office) is one of the funniest contemporary writer/performers.  She’s got a unique sense of humor and line delivery that makes her somewhat easy to relate to and yet awkwardly off-putting all at the same time, and this quality elicits the laughter, at least for this viewer.  Also, this program seems to be the Bridget Jones equivalent of the 20teens, and since I’m America’s answer to Bridget Jones, I had to check it out.

How – as in How’s It Going? (THOUGHTS…at present)

Of all the season finales this viewer has thus far watched, closing the year for favorite shows from the recently ended TV season, the most well written, acted, and directed finale (so far) has been that of The Mindy Project, which began the season on shaky comedic ground and decided to avoid permanent residence on the ratings “bubble” by going “all in” and throwing in the predictable romantic comedy curve ball in an entirely unpredictable way. Namely, Mindy and Dr. Danny Castellano (Chris Messina) are officially an item and a cute one at that!  And unlike Nick and Jess on New Girl, this relationship is one in which each severely flawed member of the coupling improves the other one and allows him or her to be his or her best self.  Not to mention, Dr. Castellano the character (and, by extension, Chris Messina the actor) became truly irresistibly sexy, showing himself to be all man but capable of some sensitivity toward the ever “out there” Dr. Lahiri.  Plus, the dynamic between Mindy and Danny is one of love, albeit rapidly developed love, rather than sex and some feeble attempt at defining their dynamic as a relationship.

This viewer will talk about two key episodes this season in particular: the mid-season finale and the season finale, but first, let’s summarize how far The Mindy Project traveled this year.

After Amanda Setton left the show to be on The Crazy Ones, the practice hired a new doctor, who Dr. Jeremy (Ed Weeks) initially deemed to be Mindy’s replacement when she fled off to Haiti to be with then-fiance Reverend Casey.  First, this replacement came in the form of James Franco.  When his oddness came and went, the doctors agreed that a fourth doctor was necessary to meet the needs of the practice, so along came Dr. Peter Prentice (Adam Pally), a sort of hipster womanizer with one of those off-putting charms that seem to attract women, even though Peter is incapable of anything too sophisticated in the human interaction department.  Peter is the resident “bro dude,” and he serves specific functions for his co-workers: he’s become Mindy’s go-to for advice about the male species and even attempted to help her connect with one or two members of the opposite sex; he’s attempted to teach stuffed shirt Danny to loosen up a bit; and he’s acted as a mirror for Jeremy, who used to be Peter, more or less, but with some semblance of manners and an enjoyable English accent.  Peter also attempted to date Jeremy’s sister, for whom he seems to be madly in love, which is something of a change of pace for him.

Jeremy, in the meantime, started the season off overweight, overcompensating for his own shortcomings – deftly identified by his own emotionally barren father – by emotionally eating.  He eventually shed the weight, and his responsibility streak allowed him to act as supervising doctor over the practice, which was essential because Mindy felt increasingly outvoted by the men, even though her ideas were on the level of “cockamamie.”  Thus, Jeremy began to evolve beyond his womanizing ways and became obsessed with waivers.  He also led the charge against the dastardly midwives, one of whom continues to make a play for Mindy, despite their awkwardly bad rapport.

The midwives’ enduring friend Morgan (Ike Barinholtz), the crazy nurse, continued his antics.  He tried to move in with Mindy for a second and generally pines for the friendship of the other doctors, despite his penchant for coming on too strong and, frankly, like a serial killer. Most importantly for Morgan, he finally hooked up with Nurse Tamra, the long-time object of his affection, after she finally gave her boyfriend Ray-Ron the boot.  Danny was no help in this department, but, fortunately, Morgan has some appeal, at least to the appeal-challenged Tamra.

Finally, we come to Mindy and Danny.

First, Casey released young Mindy into freedom, realizing that his love for God sort of infringed upon his love for her.  Also, they wanted different things.  Casey was okay kicking it in the tropics, living in tree huts, and defecating in forests.  Mindy needed her high rises, taxis, and Starbucks as well as your standard porcelain toilet.  Don’t we all.  So, Casey saw fit to break it off with Mindy, and though Mindy was disappointed, she seemed to recover quickly.  City environs agree with her more than tropical impoverished islands, as if such a revelation was truly a surprise.

For a while, Mindy jumped from guy to guy.  She managed to worm her way into the heart of Seth Meyers’ Cliff, a lawyer on the floor above the practice.  He didn’t know what he wanted between them for sure, though, and an unfortunate mistaken communication paved the way for Cliff to dump Mindy.  This act allowed Danny to surprisingly swoop in, as the previously grumpy Dr. Castellano appeared to be melting a touch for Mindy.

