TV Time: The Mindy Project 3.01

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!

Source: NPR

Source: NPR

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.

Favorite Lines
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.

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15 thoughts on “TV Time: The Mindy Project 3.01

  1. OMG yes!
    That episode made me so happy! I’m really confident that Mindy can pull off this relationship. She has said that she’s not going to play will they or won’t they stay together to keep the ratings up and I think she might be able to pull it off. This episode was a very very good start.
    I have to say that changing the word bitches to haters in the title is such a stupid thing… Why do the networks worry about shit like that?
    But anyway. Yes, to Danny and Mindy being adults. Yes to the details of Danny and complicated character (I found this interesting meta about his background last night http://rockinpolkadots.tumblr.com/post/97757228658/was-he-a-man).
    Hell, YES! to the striptease. That was insane, and the kiss was just… I’m just so glad these actors are all in with this kind of stuff. That was just scorching. (I knew you must be pretty excited because you don’t often swear so enthusiastically (or at all!) in your tags 😉 )
    But the bit that made my heart stop for a moment was when he turned to Mindy on the fire escape and said “It’s real” – they’re not messing around with this. I have so much hope that they can keep up the funny and have a really good season. I don’t necessarily care about some of the other plot-lines and characters, but they don’t particularly bother me either. We’ll see how the love triangle thing plays out.

    • I can’t wait to talk about this season with you as it all plays out! 🙂

      That meta you found was amazing, and I suggest everyone reading this clicks on that link and reads it. It breaks my heart because I can definitely see Danny being the kid who went without to make sure his brother didn’t want for as much as he did, and I can see Danny being the 20-something who took a job he kept secret for decades because he wanted to pave his own way and make sure his mom was taken care of. And now I have Danny feelings all over again. 😉

      I’m with you on “It’s real”—for as amazing as the striptease was, that moment was the best and it gave me so much hope for the rest of this season. And like you, I don’t particularly care about most of the B-plots, but they never really bother me either. I’m basically just in it for Mindy and Danny, and that doesn’t seem to be a bad lens through which to view the show right now.

  2. I think you have brought us all to ‘The Mindy Project’ party!

    After speed watching seasons 1 and 2 (and by that I mean buying a Hulu subscription and only watching the eps that had both Mindy and Danny together looking flirty in the promo photo) I have to admit I was intrigued but not enamored with the show. I have a hard time dealing with shows that feature characters embarrassing themselves or getting in trouble (seriously how do I even enjoy TV?) so there were quite a few moments I found myself FFing through. But with the fun season 2 finale and this premiere I think this is a show I can start to really enjoy.

    The simple fact is, this show is at its best with Mindy and Danny as a couple. They soften each other’s worst traits, and watching these two become better people through their relationship with each other is something I am all in for seeing.

    As for the sub plots, they have a ways to go into making this an ensemble show that works really well. As I was speed watching I feel like new characters kept coming and going and I still am not quite such what this show wants to be. That said, I thought the tiara bit was pretty amusing. Lauren bless her heart was rocking that tiara at the fundraiser like a champ, and for some reason that made me really like her despite the fact I think I am suppose to not to?

    But any faults are pretty much forgivable thanks to Chris Messina. I have decided that Danny’s hotness is directly proportional to the amount of dancing his character does. There can never be too much dancing. I am just going to sit over here and wait for a ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ inspired episode where they somehow end up as contestants in a ballroom dance competition (at Danny’s insistence of course).

    Looking forward to watching the season with you!

    • I am so excited to talk about this season with you! For only watching a select group of episodes (through a very scientific selection process, which I loved), you have a really good handle on both the show’s biggest strengths and most glaring weaknesses.

      The ensemble has been an issue from day one. The cast kept changing throughout the first season and into the second season. Now that it seems they’ve found some stability in who actually makes up the ensemble, I’m hopeful that maybe these characters will get fleshed out more.

      But you’re also right when you say this show works best with Mindy and Danny as a couple, which makes me extremely enthusiastic (shocking, I know) about this season. They seem to be focused on showing how this relationship will bring out the best in these characters while not trying to fundamentally change who they are, which I’m all for seeing more of in fictional relationships.

      And I would like to saying one big “YES” to your entire paragraph about Chris Messina dancing. For as long as I’ve been able to figure out what attracts me to guys, the ability to dance has been at the top of that list. So it goes without saying that I will never be able to get enough Messina dancing. 😉

  3. So I live in the same camp as Shauna, although she did vastly more due diligence than I did. Having only watched the dance from the Christmas episode and the season 2 finale it combined with your sheer enthusiasm for the show prompted me to tune in last night. What I found were a few things already echoed here.

