Tuesday, July 5, 2016

REVIEW: 'The Mindy Project' - Mindy Finds Herself in a Love Triangle Once Again in 'Homewrecker'

Hulu's The Mindy Project - Episode 4.26 "Homewrecker"

After a mishap at Leo's school, Danny and Mindy are forced to spend time together. Meanwhile, Jody tries to gain back Mindy's trust with an over the top present.

The first half of this season of The Mindy Project did a number of smart things in analyzing what comes next in the romantic comedy after the central couple get together and have a baby. It was a complicated journey that ended with Mindy and Danny splitting up. It was a heartbreaking moment between the two of them. But it also highlighted just how different people can become after awhile. Everyone grows and changes. A relationship has to as well in order for it to stay healthy for both individuals. Mindy and Danny's relationship status shifted this season. It was messy material but stuff the show handled well. And yet, this second half of the season has largely focused on Mindy reverting back to dating a bunch of guys searching for the one. Her dating life is just now complicated by even more responsibilities at work and a baby at home. But it still felt like the show returning to the narrative structure of the first two seasons with her dating someone new every week - even though it seemed inevitable that the end of the season would bring her back to Danny or start something new with Jody.

Because of the narrative decisions made at the start of the second half of the season, I chose to stop writing about the show on a weekly basis. Analysis of every episode was hurting my overall appreciation of the show. The Mindy Project can still be so strong and funny. Going over every detail and how problematic certain story beats were, I realized I wasn't enjoying the show as much as I previously did. A huge part of that was the fact that Danny basically disappeared. He was always the show's best character and he simply vanished after his relationship with Mindy ended. It took awhile for the show to find its groove with Danny gone. It still positions Danny as an important character. I will always have so much love and affection for Danny and Mindy as a couple. And yet, it's getting increasingly harder for the show to get me to care about them knowing that Chris Messina has asked for a lighter workload. That was apparent throughout this season. And in Season 5, he's been demoted to recurring guest star instead of a series regular. So that provides some pretty interesting context for the events of this finale.

These last dozen episodes or so have really been pushing for Jody and Mindy as a couple. She has been off dating so many guys. But he has remained a part of her life. He exists in close proximity to her and has slowly realized that he is interested in dating her. That was a development that really did come out of the blue. In the middle portion of the season, that seemed like an idea that could ruin the show. The spark between Jody and Mindy just wasn't as strong or passionate as it was with Danny. If the show wants us to care about the two of them as a couple, they have a really high standard to meet. As the season went along, their dynamic did become more natural and relaxed. It wasn't as forced - even though it again felt inevitable. It was also appreciated that their big romantic moment didn't wait until the season finale. It happened right before in order to create a ton of awkwardness for the finale. It wasn't like when Mindy and Danny first kissed and then spent several episodes going back-and-forth on whether or not they should date. This wasn't as annoying as that. And yet, both of the men vying for Mindy's attention right now have lied to her. That makes it seem like both of them really aren't that great for her. But the romantic angles continue with the show hoping that the guys can put enough effort into changing her mind - as well as the audience's. That's just a little too manipulative and forced.

Mindy was interested in trying something with Jody. Yes, the two of them have clashed multiple times this season. But he has never tried to change her from being the woman she wants to be. That was Danny's whole problem. He wanted Mindy to focus on Leo and place her career on the backburner. Jody encouraged Mindy to start her fertility practice and Later, Baby. They have achieved a ton of success together. She even gave him the wake up call to stop sleeping around with college girls. He needed to grow up and embrace the world for what it really is - and not the antiquated elitist worldview he started the show with. He has evolved because of her. That's why he wants to date her now. And yet, he still lied about having chlamydia. She's still angry with him about that. He tries to buy her apology too. He showers her with all of these elaborate gifts. Sure, not all of them are practical. He gives her a gun to shoot him with. That's extreme and dangerous - as Chelsea and Whitney point out to Mindy. But it continues to escalate from there as Jody wants to build Mindy a new walk-in closet for her clothes but instead buys her an entire apartment. That's his grand romantic gesture for her.

