Wednesday, December 9, 2015

REVIEW: 'The Mindy Project' - Mindy Remembers the Past in Order to Make a Brutal Decision in 'When Mindy Met Danny'

Hulu's The Mindy Project - Episode 4.13 "When Mindy Met Danny"

In a special flashback episode, we rewind to Mindy's first day at Schulman and Associates to see just how much her relationship with Danny has changed in the last few years.

The Mindy Project has done a really interesting and complex look this season into how messy and complicated a romantic comedy can get after the couple gets together and has a baby. Mindy and Danny are forced to think about things now that they didn't even consider when they were first dating or when Mindy got pregnant. Those moments were happy occasions that both of them celebrated. But now, they are at an impasse. Every single conversation they seem to have leads back to Mindy wanting to continue working instead of staying home with Leo and not wanting any more children. It's a complex issue that the show wisely doesn't try to cram a resolution into in this episode - the midseason finale for the season. In fact, this episode does something very different and interesting in spending the majority of its running time in the past to showcase just how much Mindy and Danny's relationship has grown over the years.

A flashback episode is a tantalizing prospect for The Mindy Project simply by how much it has reinvented itself over its four seasons. This is a show that has struggled to have a stable supporting ensemble that actually add to the show. Even though Jeremy has been here since the beginning, the show really doesn't know what to do with him. The various Jeremy subplots this season don't really feel like the show is trying all that much anymore. Meanwhile, new additions Jody and Colette have come in and been such a vast improvement on Morgan, Tamra and Beverly. They are welcome additions but it doesn't feel like they are going to be permanent either. This is a show that really only works when it revolves around Mindy and Danny. Fortunately, that's what this flashback episode is all about. And yet, it's still amusing watching to see how the show would rather define its past than what was actually on the screen back in the early days of the first season.

So, the show features Mindy's first day working at Schulman and Associates in "When Mindy Met Danny." It allows for the return of Stephen Tobolowsky as Marc Schulman. That's rather surprising considering how strongly the show writes out supporting characters and pretends they never existed. He had a rather abrupt exit from the show after just a few episodes. But the practice is still named after him for some odd reason. But as a character actor, it was probably easier to get Tobolowsky back for this episode than say Anna Camp - who could be a good character right now because Mindy needs a friend who understands what it's like to have a baby. Schulman doesn't add a whole lot to this episode. It's just a fun and noticeable callback. The same be can said of Jeremy the heartthrob. He is a character who has had several different personalities over the years. The show is trying to connect that all together in saying that the sad sack that he became was always present during these lothario days. It's just not handled all that well. It's noticeable and not all that amusing.

In fact, this story returns Mindy and Danny to their Season 1 dynamic where they were really nasty to each other. It's such a good thing that the show became more nuanced over the years and found a new way to tell stories about these characters. This episode is still very funny but it's a little startling to go from Mindy and Danny hating each other with a passion to the two of them getting along and wanting to be co-workers. Danny just hates Mindy the second she shows up at work. It's not for any big reason. He just doesn't like her and his personality rattles her the wrong way. He doesn't trust her to be a good enough doctor for his patients so he basically ostracizes her the moment she starts the job. This is a very rough day for Mindy. She has to fight just to get a patient and prove her worth to Danny - considering he's really the only person who is bugged by her hiring. She was hired by a mistake. Something that is made painfully clear over the episode. But she still proves herself as an excellent doctor when she handles a complicated delivery no problem. That's what ultimately impresses Danny even though she went behind his back in order to do the delivery. Of course, going from that moment to him helping her decide to stay at the practice was a little forced. But it was all just building up to the decision Mindy has to make in the present.

Mindy loves Danny and Leo. And yet, all of this fighting is defining their relationship right now. It's not healthy. It's heartbreaking to her to think of leaving Danny for a little bit. She doesn't want to admit that she's holding onto her apartment just to have a place to run away to. But that's exactly what she does. She heads back there to see if she can fit Leo's crib in it. That's her deciding factor on whether or not she and Danny need to spend some time apart. She doesn't have that conversation with Danny though. All she does is get up in the middle of the night and make that heart-wrenching realization. She still crawls back into his arms in the end. But the two of them learning to co-parent while taking some time apart as a couple could be a very interesting direction for the show in the second half of its season. The two could use that time to grow as individuals. That growth will determine whether or not they can remain a family. It's probably something Danny doesn't want to hear right now. But it could be good for both of them as well as the show. I guess we'll just have to wait and see what happens next year.

Some more thoughts:
  • "When Mindy Met Danny" was written by Mindy Kaling & Matt Warburton and directed by Michael Spiller.
  • Mindy's comment about Wicked and not enjoying backstories was a little too obvious and lame. However, the history of Danny's red glasses was excellent.
  • The flashback happens because Mindy finds an old picture from her first day on the job and notices that she and Danny were smiling together despite hating each other. Of course, the show also had fun in its opening sequence that teased the big flashback through an awkward elevator encounter between Mindy and Danny.
  • Again, it's not all that surprising that Tobolowsky is the only former regular to appear in the flashback. I'm still anxiously awaiting the day where an episode focuses on all those former characters coming back into Mindy's life out of blue to create havoc only to disappear just as quickly again.
  • Hulu hasn't announced a return date for the second half of the season yet. Though I don't expect it to be that long of a wait. Probably a late January or February debut. Hopefully, it will be able to run the next 13 episodes straight through as well.