Danny tried to make a go of it with his ex-wife, but they were an unqualified disaster, as they had been in marriage.  More and more, the viewer watched as Danny’s annoyances with Mindy morphed into something closer to adoration.  Danny tried to be there for Mindy as a friend, particularly when she lost Casey and then Cliff.  In fact, in the mid-season finale, after Mindy helped Danny reconnect with his deadbeat father, despite his vocal resistance to the idea, in the back of their airplane flying home, Danny professed his feelings and closed in for one of television’s all-time greatest kisses.  It was passionate like in old movies but seemed so genuine coming from the salt-of-the-earth Danny.

When Mindy and Danny tried to make sense of this new development, however, Danny panicked and ultimately called off his budding relationship with Mindy.  Why he panicked, one can only guess.  This viewer would surmise that his feelings for Mindy were and are more real than even he was ready to admit.

So, Mindy and Danny were awkward in the office, which was particularly suspicious, given that they dallied in secret.  Except, hard on the nose Peter detected their sexual tension and smoked out Mindy’s affections for Danny, and Morgan even began having his suspicions.

Mindy tried to move on; she was hurt but was content to try to remain friends with Danny.  Aiding this dynamic was the fact that Danny, who still had feelings for Mindy despite his bone-headed chickening out of something meaningful between them, attempted to convince Mindy to move into a neighboring apartment/condo that he also owned, mainly for the purpose of keeping an eye on her and keeping tabs on the men she might bring home.  Mindy actually dated the father of one of her underage patients, a police detective played by Tim Daly.  Though they were oil and water, the jealousy spurred by this new development helped Danny get into gear.

In the season finale, Mindy spied an attractive subway passenger during her and Danny’s morning ride to work and made flirty eyes with him.  Danny decided to place a personals ad in a local magazine, posing as this passenger and calling himself “Andy.”  He enticed Mindy to begin flirtatious emails based on his clearly romantic advertisement, despite the presence of the detective in her life.  Morgan also began emailing “Andy” and discovered Danny’s secret via some serendipitous office email chimes.  Danny set up a meeting place at Mindy’s favorite spot, the top of the Empire State Building, so that he could meet Mindy as himself, though dressed like Mindy’s celebrity crush, Bradley Cooper, at the advice of Morgan and Peter.  Yet, when Mindy appeared at Danny’s doorstep with gum in her hair, begging for him to cut it out, she talked at length about how it was good that Danny had called off their budding romance, as she enjoyed being friends and talking with as well as depending on Danny.  This revelation threw a wrench in Danny’s grand gesture, and he stood her up, failing to appear at the top of the legendary skyscraper.

Mindy called off work after catching cold from standing in the rain on top of the Empire State Building, so Danny attempted to assuage his guilt by caring for her during her illness.  When Mindy was ready to return to work, however, she saw the man she thought was Andy on the subway and began to throttle him, when it turns out he was merely a hapless immigrant or visitor, attempting to navigate his way around NYC.  Mindy’s near manslaughter of the so-called Andy prompted the onlooking Danny to confess that he was Andy all along. Mindy, livid and confused by Danny’s change of heart, didn’t trust him, but he promised to be at the top of the Empire State Building that night, waiting for her.  At first, Mindy didn’t want to go, believing that Danny would merely flake out on her again, but an odd intervention by the rest of the office, including Peter’s discovery that Danny kept Mindy’s earrings in his drawer, made her realize that he was truly and genuinely in love with her.  She ran to her skyscraper, while the rest of the office readied for a night of drinks, only to discover Danny in a pizza parlor, downing a slice.  Danny confessed that he waited for an hour, but Mindy never showed; however, Morgan, Peter, and Jeremy, as well as the office ladies, encouraged him to return, as Mindy was on her way to make the appointment, better late than never.

The last few moments would be a loving homage to Sleepless in Seattle, if it didn’t involve Mindy climbing all 102 flights of stairs and collapsing when she reached the top.  Fortunately, though the lobby attendant convinced her that the elevators were broken for the long haul, and she had to literally hoof it to the top, this development provided enough of a stall for Danny to find Mindy, on the ground and heaving, after his uneventful elevator ride to the roof.  Thereafter, they commenced more passionate kisses and immediate talk of their future together.  Also, it ended with this fine song, a perfect choice and one of my personal favorites:

Who’s Gonna Drive You Home Tonight?

