“The Mindy Project’s” midseason finale begins under pressure: Dealing with Danny’s impending nuptials have sent Mindy over the edge, Danny’s taunting voice coming out of photos, eating her feelings… And eventually she drives to her parents’ house. When you’re home alone and start hearing your ex in your head, that’s probably the best option.
Reverting to childhood — which for most of us means expecting your parents to treat you like you did when you were young, but for Mindy means reverting past that place since it’s where she lives — Mindy crashes out in her old bedroom, ready to be cared for.
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But next morning, Mindy’s mom doesn’t bring her the usual breakfast in bed — instead, she takes off with her sister, very suspiciously. It doesn’t rub Mindy and Rishi the right way, so after a bit of ‘Mr. Robot-ing,’ Mindy and her brother discover via emails that their starstruck mom is meeting with an overly-friendly theater director at a fancy restaurant.
Morgan calls from Danny’s rehearsal dinner to tell Mindy Danny pulled him aside and confessed he’s been thinking about her, which he believes means she should show up at the dinner, to put the brakes on his wedding to someone else. Longtime ‘Mindy’ fans, of course, will remember this is how the whole ‘Project’ started: Mindy drunkenly embarrassing herself at her ex’s reception and ending up riding a bike into a swimming pool.
Almost bailing on Rishi, Mindy considers going back to NYC to show up — but her brother appeals to her family obligations, and they agree: Although their father does have rather poor taste in fashion, they can’t let their mom stray. Their attempt to intervene in what is, of course, an actual, regular casting meeting for a play blows the role up in her face, and back home she explodes.
Mrs. Lahiri berates them for sabotaging her dreams — despite all her sacrifices so they could achieve theirs — and any flirtations with the director were just that. While Rishi still clings to his idea that their mother should be satisfied with her identity as a mother, Mindy heads off to apologize to the director… Who, of course, does turn out to be a perv on top of it.
Consoling her mom, devastated at losing a lead role, Mindy hears Danny in her head again, and decides to set off after all.
“That’s okay,” Mrs. Lahiri says. “My life is going nowhere. Focus on yours.”
Mindy has now fully regressed back to Season 1 and all her impulsive, destructive rom-com antics. On her way to ruin Danny’s dinner, current flame Ben (Bryan Greenberg) calls to say he loves her: The plot thickens!
Will Mindy go back to her baby daddy, and his traditionalist views on marriage — or give herself a chance to pursue something new with someone who believes in her? She thanks Ben for calling (although she doesn’t say it back), and they agree that she is crazy, but clearly worth it.
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Arriving back at her parent’s house, Mindy confesses she had been planning to stop the wedding after beginning to hear Danny in her head again — who, Mom points out, sounds a lot like Mindy.
“You’ve always been so driven and hard on yourself that somewhere along the line you started to believe that if someone wasn’t hard on you, they didn’t care about you. Eventually you ended up with the man who did the criticizing for you — and when he was gone, you started doing the criticizing for him.”
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Episode 6, “Concord,” finally closes the Danny chapter that Mindy’s been rereading over and over. As much as we hate what the show did to Danny’s character, it did eventually lead to some exciting places, even if it has taken entire seasons to get there.
Listening to her mom re-enact her own arrival in America, Mindy declines a call from Danny and shoots Ben an ‘I love you’ text instead. For those of us wishing for a definitive “I choose me” moment, it may feel a little anticlimactic.
But “The Mindy Project” as a whole has always been about Mindy’s search for love, and when we look at the overall arc of the series, that search has been defined by her relationship with Danny: Every romantic hero and Austen antihero, every Colin Farrell and Colin Firth trope, has played out at some point upon that screen. Marriage, children, divorce, rebound, heartbreak, all of it.
To experience the full “project,” we have to experience Mindy making a real break, out of the familiar and into the new — and if that took the better part of two seasons, perhaps that’s just because the story Mindy tells herself, and us, about Danny Castellano was too good to miss.
Love is a challenge, and good love is a challenge between equals: It’s only when the friction stops that the relationship goes cold. So while we’d never get to see this Mindy if she’d stayed with Danny, projecting all her worst qualities onto him, making him the victim and the monster by turns, it’s also true that if she never totally moved on, their relationship wouldn’t feel complete.
Mindy’s a love addict, coming out into the light: Turning away from the unhealthy situation she and Danny created for themselves is her first step in getting clean. So while she has allowed herself to fall in love again, it seems to us that’s not the biggest story here: It’s that real love doesn’t feel like a rom-com at all.
It feels like this: Awkward phone calls and silences and missed connections, being rude or careless and apologizing until you’re sure they know you mean it. It feels like setting aside the old toys you broke and can’t stop playing with — and sudden, sharp joy so bright it’s hard to look at.
“The Mindy Project” hits Hulu early Tuesday mornings, and has been renewed through Season 6.