Welcome, friends, to the first of my weekly reviews of The Mindy Project! I hope you’re ready to spend this season discussing all things Mindy and Danny with me, because if this premiere was any sign of how this season is going to unfold, we’re in for a fun ride!
Title We’re a Couple Now, Haters!
Two-Sentence Summary As Danny and Mindy’s conflicting stances on privacy present an obstacle in their new relationship, Peter and Jeremy find themselves both vying for the affections of the same woman (Peter’s girlfriend Lauren). And Mindy’s promise to keep the details of her relationship with Danny out of the office becomes difficult to keep when she finds a mystery thong in Danny’s drawer.
Mindy: I think the reason I tell everyone about us is because I want it to be real, and the more real it seems, the less likely it is that it could all get taken away from me.
Danny: It’s real.
My Thoughts Let’s not bury the lead here: Danny Castellano (aka Diamond Dan) did a striptease for Mindy at the very end of last night’s premiere of The Mindy Project, and none of us who watched it will ever be the same.
I thought I’d died and gone to heaven when Danny gave Mindy her choreographed Secret Santa gift in last season’s “Christmas Party Sex Trap,” so I think it goes without saying that if I wrote what was really going through my mind at the end of “We’re a Couple Now, Haters!” this entire review would consist only of “OH MY GOD,” “HOT DAMN,” and “I CAN’T EVEN” (which is an accurate reenactment of my Tweets from last night…and this morning…and probably every day for the rest of my life now that this exists). What I will say is Mindy Kaling certainly knows her audience, and she’s thankfully not above giving them everything they never knew they always wanted.
All fangirl freaking out aside, that last scene said a lot about both the character of Danny Castellano and The Mindy Project as a whole as the show enters its third season on the heels of a spectacular second-season finale. It was a moment that oozed confidence. Although the “belt move” (as I’m calling it) and the ridiculously hot kiss at the end both had their merits (as did a million other details in that scene), my favorite part was at the very beginning of it, when Danny walked into the doorway to the opening beats of “American Woman” and proceeded to do a little shoulder shake perfectly in-time with the music. It was so effortlessly confident that it drew me in completely, and if the scene had ended right there, I still would have loved it.
Confidence is so attractive, and it’s something Chris Messina as an actor, Danny Castellano as a character, and this show in general have in spades right now. For as excited as I was about this season, I wasn’t sure anything could live up to my expectations after a finale as strong as “Danny and Mindy.” However, “We’re a Couple Now, Haters!” took everything that made me feel hopeful after that finale and brought it to life in a premiere that has me even more excited for this whole season than I was two weeks ago, if that’s even possible.
Like “Danny and Mindy,” the parts of “We’re a Couple Now, Haters!” not actually dealing with Danny and Mindy fell a bit flat, which was more noticeable in this episode since there was a whole B-plot about other characters. I don’t really care about Jeremy and Peter’s fight over Lauren, and I hope it doesn’t last long. However, it did make good use of the hilarious Xosha Roquemore, as Tamra kept trying to record all of the fighting on her phone. Roquemore was also great in a short bit with Mindy Kaling near the beginning of the episode, where Mindy and Tamra discussed the lack of insurance coverage for “women who want to look bang-able at work.” With some good material for her and Ike Barinholtz (such as Morgan’s disturbing amount of knowledge about male strippers’ thongs), I found myself laughing often at characters besides just Mindy and Danny, which needs to happen for this show to become even more successful.
In the end, though, this was an episode about the “couple” the title was referring to, and it delivered on its promise of telling a compelling story of what happens after the rom-com ending at the top of the Empire State Building. The same confident tone and clear voice that made “Danny and Mindy” so wonderful were back in full effect here, and the result was another excellent episode.