And yet, all of this is happening while Mindy is stuck in an elevator with Danny. It's a very cliche storytelling device to force two characters to talk about something they don't want to talk about. They have kept their space from each other as of late. They only interact to drop off Leo. Sometimes, they randomly bump into each other. But they haven't put in the effort to have a relationship. That changes because Leo gets into trouble at school. It's incredibly silly too. A preschool wants to suspend Leo - who is only 1-year-old - because he bit another student. That's just a lame explanation to force Mindy and Danny together. Leo is the only thing they share now. So, it's fitting that he is the one to force them to have a conversation. It is a meaningful one as well. They are allowed to be open with one another about how they've grown after their split. And yet, Danny still doesn't tell Mindy that he is engaged. He has instead opted to send her a wedding invitation in the mail. That's a dangling plot thread for next season though. In the moment in the elevator, Mindy and Danny are closer they have been in months. It's not surprising at all that they fall back into familiar patterns and have sex. It's a swoon-worthy moment because they still have so much chemistry. However, are any of their problems fixed? Not really. So, it's just a little bit too manipulative on the show's part in order to prop up a romantic cliffhanger for the end of the season.

Mindy has had a wonderful night of passion with Danny. She has been reminded of how much she loves him. And yet, she returns him to Jody's grand gesture and realizes just how good a guy he might be for her and Leo. Danny is great as well but he's still plagued with guilt about lying to her. Jody is at least being open now. Yes, he goes way too far in the name of a big romantic gesture. But it still works. Mindy is picturing the life she could have in this apartment. She couldn't imagine anything when she was with Danny in the elevator. That's why they had to talk. But in the end, Jody was able to guide her through a future that could be hers one day. It won't be surprising at all if Mindy decides to try something new and date Jody in Season 5 - especially once she walks back downstairs and finds Danny's wedding invitation. But again, that seems very likely because of the change in Messina's stature on the show. Of course, maybe I'm reading too much into that. Garret Dillahunt was billed as a special guest star all season long while Fortune Feimster was promoted to series regular halfway through. He still has a regular job over on Amazon's Hand of God. At least, I think he does. I watched two episodes of that show before I had enough. So this romantic cliffhanger really could go either way. It should be interesting to see what the show does. Does it return to Danny and play into the one true love angle of the relationship? Or will it continue down the path with Jody as something new that can be just as great? Only time will really tell.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Homewrecker" was written by Lang Fisher & Chris Schleicher and directed by Michael Spiller.
  • The show really is putting in the bare minimum when it comes to Mindy's friendships with Chelsea and Whitney. They randomly pop up every few episodes in a scene early on where they encourage Mindy to do something. And then, they just don't appear again. It's very weird.
  • Messina being around less this year also meant we got more of Ike Barinholtz as Morgan who has always been a very hit-or-miss character - with the misses seeming more frequent. Here, Morgan even suggests Jody is doomed to fail in winning over Mindy because he believes it's his turn to step up as a romantic interest for her.
  • If the show wants the audience to treat Greta Gerwig's Sarah as a genuine love interest for Danny, then it needs to actually spend time with her. She's too good of an actress to be limited to cameo appearances - like she is here.
  • All of Mindy's clothes starting a fire at the office is the action that forces Jody to build her a new walk-in closet. And yet, that hardly seems like something she would do. Would she keep extra outfits at the office? Of course. But that many just seems like a plot contrivance. Plus, how'd they last this long without going up in flames?
  • Early on, it seems Jeremy and Tamra will get a minor subplot with Jeremy criticizing the way Tamra dresses at work. But it's basically nothing. It's one scene that helps set up the fire alarm twist and nothing more than that. It's just a way for the two of them to be in this finale despite not being important at all.
  • The show will only be doing 16 episodes for its fifth season. Doing 26 this year really did seem to tire the creative team. It really is a lot to produce in one year. 16 could prove very beneficial for the show. But we'll have to wait until October 4 to find out.