THE MINDY PROJECT — Season: 5 — Pictured: Mindy Kaling as Mindy — (Photo by: Chris Haston/Universal Television)
The Mindy Project Delivered the Realistic Romantic Comedy We Never Knew We Needed
“Can we just watch TV? We have the rest of our lives to argue.”
Meet the new happily ever after: happily ever right now. The Mindy Project ended its six-season journey (which is the right word for it: passed over by NBC, debuted on Fox, ended on Hulu) on Tuesday, bringing the epic saga that was Dr. Mindy Lahiri’s love life to a fittingly clumsy close.
When it first premiered in 2012, The Mindy Project introduced us to Mindy as she was acting like a hot mess at her ex’s wedding, eventually getting arrested for drinking while biking. Now, six seasons later, Mindy is once again on a bike, but this time, she doesn’t end up at the bottom of a swimming pool or behind bars; she ends up as the Sandra Bullock of her own life on her own terms.
Of course, it wasn’t surprising that Mindy and Danny (Chris Messina, never better or better-looking than with his graying beard) ultimately ended up together, set to spend the rest of their lives affectionately bickering. We all know how TV shows and end game works. But the twists and turns of their journey often caught us fickle TV viewers off-guard, largely because most romantic comedies don’t often show what comes after the big kiss or grand gesture.
Fortunately for us, The Mindy Project lives (and thrives) in the after, showing just how hard, messy and awkward a relationship can be. It’s the ultimate love letter to rom-coms, a genre Kaling has a clear affection for, making her snarky-yet-still-hopeful take on all the standard conventions of the genre even more clever…and Mindy and Danny’s relationship all the more frustratingly realistic.
“So much of everything is the wedding plot, or the marriage plot, which is just get to the wedding and then happily ever after, and I think that there’s so much interesting stuff that can happen after,” Kaling told us in February 2016. “These are people who are very, very different, who would have not chosen to be together trying to make it work. And that sounds really serious and not fun but I think we have made it some of the finest stuff ever because it’s just really real.”
The couple’s relationship was sped up after Mindy learned she was pregnant in season three, pretty soon after she and Danny decided to quit the will-they-or-won’t-they bulls–t and do the damn thang, with the new parents learning they had very different ideas and values when it came to raising a child.
“People can change, but they can’t change that much. And I think that especially when you’re in a relationship and especially when there’s a kid involved,” Kaling explained to us. “Relationships get hard when there’s a kid when beforehand there would not have been any issues because of the different ways on how to raise a kid and what that kid’s life should be, so it’s like the character is showing his true self a little bit and it’s so in opposition to our lead. It’s challenging and it’s really real.”
And the challenges were too much for the couple to face, leading to a breakup and ill-fated marriages to different people for both.
A romantic at heart, the finale proved that sometimes a little change is enough for a huge shift. Viewers were furious that back in season five Danny wanted Mindy to stop working and become a full-time mother. (If you find that shocking, please come spend time with my Irish Catholic family soon!)
However, in the series finale, Danny played a key role in Mindy’s practice remaining open, no strings attached, because he realized he was wrong and Mindy could do things on her own terms. She could, in fact, have it all. (Just don’t ask him to turn off Blue Bloods, OK?)
For a character that started off the series by criticizing Mindy’s weight, this is a huge step. Sure, viewers were often so charmed by Messina’s charisma (and dances moves…and red reading glasses…and gingerbread-house-making skills) they often forgot who Danny really was at his core. (Though his decision to basically abandon Mindy and Leo to go across the country and take care of his father was a bit of a head-scratcher.)
Danny’s absence in seasons 4-6 (due to Messina’s film schedule) gave the show the chance to explore something rarely seen on TV: a single mother casually dating and it was something Kaling once defended in a tweet in 2016, writing, “People ask where Mindy’s baby is when I’m on a dating story. He’s off playing w/the children on male-driven comedies no one ever asks about.”
Kaling elaborated on the criticism when talking to E! News, saying, “We don’t expect a man to take care of his child. They have freedom that they can do whatever and the nanny will be taking care of it…And on our show, the character is such a caring mother and she has disposable income, she’s a doctor. And the father’s in the picture. And yet, you still hear people ask where the father is. And it’s one of those things that is one of the most openly sexist things that no one really knows that they’re saying that.”
(In a possible case of life imitating art, Kaling announced she was expecting a child in August 2017, and has yet to publicly reveal her baby’s paternity.)
Still, a romantic at heart, Mindy ultimately did find her happy ending, but she found it even before her reconciliation with Danny, realizing she didn’t need a husband to have a fulfilling life, a concept the Mindy of seasons past would’ve shot down faster than a free juice cleanse.
And so Mindy and Danny did end up finding their imperfectly perfect happy ending…at least until it’s time to decide what to get for dinner.
The Mindy Project is available to stream on Hulu.