Tuesday, April 26, 2016

REVIEW: 'The Mindy Project' - Mindy Searches for Female Friendship Again in 'So You Think You Can Finance'

Hulu's The Mindy Project - Episode 4.16 "So You Think You Can Finance"

When Mindy realizes she doesn't have her financial affairs in order, she goes to Jeremy's ex, Whitney, to help clean up her mess.

The Mindy Project definitely rushed back into familiar territory with last week's episode when Mindy went on a date with another generic white guy. It was a part of a formula the show outgrew a long time ago. In post-Danny life, it seems like the show is repeating what used to work before Mindy and Danny started dating and had Leo. The show does course correct a little bit in "So You Think You Can Finance." It instead focuses on Mindy once again bonding with a new female friend - which is quickly complicated by both of them having ulterior motives. That's a plot thread the show has struggled with over the years. It has always been very frustrating that all the important figures in Mindy's life are men. It's even more problematic that Mindy is the only fully realized female character on this show. Tamra and Beverly largely just pop up to deliver one-liners and that's it. Tamra sometimes gets more stuff to do in the episodic plots. But it has never been consistently great. So, it's hard to trust that this show's latest attempt at female friendship will be any different than the previous ones. But the prospect of it is still so enticing that it can't be disregarded so easily.

It helps immensely that Mindy's new attempt at a female friend has been featured on the show before in a story that had absolutely nothing to do with Mindy. She bonds with Jeremy's ex-girlfriend, Whitney. It's largely just an excuse to bring the fabulous Cristin Milioti back on the show, who got a little short-charged when Whitney was just dating Jeremy. It's not even that big of a problem that Mindy is hanging out with Jeremy's ex. That's largely because Jeremy finds himself in a new subplot as well that helps refocus him as a ladies' man at the practice. That's a shift that could be a welcome development for the future. But the primary focus in this episode is on Mindy and Whitney. They are trying to help each other during some difficult times. The episodic plot beats really aren't that great. It definitely plays things for broad laughs without digging all that deep. But the dynamic between Mindy and Whitney is playful and very fun. So the episode doesn't suffer too much from problematic plotting.

Much of the main story hinges on the belief that Mindy is terrible with money though. It's certainly not surprising at all considering her spending habits across four seasons. But she also runs a successful business. So, she must be doing something right. And yet, this episode completely forgets about that because it gets lost in the amusing concept of Mindy being confused by so many financial terms. It's largely just an excuse to get Mindy and Whitney to hang out. Mindy completely forgets about the rest of her friends just in order to be with Whitney. Whitney will help Mindy manage her money - a task that the majority of people are able to handle by themselves - in exchange for Mindy helping Whitney stay sober. The show was pretty blunt about Whitney's cocaine addiction during her previous episodes in the fall. It doesn't forget about that. But it still goes for a broad perspective on the subject. She's an addict simply because she believes she needs to do drugs in order to fit in at her workplace. She's a successful woman in business. She's starting her own hedge fund. And yet, just like Mindy, Whitney finds herself defined by the men in her life.

The show really doesn't dive deeper into the similarities in Mindy and Whitney's lives. This friendship could be very beneficial to both of them. And yet, the episode just takes a surface level approach to the story. It leaves things confined to Mindy poorly handling money - until she decides to do a better job with it herself - and Whitney replacing her addiction with friendship - until Mindy gets too exhausted from the constant activities. Sure, a lot of this episode is fun and amusing. The one liners are back in full force here. But it also feels like the show going through the motions in order to establish a more important friendship in Mindy's life. It's still significant that she has relationships with her co-workers. But it could be beneficial to have this other friendly voice as a new way to engage and create story. Of course, the show failed in this regard back in Season 1 with Anna Camp's character. So, Whitney could easily be written off the show at any point in time. But the actions taken here suggests importance without really earning a whole lot of it.

The episode also gets drawn into the continued flirtation between Mindy and Jody as a potential couple. It's still a problematic storytelling beat because it doesn't feel natural. The two of them continue to work as friends and business partners. He's the reason why she seeks out help with her finances. But Jody's personal arc seems to be building to him embracing the world differently from the fantasies he's always envisioned himself with. It's meaningful that he has changed so much as a person since he came to New York, joined the practice and partnered with Mindy at the clinic. But it's also incredibly forced when he comes to the realization that he may enjoy doing something different in his personal life. That comes purely because he's critical of Jeremy's new relationship with a slightly older woman, Juliette (Valerie Mahaffey). He doesn't understand it. It's simply not natural to him. The show takes a rather harsh point-of-view on dating older woman in this episode. It seems manipulative to the point of being condensing and mean-spirited. Not a lot is made of Jeremy hiring Juliette to pretend to be his girlfriend so he can change his image in front of the nurses. Why does Juliette agree to that? That perspective is missing here which lessens the effect of the whole story - including Jody's back-and-forth regarding his feelings for Mindy. It's just a big mess with very little purpose. It's coming across really forced. And yet, the show seems committed to exploring this potential dynamic. So it's probably only getting started with the awkwardness.

Some more thoughts:
  • "So You Think You Can Finance" was written by Landon Young and directed by Ryan Case.
  • It's somewhat laughable that the show thinks it can say Mindy's father and Danny always used to handle her finances and that's why she doesn't know what she's doing. She has been pretty independent on the show before. So, it seems like she would have addressed these real world concerns before now.
  • Whitney is pretty aggressive with her tactics for hanging out with Mindy. It's starts pretty innocently with board games like Connect Four. But it eventually escalates to paint ball guns and drones. No wonder Mindy is exhausted from all of this time together.
  • And yet, the resolution to the Whitney story is pretty lame. She doesn't really seem to be struggling with her addiction if she's just hiding in the bathroom pretending to do drugs - in an environment that allegedly has them available.
  • Tamra has been pretty preceptive about her co-workers as of late. Is she perhaps taking more of an interest in their lives? If so, what does that actually mean for her?
  • In what world does Mindy - a woman known to have a short attention span - watch a show like Netflix's Narcos? It's a reference the show makes for a connection to Whitney's drug problem but it's just not very in character with who Mindy is.
  • Whitney to Jeremy: "No, this is all an elaborate prank show. Dax Shepard get in here!"
  • Morgan: "Well, I have enough money to last the rest of my life. Which my doctor says is at least three years."
  • Tamra: "Isn't she a cokehead?" Mindy: "Yeah, cocaine. The rich man's drug. Call me when it's meth."
  • Mindy to Jody: "Shut up and help me take out a uterus."