Something I love about both Mindy and Danny is that they’re adults who are written as adults—not overgrown children, despite having plenty of exaggerated character traits. They know who they are, and they know who the other is, too (see both of their monologues that opened the episode), which is the foundation for a real, adult relationship. And what most impressed me about their relationship in this episode was their willingness to address conflicts head-on and work through them together. These characters were written to be at odds often and hilariously, and being in a relationship shouldn’t change that. I loved that the writing in this episode allowed conflict to come from those character-driven differences (Danny’s privacy versus Mindy’s over-sharing nature), and it showed a couple talking about those differences and finding a middle ground together.
Mindy and Danny are extreme characters, and I like that this relationship has already given and will continue to give them balance, while keeping things fun along the way. Because it was funny to watch all of Danny’s coworkers talk about his skills with his mouth (because of course he’d be great at that, too), but Mindy does need to learn that intimate things like that are best kept between people in the relationship. And as funny as it was to hear Mindy compare Danny to Batman because of his secretive nature, it was even better to watch him discover that it’s okay to share those secrets with Mindy. There’s humor to be found in these conflicts, and there’s also growth. And this episode struck the perfect balance between them. It was genuinely funny, but it also showed these characters opening up to each other like never before.
That openness is like a gift that keeps on giving when it comes to Danny’s character. Somehow this man can go from shaking his groove thing in his boxer briefs to “More Than a Feelings” to playing “Let It Go” on the piano (quite possibly my favorite detail in the episode) without any of it ringing false. Danny’s character development has been the best thing about this show for quite some time, and it continued in this episode. I’d even go so far as to say he’s one of the most genuinely interesting characters in a TV comedy right now because the details of his character—his past, his interests, his quirks, his pet peeves—are so rich, and they seem to be getting fleshed out more confidently with each episode. And what I love about him and Mindy together is that his depth (and Messina’s gift for realistic emotion) is making Mindy Lahiri a better character and Mindy Kaling a better actress.
The scene between Danny and Mindy on the fire escape was everything right about the course The Mindy Project is on right now. It resolved the conflict between Mindy and Danny realistically, gave new depth to both characters, and left me more in love with them as a couple than ever (plus it made me laugh really hard with the knife gag). There was such vulnerability between both of them in that scene, and both Kaling and Messina played the growing openness between them perfectly. When Danny pulled out his list of secrets, I actually got tears in my eyes because it made me so happy to see him opening up and trusting Mindy. It was a moment that I’m sure seemed sweet to people just tuning in for the first time, but it was even more monumental for those of us who’ve watched Danny struggle with being vulnerable and talking about his past (like his middle name being his father’s name) in front of anyone.
And for as much as Danny was opening himself up to Mindy, she did the same with him. I was floored by the emotional honesty in her secret. That’s what good character development is all about, surprising viewers while keeping things grounded in what we already know. We know Mindy likes to share things about her relationships, but now we know why. It’s because she thinks making things public makes it more difficult for people to leave her. And that’s especially true for Danny. Their first try at a relationship was a secret, and then he broke up with her without warning. It was so heartbreakingly believable for Mindy to hope that she could make it harder for him to walk away this time if she got their coworkers involved. And it was so important that she told Danny exactly why she was sharing so much about their relationship.
Mindy Lahiri is a character who has grown from wanting a rom-com to just wanting something real, and she’s finally found that. When Danny told her sweetly and simply, “It’s real,” that was all the assurance she needed. Their relationship isn’t a secret or a fairytale or a dream; it’s real. It’s not perfect, and it will never be perfect, but that’s what makes it feel real to them as characters and to us as viewers. And that’s all I ever want to see from a fictional couple I’ve invested my emotions in.
So while this episode ended with a striptease, the most revealing part was the scene before it. And while I don’t think I’ll ever forget Danny pelvic thrusting or ripping his shirt open, I’ll also never forget his assurance that his relationship with Mindy is real. The fact that The Mindy Project can swing from silly to sweet to sexy so gracefully in the course of one episode has me feeling more confident in this show than ever before. And we all know that confidence is a great thing to have—just ask Diamond Dan.