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The Mindy Project ties up the loose ends of Mindy's divorce a little too neatly

Illustration for article titled The Mindy Project ties up the loose ends of Mindy's divorce a little too neatly
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In “May Divorce Be With You,” everyone is pretty much waiting for Mindy to fall completely apart. Her coworkers and brother all make a bigger deal out of her divorce than she does. Really, Mindy seems mostly fine with the fact that she and Ben are divorcing. At first, it seems a bit like The Mindy Project is taking the easy way out with this divorce. The less attached Mindy is to Ben, the easier it is for her to move on and for the story to move forward, too. But in portraying Mindy’s divorce this way, The Mindy Project actually delivers an unexpected and nuanced story. Not all divorces are huge, dramatic sagas. Some are fast, especially when custody isn’t an issue. But even one like Mindy’s, where she’s completely at peace with the decision and no longer in love with Ben, is bound to get a little messy.

The weird pressure on Mindy to fall apart over her divorce from her peers and coworkers gives interesting tension to the story. When people undergo major life changes like divorce, there’s often pressure to react or behave a certain way and if you don’t, you start to wonder if there’s something wrong with you. That seems to be what’s happening with Mindy, who just wants everyone to believe she’s okay. She feels lucky: She has a great job and a great kid. But as Tamra points out, she no longer has a marriage, and that’s pretty much been her number one goal in life for years. Mindy’s forced into a complicated headspace. The logistics of divorce are complicated, as explained by her lawyer and ex-boyfriend Cliff, but she still doesn’t see this as some huge setback in her life. Assuring other people you’re okay is a frustrating place to be in, especially when dealing with something like a divorce.

Mindy’s breakdown does eventually come, but it isn’t because she realizes she still has feelings for Ben or has lost her sense of self now that she’s going to be single again. Rather, she becomes sad to the point of spreading out on the floor of her apartment like a corpse at the news that Ben wants half her money. So even though Mindy thinks this divorce is going to be easy peasy since it’s mostly amicable, it’s clear that divorce is still complicated.

Peter and Lauren return to New York, and Lauren inexplicably has a perm, which inspires some lukewarm jokes. Peter’s return comes at the perfect time. Peter eventually replaced Danny as Mindy’s top confidant in the workplace, and every time he re-enters the picture, he seems to understand Mindy better than anyone else. