[This is a review of The Mindy Project season 3, episode 1. There will be SPOILERS.]
When the "will they/won't they" on The Mindy Project finally culminated after two seasons of friendship (and a brief false start) between Mindy (Mindy Kaling) and Danny (Chris Messina) it was a moment that felt right and organic for the show and the characters.
All the classic romantic comedy elements were there: the dramatic dash, the magical Empire State Building and "that" kiss, but it was also perfectly imperfect with Danny and Mindy collapsed on the floor of the observation desk, gasping for air after separately getting hit by a car and climbing to the top of the landmark building. A signature moment to be sure, last season's finale also signaled a sea change for the acclaimed but under-watched comedy.
In love with the idea of love and occasionally eager to pay tribute to the clever romantic comedies of Nora Ephron, The Mindy Project is now in uncharted territory. Where's the comedy and romance when the thrill of the hunt is gone and that final kiss seals the bond between two people who had been hopelessly drifting away from their shared fate for the entirety of the story? What happens after Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks meet on the top of the Empire State Building and after Billy Crystal runs to Meg Ryan?
In some ways, it's exciting to see this show look beyond the rom-com fairytale ending to cut at what's real about making a relationship work (especially one with workplace entanglements). However, after the season three premiere, it seems as though this transition may not be seamless.
Away from work, Danny and Mindy seem to be getting along fine. There are sacrifices on both fronts, but it seems as if they are making it work. I wish we would have seen more of the domestic back and forth but instead it feels like we zipped through the establishment of the relationship to get right into a few (admittedly more humorous) awkward situations and a somewhat major fight between them.
Gossip and trust are the heart of this episode. Danny isn't at all happy that Mindy has been talking about his prowess in the bedroom while at their shared office and he wants her to change, but he's more than willing to dish with Mindy about the back rub that he saw Jeremy (Ed Weeks) give to Peter's girlfriend while they were working on a charity project.
That exchange is immediately put on the back-burner, though, when Mindy discovers a thong with the word "Diamond" written on it in Danny's drawer. Naturally, this sends her off on a hunt for information before she discovers - thanks to Peter (Adam Pally), Morgan (Ike Barinholtz) and the internet - that it is actually a male stripper's thong and that Danny used to dance under the name "Diamond Dan."
All things come to a head at a party when Danny and Mindy confront each other (he's mad because she told Tamra about Peter's girlfriend, thus continuing the trend of telling people about the things that are discussed in their relationship), spurring Danny to reveal that he doesn't trust Mindy with her secrets - which is a harsh thing to say. Harsher than that? Peter's response to the news that his girlfriend (Lauren) did, in fact, kiss Jeremy, prompting him to punch his colleague in the teeth before later arguing with him over Jeremy's intention to keep pursuing the girl.
The back and forth in the street between Peter and Jeremy mostly wrapped up the B-story for this week, though Morgan's cousin Lou - the "hunky drifter" and ex-con/IT guy - pops up at the end of the episode to play cupid for Danny and Mindy. Played by It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia star and creator Rob McElhenney, Lou is a fountain of knowledge who is trying hard to hook Mindy as a sugar mama from the early goings of this episode. Still, even he notices the hold that Danny has on Mindy and he advises him that he's "gotta be open with the people you love" before letting it slip that he ratted Morgan out years ago, leading to a two-year prison sentence. "The truth will set you free," says Lou on his way out the door after realizing that he can't play the piano.
I have nothing but praise for McElhenney's character (what's better: the fact that Lou, an admitted Richard Lewis superfan, has a neck tattoo of the comedian or that the tattoo itself is never mentioned directly?), but using his words of "wisdom" to flip a switch in Danny's head feels weak and it makes the episode's blissful conclusion feel a bit unearned. The same goes for Mindy's sweet admission to Danny about why she spills their secrets as much as she does.
If The Mindy Project is going to show us this relationship - with the bite and wit that has made this show of the best written comedies on television - then they're going to have to allow for the bumps in Danny and Mindy's relationship to feel like real bumps. If Danny and/or Mindy (at a later date) are going to make sacrifices like letting someone into their very private world, then we should see those walls come down slowly - not all at once because the clock is running out on an episode.
As for the rest of the cast - though they were present and occasionally involved on the periphery, it felt like they weren't as integral as they usually are. Hopefully, that wasn't an indication that they're going to take a backseat to Mindy and Danny's relationship this season. The Mindy Project's strengths come from its ensemble, and though this episode was mostly enjoyable (save for the easy resolution), it was missing the certain something that comes to light when everyone has a bit more to do.
The Mindy Project airs Tuesdays @9:30pm ET on FOX.