The Mindy Project consistently nails breakups. Mindy Lahiri has dumped and been dumped many times over the course of the series, and each breakup is distinct and complex, pulling some of the best performances out of Mindy Kaling and tapping into the show’s emotional core. Breakups suck, but it’s often difficult to convey why they suck outside of the more obvious reasons (loneliness, insecurity, confusion). Television often simplifies breakups, using them to merely spur character development or as a dramatic plot device. The Mindy Project is more nuanced, more penetrating in how it portrays breakups. The relationship drama is often more effective than the show’s humor, and the past two seasons of the show have shifted toward slightly more dramatic storytelling. In particular, the writers are excellent at ending relationships, and I’m hoping they do the same with ending the show itself. Heading into its final season, The Mindy Project lines up the pieces for Mindy’s biggest breakup yet: her divorce from Ben.
Marriage is the endgame of most romantic comedies, and as a lifelong devotee of rom-comes, marriage has been Mindy Lahiri’s endgame, too. She has been barreling toward this goal for so long, and even though she was starting to think she might not want to be married after all, she ended up seizing the opportunity to elope with Ben. The season six premiere jumps right into her new life as a married woman, and the titular question lingers throughout the episode: Is that all there is? With a few exceptions, most romantic comedies end with the wedding. Mindy doesn’t have a script to follow anymore, and now The Mindy Project is starting its final chapter in a weird place for the character, significantly altering her arc by pushing her through the revelation that marriage isn’t always the endgame.
Mindy and Ben’s problems make for the strongest storyline in the premiere, particularly because of how subtle they are. Mindy and Ben still obviously love each other. Their marriage isn’t so much a huge disaster as it is tense and subtly sad. Mindy says “goodnight, sweetheart,” to a pile of pillows for two whole days before realizing it’s not Ben, who went down to New Jersey to prove a point. Mindy doesn’t even notice his absence, and when he is around, she doesn’t seem entirely present. With their kids away for the week, Ben hopes to spend some one-on-one time with Mindy, but she keeps ditching him to hang with her coworkers, actions that seem innocent until they’re all totaled up and coupled with the fact that she mistook a pile of pillows for him. They talk it out, and Mindy agrees that they need to be more present with one another. But when Ben waits up for her after another work day, she texts him to say she’s on her way when she most definitely is not. Instead, she falls asleep on the couch in the break room. She literally chooses a nap by herself at work to spending time with her husband. We already knew going into this season that The Mindy Project would tackle divorce, but even with that knowledge, there’s a certain level of suspense to the story. The premiere shows a marriage slowly unraveling, and it’s unsettling. Mindy Kaling gives a strong dramatic performance throughout. Her gaze is empty when she’s with Ben. She’s smiling, but she isn’t totally there.
Over at Shulman & Associates, Colette asks Jody to fire Karen, who is understandably a little hostile toward Colette at work since she ghosted their engagement party. Then Colette has to ask her to come back because the office starts to fall apart without Karen. It’s the weakest subplot of the premiere, especially since it concludes with Colette and Karen realizing they should be able to be friends with their exes since they’re lesbians (ending on a joke about hardware stores). The Mindy Project loves to makes jokes out of stereotypes, and a lot of times, the humor just falls flat. The reconciliation between Colette and Karen just feels hasty and lazy...like a joke about lesbians in hardware stores.
Jeremy and Tamra both make major life decisions in the premiere. Jeremy asks Anna to move in with him, but she turns him down (after making a detailed pros and cons list of course). She has only ever been with two other guys before Jeremy, and she wants to see what else is out there. Tamra, meanwhile, decides to have a baby as a single mother, seeking out assistance from Mindy’s fertility clinic. Making Tamra, who injects patients all day every day, unable to give herself injected hormones is really just a ploy to bring Tamra and Morgan closer together again. Although, her aversion to sticking herself with a needle makes a little more sense in the context of her fears about whether or not she’ll make a good mother. Morgan reassures her that she will, and it’s a genuinely sweet moment, but Morgan and Tamra are a tough couple to root for, especially since Morgan is so inappropriate about his obvious affection for her. His reaction to her wanting to get pregnant is to bring up the fact that he used to always imagine impregnating her. While Mindy and Ben’s conflict is nuanced, the rest of the storylines at play in the premiere are clunky and mechanical. Tamra’s decision to have a baby on her own is interesting, but here it seems to mostly act as a way to bring her and Morgan closer again.
- Hi, I’m your new TV Club correspondent for The Mindy Project! Like Mindy Lahiri, I am a huge fan of rom-coms and a bit of a hopeless romantic. This show has had its ups and downs, but I’m excited to see how its final chapter unfolds, and I already like what’s going on with Mindy and Ben.
- Mindy wants to help Tamra come up with baby names and has been really into young animals lately, like Fawn, Duckling, and Larvae. Tamra, understandably, is appalled.
- “I was just talking to nobody about ham again.”
- If I’m being honest, Ben has the personality of a pile of pillows.