Tuesday, September 15, 2015

REVIEW: 'The Mindy Project' - Danny Meets Mindy's Parents While Mindy Dreams of an Alternative Reality in 'While I Was Sleeping'

Hulu's The Mindy Project - Episode 4.01 "While I Was Sleeping"

Since Danny won't propose, Mindy dreams of married life with the perfect man. Meanwhile, Danny tries to stop Mindy's parents from marrying her off to an eligible Indian bachelor.

It wasn't all that surprising earlier this year when FOX opted not to produce any more episodes of The Mindy Project. The ratings just weren't there to continue justifying it airing on a broadcast network. But interest in the series was still high - from both executives and critics. It always felt like a foregone conclusion that some other network would swoop in and save it. Fortunately, that's exactly what happened. Hulu ordered 26 episodes for a fourth season - the highest tally for any season of the show to date.

The show is now back for the start of that expanded season. The action picks up right after the Season 3 finale ended - with Danny in India knocking on Mindy's parent's door. It's so good to have this show back. "While I Was Sleeping" doesn't completely say what the narrative direction of this season will be. The obvious answer is Mindy and Danny learning how to be parents. But this is just a great episode that it doesn't completely matter where the show plans on going next. There are plenty twists and turns on display here that can lead to some fantastic comedic hijinks in the future.

"While I Was Sleeping" has an interesting structure to it. Yes, it follows a three act structure instead of a four act one like it had on FOX. But the pairing of these two stories together is the most meaningful thing about this premiere. It's somewhat awkward going from real-world emotions with Danny and Morgan in India interacting with Mindy's parents to a high concept fantasy world that Mindy is dreaming about. It's easy to understand why both of them happen alongside each other. Mindy and Danny had a disagreement about their future. Danny flew all the way to India to prove to Mindy and her parents that he is serious about this relationship and family even though he no longer believes in marriage. Mindy is furious about his view of marriage and may no longer think he is the perfect guy for her. Even if this episode was just about Danny doing his best to win over Mindy's parents in India, Mindy would still have needed something to do. This is The Mindy Project after all. It's not as if the show would sideline it's leading woman completely. The solution that the show came up with gave Mindy a journey to go on - even though it's doesn't have the same impact in the real world as Danny's does.

The show did have a lot of fun creating the alternate reality for Mindy. It's the kind of world she wants to live in. It's what she thinks she wants out of life. But as she quickly realizes, that kind of reality doesn't make her the happiest. A life with Danny is what she needs. She comes to that realization as she slowly comes to learn what her life with Matt is like. She thinks it's great that she's married to a guy who looks like Joseph Gordon-Levitt and who's a producer on the Real Housewives. But a relationship with him doesn't create the best version of Mindy. She still works at the practice. But she doesn't talk to Danny and is having an affair with Brendan Deslaurier. She's not opening her fertility clinic. Instead she's trying to launch a business that is frivolous and doesn't make her feel good. She is disgusted by the fact that she and Matt have an open marriage. On a surface level, everything is right in this world. But on an emotional one, she is lost and realizes just how much Danny does for her as a person. It's because of Danny that she felt like she could open the fertility clinic and face motherhood.

Meanwhile, Danny is slowly learning about the rest of Mindy's family. The people who raised Mindy into the person she is today have to be very specific and special people. Fortunately, they are. The Lahiris are so much fun. They are a perfect blend of their Indian culture and the pastimes of Western civilization. Mindy's father is a successful doctor and teacher but has a great love for the Rat Pack and the Boston Red Sox. Mindy's mother has dreams of being a star and is so proud of the acting work she did in the Boston theater scene. They are both infectious personalities. They are a delight to watch. Danny can rightfully be nervous about them and how they'll react when they learn the truth about him. But their reaction is also very true to them. They basically say he needs to get a grip and just do right by Mindy. They don't care whether or not they get married as long as Danny is there for her and the baby whenever they need it.

Comedic hijinks forced Danny to build up fear over telling the Lahiris the truth. He was ready to burst out the truth as soon as they opened the door. The servant unknowingly knew the truth long before Mindy's parents did. That leads to Danny doing his best to go along with what the Lahiris want to do with their daughter. They met via an arranged marriage and think that may be the best thing for Mindy as well. Morgan presents a candidate who could be a viable choice. Seeing the Lahiris and Morgan get so serious about this pursuit forced Danny to finally come clean. Of course, he made too much out of it. He is right to have his trepidations about marriage. But Mindy's parents are a great example of how great marriage can be. He has issues but that doesn't mean he's willing to give up finding that happiness. He and Mindy make each other better people. That's what can make this marriage work more than his previous one - or his parent's. That's what gives him the confidence to finally propose. It's not romantic or planned. He's asking because he wants to be with Mindy for the rest of his life. That's a great sign that they will continue to be a great couple in the future. It also sets up a season of wedding planning - alongside raising a baby.

Some more thoughts:
  • "While I Was Sleeping" was written by Mindy Kaling and directed by Michael Spiller.
  • I'm guessing this is going to be an ever bigger season for Morgan considering Ike Barinholtz is going to have a pretty big year with co-starring roles in upcoming features Sisters and Suicide Squad. Morgan plots have been hit-or-miss over the years though. So it should be interesting to see how an increased screen presence goes.
  • It's still a problem that The Mindy Project just doesn't know what to do with its supporting cast. Mindy, Danny and Morgan are the only regular characters who pop up in the premiere. They are all great and deserve the amount of attention they get. But it doesn't mean one should care about Jeremy, Tamra or Beverly when they finally show up again.
  • How long was Mindy asleep that Morgan was able to fly to India, get stuck in Pakistan, spend some quality time with Danny and the Lahiris, and then have Danny fly back to New York in order to propose? The timing was the only thing that was really bothersome.
  • I can't wait to see Mindy's parents interact with Danny's. A wedding is probably coming so that means things are ripe for family dynamics.
  • That's The Big Bang Theory's Kunal Nayyar as the potential husband Morgan finds for Mindy. He was amusing - especially when he started talking about Mindy being a lemon. I'm guessing he'll never be seen again because of his commitments to the CBS sitcom though.
  • Also, that's actually Freida Pinto playing herself on a date with Danny. I wish she had more to do than just yell once Mindy tried to sit on her.
  • This episode is much longer than any episode the show did on FOX. It clocks in just under 28 minutes. There are definitely some moments that could have used some comedic tightening. But overall, this premiere still felt very much like the show.
  • Mindy: "Oh no, did I break into Mariah Carey's penthouse and fall asleep again?"
  • Mindy: "It's like 13 Going on 30 except I'm the same age.... 26."
  • Matt: "Judging by your build and your denim jacket, I assumed you were an old Native American man."
  • Mindy: "Jason Derulo's "Big Ole Cheekies" is the jam of the season."
  • Morgan: "I am Morgan. Of House Tookers."
  • Mindy: "It was like It's A Wonderful Life except it was in color and it wasn't boring."