In the end, the season finale, no doubt written with an eye to the possibility of cancellation, elevated the show and the writing so much more than if the writers and producers had elongated the process of Mindy and Danny finding each other in the end.  Also, the episode was well directed by adding the charms made famous by When Harry Met Sally or other contemporary Meg Ryan fare, hearkening back to those romantic comedies to which Mindy so often referred, complete with voice-overs by both Danny and Mindy and a time elapsed segment showing Danny and Mindy growing closer again after the alleged Andy had stood her up the first time.  Yet, Ms. Kaling and her team of writers turned that formulaic flow of story on its nose with the final hilarious scenes of Mindy, collapsed on the roof of the Empire State Building, hoping that whoever approached her wouldn’t step on her or vomit on her, and Danny consenting to meet her ground-level, with a few more sensuous kisses.

The sense of contrivance initially undercutting the dynamic between Mindy and Danny faded somewhat as they allowed themselves to explore their friendship genuinely, with two brutally honest characters able to reach each other in ways that other characters were unable to reach each of them.  The Mindy Project may be the Bridget Jones’ Diary of the 2010s, but the fact that Mindy is nothing short of a mess when closely observed and analyzed, and Danny is a character just a bit less messy makes for some truly funny comedy.  The formula is there, but it doesn’t feel as formulaic as it could have or, to wit, as it started to seem, particularly when it devotes such deft nods to the films that inform Mindy’s love life choices.

Ultimately, Mindy and Danny are a fun twosome to watch, and the supporting cast remains so zany, and the dialogue, supplied primarily by Kaling herself, is so rapid-fire and witty, that The Mindy Project is filled with laughs.  Despite a slow start, the show’s sophomore season capitalized on funny moments and continued to push the envelope, finding a stride that truly works and avoiding the dreaded sophomore season slump.

Of course, the biggest question remains: what do Mindy and Danny’s future look like now that they’ve connected on this level?  From what we know of these characters, it definitely won’t be smooth and easy sailing – after all, there might not be a show otherwise.

Questions, Impressions, and Future Considerations

Old Questions

1) Mindy and Casey in a long distance engagement?  Yeah, that’ll work.  How much time will pass before Danny becomes a factor, since his affection for Mindy is really starting to show?

Answer: While Danny did not affect Mindy and Casey, as their relationship fell apart circa second episode of the season, Danny as a presence and romantic possibility for Mindy took about half a season to truly take form.

2) Dr. Jeremy getting “fat” feels like a nonsensical story line.  Especially since he still doesn’t look that fat. Frankly, he and his English glibness are too underutilized.  Fix it!

Answer: Fixed!  Once Jeremy was skinny again and became the by-the-book practice supervisor, things got a little less nonsensical.

3) James Franco has a recurring guest role as Dr. L, the second, Mindy’s replacement in the practice.  His character is already extremely off-putting in an unfunny way.  I hope it’s over sooner rather than later.

Answer: It was.  Sorry, Franco.  You’re weird in everything you do.

4) Bring back the shady midwives!

Answer: Oh, they’re never far – and they’re always trying to snake away the practice’s business!

5) The collapse of Danny’s short-lived rekindling of his romance with his ex-wife (played by Chloe Sevigny) was really rushed.  Of course, so was most of this romance/engagement/flying off to Haiti/wedding piece.  I hope some light is shed on it all.

Answer: Light is a loose term, but, really, Danny and his ex-wife were bad chemistry, and she could see that Danny’s affections seemed to be pointed elsewhere, even if he wasn’t yet sure where they were pointed.  Once she and Casey were out of the picture, the show developed a nice rhythm.

New Questions

1) The biggest of all – what’s going to happen when the new season starts with Danny and Mindy?  How are they going to navigate their new relationship?  And will the show stay funny?

2) Should we care about any of the other characters?  So far, I don’t.

PARTING SHOTS

The Mindy Project continues to be a funny show and probably appeals the most to thirtysomething women still finding their footing in the world (of which this author would fall into such a category). Despite a shaky season start, the program found a stride with good chemistry and evolved dynamics between the members of its ensemble cast of characters.  Mindy (the actress, writer, and character) steadied the ship and kept it sailing straight, aiding in the portrayal of a very genuine, very heartwarming romantic development between her character and Messina’s Dr. Castellano.  As a result, The Mindy Project maintains its unique balance between funny/absurd to ridiculous/stupid. Let’s hope the show holds onto and improves this momentum going into season three.

LOOKING AHEAD:

The Mindy Project was renewed for season 3 and is set to premiere on FOX on Tuesday, September 16, 2014.  Until then!

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One comment

  1. kyliekeelee · July 28, 2014

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