    The fundamental strength of the show lies in believing who Chris Messina’s Danny is as a person. Good thing Messina is such an adept actor, because it allows the broadness of his character to have weight. I think where that resonated most was coming out of the piano playing moment and into that scene that causes him to reconsider his stance. Within the hullabaloo his response and reactions to Cousin Lou were spot on. He was both exasperated by their intrusion but cares enough about Mindy to see the logic through the chaos that he has to meet her half way. So often it is in the oddest of places we see the clarity we need around a situation where we are entrenched in our point of view. This scene gave us that moment and Messina knocked it out of the park. I do have to say I wouldn’t hate if they found a way to keep Cousin Lou (played by the terrific Rob McElhenney) around.

    Second I echo both you and Shauna, the b-plot and all non Danny/Mindy related scenes fell deeply flat for me. I found them unfunny and absurdly pointless. The pointless wouldn’t be terrible (take a look a Friends b-plots for example) except for the fact that I find those characters in the medical practice almost uniformly unlikable. I realize as someone who hasn’t watched for 2 years I have very little context, but I find the caricature nature of the characters to be off putting, especially given the tone that we get from Mindy and Danny’s storyline. Crass exaggerations are never my favorite thing, but when offset with sincerity it doesn’t strike me as jarring. They’ve got some work to do on the sincerity front with the ensemble.

    That said, this episode was all about ‘ever after’ and what’s next. Like our gushing about Castle and Beckett last season there was a great thread of confidence in the relationship. I thought they did a terrific job of not creating peril/fear for the relationship when laying out a fundamental difference and need for a relationship to be successful, trust.

    The idea of privacy vs transparency and where you draw the line is very personal and often defined by your past experiences. I thought the show did a terrific job of clearly laying out that reality and then bringing us into the why. Because while Danny and Mindy knew that one liked to keep secrets and the other couldn’t keep one they never fundamentally understood why. So to have that moment on the fire escape and understand the why cemented the relationship in the best way possible. To understand that both their actions shared a commonality based in fear was moving and when Danny tells Mindy simply, it’s real, it becomes the moment when trust is born. It is self evident that Messina and Kaling enjoy playing off each other as scene partners because there is such warmth in that balcony scene. I think that’s what gave it weight. In an episode that dripped of sex, the intimacy of the episode came from a moment of new found trust. If Mindy Project can keep finding those types of nuggets this season, I am in for the duration.

    Besides, you gotta love a girl who shows no shame in grabbing her glasses for a clearer view of her man giving her a striptease. That’s confidence in the relationship your in, that’s trust.

    • As with the above I tuned in last night due to your numerous posts and excitement over what this episode could be. I am in the same boat of not really having watched the previous seasons but clips here and there and the season 2 finale.

      I will admit that for a relationship on TV, this one felt very realistic in that these are 2 very different people who will clash but worked things out with being open and talking. It was very refreshing to see. The B plot was a little weak but I was chalking that up to me not knowing those characters, but it appears loyal viewers like yourself felt the same way.

      While I don’t really need another TV show in my already full DVR, I will stick with this to see where they take this relationship. Plus, I think Chris Messina is a fantastic actor who really can explore a broad range of emotions. On The Newsroom, he plays a very different character. Plus that striptease was something else for network television. Let’s take note people (I’m looking at you ABC and CBS).

      • I’m so happy that I was able to get people to tune in—as a fan of the show, thanks for watching it (and thanks for the comment, too)!

        I agree that the openness between Mindy and Danny was a refreshing change of pace from the way most TV shows handle conflict between romantic partners. And I love hearing that kind of praise for Chris Messina’s range. They struck gold when they cast him, and I love that Mindy Kaling genuinely appreciates what a gift he’s been to her show.

    • Words cannot properly express how excited I am to have you around for these reviews. Now I just need to get you to watch Parks and Rec by January so I can have your wonderful thoughts on all the shows I’m reviewing. 😉

      You are 100% correct that the key to this show is Danny. It took me a long time to really warm up to this show, and I think the main reason why was because I had a negative opinion of Danny from the pilot that I couldn’t shake. Once the layers of his character started getting revealed and Chris Messina was allowed to bring his own depth to who Danny is, I was all in. I was trying really hard not to compare the two at all, but it reminds me of New Girl in the fact that I still believe the key to that show is Nick. The reason Mindy soared while New Girl struggled last season came down to how both shows handled their main male character—Danny became a richer character and Nick regressed to his most cartoonish traits. The reason I have faith that this show won’t repeat New Girl’s mistake is that I think Mindy Kaling understands that the key to Danny is Messina’s ability to make people feel rather than his ability to make people laugh (although obviously he can do that too).

