Mindy Kaling is an unabashed lover of romantic comedies, and I love her for that. What I respect even more about Kaling's support of the genre is her bold venture to do what no one has successfully done before: a multiple-season-long television rom-com. What happens after the couple has the big meeting atop the Empire State Building or climactic chase at the airport? We never get to see it in movies. It's always: big final meeting, huge kiss, roll credits to the dulcet sounds of the latest Natasha Bedingfield song. That's always been The Mindy Project's biggest challenge, and Kaling's embraced it wholeheartedly. She even managed to inspire other networks to attempt their own rom-com sitcoms. ABC gave it a go with fall 2014's Manhattan Love Story. It was, unfortunately, the first axed show of the season. NBC paired the adorable Ben Feldman and Cristin Milioti together on last fall's A to Z. That, too was given the boot. As The Mindy Project has shown, a multi-season romantic comedy has to be a careful balance of the main couple's romance and sitcom elements, like a lovable cast of characters. After three seasons of tumbling ratings, though, Fox was finished with Kaling's bold TV rom-com gambit and its small but devoted audience. Luckily, Hulu swooped in to rescue Mindy and Danny's (Chris Messina) fledgling love story, so that season four could begin with a big fuck you to anyone who lacks romantic comedy reference points, or a love of the Real Housewives franchise. (Sidenote: I swear most recaps won't begin with me pouring my heart out about the current state of romantic comedies; I just have strong #feelings about them. The genre isn't dead. It shouldn't be. Miss you, Nora Ephron. Anyway, onto the show!) We already knew Mindy's big season four Hulu premiere would feature manic pixie dreamboy Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Mindy's husband in a Sliding Doors "what could have been" situation. Throughout the episode, Mindy also refers to the alternate reality as being similar to the plot of 13 Going on 30 (sadly without the "Thriller" dance and Mark Ruffalo, but you can't win 'em all in a 27-minute episode), and "It's a Wonderful Life except it was in color, and it wasn't boring." The best part about the Gordon-Levitt reality — okay fine, his character's name is Matt Sherman — is that he has an entire shelf full of Emmys for his work as a producer on the Real Housewives. It's such a great background visual joke in Mindy and Matt's "soap opera set" apartment, as she describes it. In this world, Bravo shows sweep at major award shows. It's about time Andy Cohen's reality show creations got the recognition they deserve. The worst part about the Sliding Doors reality is that Mindy and Danny haven't spoken in two years. When she jokes that she spends half her life on her knees on the carpet in his office, he's horrified (as are Fox Standards & Practices people, who are probably glad they never have to review T.M.P. scripts again). Oh, and in this timeline, Mindy is having an affair with Brendan the midwife (Mark Duplass) because she and Matt have an open marriage. No South Park pinball machine can make up for this relationship status. Judging by Mindy's reaction to this discovery, she'd rather be happily in love with one person (Danny) than have a gorgeous apartment, Bravo producer husband, a reality show in the works about the company she's founding (Delectable Desires: Slutty Girls for the Sexually Active Obese), and a new Jason Derulo song celebrating butt size ("Big Old Cheekies"). Danny, on the other hand, might be okay with this version of events. He's dating Freida Pinto. More on that later, though.
Back in real life, Danny is in India with Mindy's parents. He's trekked there to tell them that the man they keep calling a coward because he impregnated their daughter but won't marry her isn't slighting Mindy, but rather the institution of marriage. Mindy's parents, who are played by Ajay Mehta and Sakina Jaffrey, are everything we've waited four seasons to meet. Her dad has been pen pals with Morgan (Ike Barinholtz) for years, but doesn't know much about any of Mindy's other coworkers. He's also a die-hard fan of Boston. Her mother is an undiscovered Bollywood star who's having trouble translating her fame in Massachusetts regional theater — where she played everything from "gypsy to fortune teller" — to Indian yogurt commercials. Mindy's parents had an arranged marriage, and they've been happy together for years. They want to find a husband for Mindy and think Danny can help. Morgan, of course, shows up to remedy the situation, having first stopped in Pakistan and getting recruited by ISIS (The Mindy Project is going really dark on Hulu). Morgan finds the perfect husband for Mindy — a hedge fund manager and former Michael Jackson backup dancer played by The Big Bang Theory's Kunal Nayyar — and this, of course, has the desired effect of making Danny confess that he's the father of Mindy's baby. After Danny's admission, the Lahiris tell him that they're okay with Mindy having the baby without a husband as long as she has such a loving person by her side. The Lahiris are awesome. Side-swipe back to the rain-soaked climax of the alternate timeline. Mindy barges in on Danny's date with Freida Pinto. He won't hear her out, because remember that in this reality, they haven't spoken for two years, and Mindy didn't even invite Danny to her wedding. Finally, Mindy tells a horrified Danny, Freida, and entire restaurant full of customers that she's carrying Danny's child. They run out into the rain, and Mindy asks Danny why he never kissed her on that flight back from Los Angeles — the same flight where she met Matt in this version of events. It's all very Noah and Allie in The Notebook: 'Why didn't you write me?" "I wrote you every day for a year...It wasn't over — it still isn't over." Just like in The Notebook, Mindy and Danny kiss passionately as the rain pours down on them. Unlike The Notebook, where Noah and Allie go into the house and manage to remove their rain-soaked clothes while climbing up the stairs in a true feat of sexual gymnastics, Mindy and Danny return to arguing. Mindy runs into the street and is hit by a bus, much like a Rachel McAdams character in another movie, Mean Girls. Who knew this episode would be such an homage to the films of Rachel McAdams? That, of course, is the moment when Mindy wakes up from her horrible Sliding Doors nightmare. Danny has returned from India, where meeting Mindy's parents has fundamentally changed his views on marriage. He proposes, and the episode ends. Consider the gauntlet officially thrown. Not only has The Mindy Project shown us a will they or won't they couple getting together — they've also gotten pregnant, and are now engaged. In romantic comedy movies, we never get to see what happens after the wedding. If we do, it's long after, and it's usually a grim portrayal, as in films like Friends With Kids, where you wonder if those couples were ever happy or in love at all. I'm excited to see where this season of The Mindy Project goes, especially once Mindy and Danny's baby enters into the equation. Kids and how to incorporate them into an adult show can be another tension spot for writers, but shows like Playing House have managed to navigate a birth and baby into plotlines without detracting too much from adult storylines. We'll see, I guess. I also want to know what happens to the alternate world with Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Freida Pinto. Maybe they get together and happily play South Park pinball into their golden years.