The Mindy Project Should Stick To Its Rom-Com Roots

Photo: Courtesy of Hulu.
Major Mindy Project spoiler alert: After setting up a love triangle in last season's finale, between safe, "nice guy sexist" Danny (Chris Messina) and "actually not that sexist in practice" Jody (Garret Dillahunt), the show's titular character has actively chosen no one. As a feminist who knows that a woman doesn't need a relationship to complete her — or even to complete her family — I appreciated the choice. As a viewer who was promised a rom-com, I was annoyed.
Mindy Kaling has always been vocal about her love of romantic comedies and their influence on the show. One of the series' best episodes, the second season finale, is an extended tribute to classics of the genre like Sleepless in Seattle and When Harry Met Sally. The episode even manages to fit in a typical arch of the oft-maligned film genre (the initial attraction between two people, the obstacle that keeps them apart, and the dramatic confession of love). Mindy and Danny were different than a classic will-they, won't-they couple — like Rachel and Ross or Luke and Lorelai — because Mindy is at the very center of the show. Surrounding characters don't seem secondary, but tertiary, especially when they're not interacting with her. So while it was frustrating, it made sense when Danny pivoted from a charmingly old-fashioned guy with break-apart reading glasses to your sexist uncle who wonders if your job might be interfering with your baby-making potential. By ditching Danny and bringing in Jody as a love interest, the show was playing into another chick-flick trope: Your boyfriend is awful, and your soul mate has been under your nose (or in your workplace) all along! Even bringing Danny back into the fold in last season's final episode made sense in rom-com terms. It established a love triangle, which would traditionally lead to an ultimate choice of one or the other.
In the final scene of the season 5 premiere, Mindy's eyes light on the ladder leading up to the apartment Jody bought her. She runs through the rain to Jody's apartment, as a Sia song plays in the background. Romantic comedy fans know where this is going — the confession of love! It's a scene we've seen dozens of times. But for me, when Mindy declares she's chosen neither of her suitors, but rather, herself, it didn't seem like a clever subversion. It seemed like the showrunners suddenly pulled the rug out from under me. It's possible The Mindy Project destroyed its love triangle because if Mindy found true, everlasting love now, there would be no drama to keep viewers watching for seasons to come. But the show could still be moving toward an endgame that makes sense for the genre — Mindy and her significant other looking deeply into each other's eyes and declaring that all the breakups and make-ups, all the people and time that separated them don't matter; they were just meant to be. Until then, I'll be happy that Mindy is a strong, independent woman — while I bide my time rewatching You've Got Mail.

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