PB & Naans
A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
The Mindy Project returns as unabashedly cheerful and optimistic as ever. The optimism certainly has been earned. After consistently average ratings that began to become even more dodgy in its third season, the show was by all accounts set to be executed by the FX network. The worst fears of every Mindy fan were thusly confirmed and the show was cancelled. As if a testament to its eternal optimism, however, that cancellation arrived at a most opportune moment. The mediums of television have transformed so massively that for a show to be axed from a network no longer means a death knell. Streaming services like Netflix, Amazon, and even Yahoo! picked up struggling shows and extended a lifeline to its characters and ardent fans, in some cases allowing the series to at least finish its story in a proper manner. The Mindy Project had a following that while not strong enough to remain on FX’s roster was good enough for Hulu and the show was picked up for a robust twenty-six episode season. Unlike The Killing and Arrested Development, which were both picked up by Netflix, Mindy on Hulu doesn’t have to transition to the binge-watching model, where the necessities of keeping a weekly narrative construct aren’t nearly as vital. Nor does Mindy’s return on a streaming platform so far indicate a much raunchier, obscene show. The politically incorrect jokes, celebrity cameos, and some of the funniest one-liners around are all available in abundance, to where addition obscenity never becomes necessary. Most importantly, however, the relationship between Mindy and Danny continues to be by far one of the most compelling romantic comedy romances on television.
I’ve written at length at how, even if the show has stumbled in other areas, its depiction of romance has taken so many romantic comedy tropes and subverted them rather brilliantly. Yet the show still manages to find new ways to do so about sixty-odd episodes in and that feat is impressive. Mindy’s parents (played sublimely by Spider-Man’s Ajay Mehta and House of Cards’s Sakina Jaffrey) were a real wild card here, with the nature of their portrayal completely up in the air. On a stereotypical level, Indian parents aren’t generally known to be the most flexible types, especially when it comes to the romantic lives of their children. Arranged marriages in Indian society are still the norm, despite their theoretical complications and the significant shifts in the postmodern worldview towards marriage as a whole. India is a fairly regionalistic society over a nationalist one and the practices relating to arranged marriages vary significantly. In Kerala, for example, the groom’s family pays the bride’s family a dowry as the daughter is considered to be the symbol of good fortune for the house while in the vast majority of the country the opposite is the norm. Castes, while illegal in legal terms, can be quite important in terms of a family’s status in society. Interracial relationships, however, remain some of the trickiest marital circumstances to navigate.
The revelations of Mindy’s parents in that context become even more genre-subverting than what I was expecting. Mindy’s parents are two individuals bursting with confidence and a jazz for life, for lack of a better phrase. Their worldview isn’t enshrined in the typical conservative parentage the audience wouldn’t expect, as Mindy herself did when she imagined her parents’ reaction to the news that she became pregnant by a white man. Yet her parents’ reactions aren’t what she or the audience expects at all. Assumedly, they weren’t super thrilled when Mindy told them the news, but when Danny reveals that he’s the baby daddy, neither his ethnicity nor Mindy’s pregnancy outside of wedlock were their concerns. Their worry, above all else, was that Danny wasn’t there with Mindy at the moments when she needed him the most. Morgan’s arrival in India (accidentally via Pakistan) only serves to underscore the importance of what Danny was missing, the mistake he was making in wanting to avoid making another one. His fears of marriage, explored thoroughly throughout the series’ run, are valid but once again Mindy’s parents aren’t concerned about the societal necessities of marriage. They just want Danny to step up and accept his responsibility to be with their daughter at that hour.
For Mindy, the episode plays like a twist of Sliding Doors, where she comes across a future where Danny never kisses her on the plane. Instead he goes on a date with Freida Pinto and she gets married to Matt (a hilarious Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a reality television producer with whom she has an open relationship. At first, everything is swimming before it begins to break apart. As Danny is realizing his follies in Delhi, Mindy is recognizing that she belongs with Danny. Sure, Matt and Mindy sounds like something Mindy would love and a three-way with Michael Fassbender is surely something no one would ever turn down. But it’s not what she wants. Mindy above all cherishes equality and respect in a relationship and an open relationship where her and her partner are not wholly loyal to one another is something that doesn’t fit within her worldview. The episode ending on Danny proposing to her at her bedside is perfect, the simple “Mindy Lahiri, will you marry me?” imbued with a plethora of earned emotion. Relationships are complicated beings in and of themselves and so often they’re treated in stories as being far more simple than they really are. In exploring Mindy and Danny’s relationship, The Mindy Project did risk redundancy at several moments by retreading the same ground but it always bounced back. Romantic comedies can often be simple, but real life relationships with complicated human beings are anything but and in continuing to espouse that reality, the show is stronger than ever before.
Great/Not So Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:
+“He’s not wearing a yamaka? Then how is he so rich?”
+“I spent half my life kneeling on this floor.”
+Danny’s description of Diwali: “You know, when you push the lantern into the water.”
+Morgan of House Tookers
+Morgan was almost recruited by the Taliban, was a detective in a porno, and is the American Book of Losers on page 275. Sounds about right.
+Real Housewives: Black vs. White
+Morgan eating a PB & Naan is perfection
+“Danny, she’s killing me! She’s so heavy!”
Episode Title: While I Was Sleeping
Written by: Mindy Kaling
Directed by: Michael Spiller
Image Courtesy: Series Online PT