Tuesday, October 20, 2015

REVIEW: 'The Mindy Project' - Danny & Morgan Make a Pit Stop in Oklahoma During Their Trip to California in 'Road Trip'

Hulu's The Mindy Project - Episode 4.06 "Road Trip"

Danny is forced to take Morgan on a road trip to California, and they make a surprise stop.

The Mindy Project has never shied away from taking big swings with its plot. It likes to advance the plot forward in unexpected ways just to explore what those new possibilities can mean for the characters. Sometimes that has created story whiplash. Mindy and Danny's first kiss was magical - followed by the two getting together, breaking up and getting back together in the span of a few episodes. Mindy's pregnancy came near the end of the third season and was crammed into too few episodes. With an increased episode order this season, the show has the ability to take some bigger risks in order to explore different shades of the characters. So far, that has created a really strong season. "Road Trip" is a very experimental episode. And yet, it highlights all the problems that the show still unfortunately has.

Mindy Lahiri isn't the only character of substance on the show. But she is the most important. The show is named after her. Her story has always been prominent in every episode. The show has found a rhythm with its supporting ensemble. But they still can't reasonably be asked to carry their own storylines. "Road Trip" sets out to tell a Danny and Morgan adventure with Mindy only appearing very briefly. Chris Messina has always been the show's secret weapon. He can make an episode like this work really well. Unfortunately, too much of this episode felt like filler. Danny needed to get from Point A to Point B but has decided to take a week to get there. The story of this episode feels slapped together in order to have a story of some kind. None of it really works at all.

The show threw a real curveball at the end of the last episode with Danny getting the call that his father had a heart attack. That health emergency trumped everything else in his and Mindy's lives. He needed to go to Los Angeles in order to make sure that his dad and half-sister were fine. And yet, it's so frustrating that he decides to travel by car! Danny has never been afraid of planes before. He has traveled to LA plenty of times over the course of the show. Danny and Mindy had their big first kiss while on a plane. He visited her a lot during her fellowship. He travels by car simply to give the show a fun road trip episode with him and Morgan. And yet, this episode isn't fun. It relies too heavily on contradictory character traits and doesn't add up to anything substantial. The ending feels exactly like the previous one - with Danny feeling the need to get to LA in order to work things out with his father.

The whole traveling by car thing happens so that Danny can make a detour in Oklahoma in order to visit a kid, Eric, who says that he too is Danny's son. Again, that doesn't explain why he couldn't just make a stop in Oklahoma while flying. Traveling by car seems like a huge waste of time given the severity of Danny's situation. And yet, Danny still finds the time to make this big pit stop for something that only over-exemplifies his emotional state at the moment. Even though this kid isn't his, Danny realizes that he needs to fix things with his father because this could be the last time they ever see each other. But he's still in no rush after that realization. He jumps on a bus that will still take 34 hours to even get to LA. It just doesn't feel like Danny is acting rationally throughout this episode. That takes a lot of the appeal out of the character - and puts a lot more emphasis on his traveling companion, Morgan.

It was apparent at the start of the season that Morgan was becoming a third lead on the show. He's the only one in the supporting cast who seems to stand out. The writers love creating outrageous situations for him. He does connect better to Mindy and Danny than anyone else does at the office. But Morgan is given way too much screen time in this episode. He's a character who only works in small doses. And now, the show is needlessly propping him up because it can't just be Mindy and Danny all of the time. There needs to be other characters on the show. And yet, this episode only points out just how nonsensical Morgan is as a character in this universe. But the show doesn't seem to realize it because they love him way too much.

Morgan is suppose to repulse people. Neither Mindy nor Danny want to be around him for very long. They put up with him because he gets work done for them. But that doesn't make him an interesting character. If the show's strongest two characters don't want to be with him, why should the audience want to be with him? Danny treats Morgan tagging along on this road trip as an inconvenience. He tries ditching him multiple times. That literally comprises the first third of the episode. It's aggravating because nothing of value is happening. Morgan throws up while the two of them jump from state to state to highlight the weird route Danny is taking across the country. Morgan does show some value by being the objective eye who sees that there is no way that Danny and Eric can be related. And yet, that moment of genuine awareness isn't able to last because he goes back to being the crazy sidekick a moment later. Morgan as a character has just gotten so tiresome. So the fact that this episode has more of him than usual makes it very lackluster and hard to get through. Nothing could really save this episode from what it was trying to do. And yet, the adventure isn't over with either. Danny and Morgan are still on their trip. They are still 34 hours away from LA. That means all of this will continue next week. After how horrible the execution was this week, that makes the continuation of it feel incredibly dire and loathsome.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Road Trip" was written by David Stassen and directed by David Stassen.
  • Morgan's latest obsession seems to be burial sites of famous dogs. That was a story that never worked. And yet, the show kept going to it over and over again. 
  • The show has never done location based humor all that well. It's depiction of a midwest community here is absolutely dreadful. It has to be so bad in order to justify Danny giving his car to Eric. But none of it really works. It just feels like a poor understanding of the region.
  • It was amusing to learn that Castellano men either express themselves through fighting or dancing. However, it was so unnecessary to learn that they don't like wearing condoms either.
  • Mindy: "I can be a single mother for awhile. It's what I say to get out of jury duty."
  • Morgan: "Of all the times I have been abandoned at a celebrity pet grave, this is the most hurtful."
  • Danny: "Eric's a great name." Eric: "Name one great Eric." Danny: "Eric Stoltz, he was almost in Back to the Future."
  • Mindy: "Gotta go, there's a commercial that I love and I don't want to press pause."