      I loved what you said about the fire escape scene and the way these characters came to understand why they have the differences they have when it comes to privacy. It underscored the idea that the key to a healthy relationship isn’t changing who you are to be more like your partner; it’s respecting that you’re going to have differences and respecting your partner enough to appreciate why they approach things differently than you do. It was such a beautiful moment of understanding and emotional intimacy, and I loved how unforced and easy it felt between the two actors.

      A final note on the supporting characters: The show still has a long way to go towards fleshing out their minor characters and turning them into characters we can care about. However, I feel like I’m in the minority when I say this, but I really came to like Peter last season and believe he sincerely cares about Mindy as a friend. I’m hopeful that we’ll see more of that part of his character as this season goes on. I went from being annoyed with his existence all the time to genuinely liking him, so I do have some faith in the show’s ability to fix some of its ensemble problems. (Though not as much as I have faith in its handling of the Mindy/Danny relationship.)

      • Everything you said about Danny being the heart of the show is 100% perfect. He was so unlikable in the pilot that it was hard to get too attached to the show but once Danny hooked me, I was all in. His development over the seasons has been fantastic.

  4. Yes, yes, YES to everything being said here! I LOVED the premiere…I laughed so hard throughout, and Mindy and Danny were absolutely PERFECT. And that dance at the end? To quote Mindy, “woa Nelly!” 😉

  5. First of all, I love how many people you got to watch this episode due to your enthusiasm. I want everyone to see how great this show has become after a shaky beginning.

    I am so happy with the direction of the show. They are confident in their couple and it’s making everything better. Mindy and Danny are going to have problems throughout their relationship – they are two very strong personalities and are going to clash from time to time. But I’m a lot happier when I believe that those problems don’t have to be relationship-threatening for the sake of drama or tension. Solid couples don’t have to be boring and I’m so happy to have another comedy that features one.

    I love that both Danny and Mindy struggle with the intimacy that comes from a solid relationship. Not in the bedroom, they seem to have that figured out 😉 but the emotional connection and trust. Mindy has always been looking for the rom-com story which ends after the couple gets together. Being open and honest about her feelings (and not having to play games) hasn’t really been something she’s experienced. Learning that she can be herself and still be loved by her partner is new for her. I loved her confession that she overshares because that will make the relationship real. It was quiet and vulnerable and those aren’t two words I associate with Mindy very often, maybe even less than I associate them with Danny. Then Danny struggles with revealing too much about himself to everyone and it’ll be different for him to have Mindy to share things with from now on. I love that he took Morgan’s cousin’s advice to heart and opened upon the fire escape. Not just about the fact that he was a stripper but other facts about his life that show Mindy his past and the events that informed who he is.

    I agree with you and everyone else that the B-plot wasn’t very good. I’m so uninterested in Jeremy as a character that the love triangle doesn’t do much for me. I did love Tamra because she’s so ridiculous that she’s crossed over into likable for me.

    I’m so excited for next week!

    • I love feeling excited for the next episode as soon as one finishes—this was the perfect first premiere to watch because it reminded me of how happy TV can make me.

      You know I feel the same way you do about happy, stable couples on TV. GIVE ME ALL THE STABLE RELATIONSHIPS. I love that this season seems like it’s setting out to prove that there can still be interesting struggles and challenges faced by people in healthy and happy relationships, and the key is showing them dealing with those challenges together instead of using it to create unnecessary angst and drama.

      I absolutely loved what you wrote about emotional honesty not being something Mindy is used to. In all of her past relationships, we’ve seen her trying at some point to be something she’s not to impress them—either right away or as the relationship goes on. Mindy isn’t used to someone liking her for exactly who she is (which is why I still cry when she’s telling Danny all of the things she feels self-conscious about in “Danny Castellano Is My Personal Trainer”), so it’s beautiful to see her finally in a relationship with someone who she trusts with her real self.

      And now I want to go curl up in a corner and work through all of the Mindy Lahiri feelings I didn’t know I had until just now. 😉

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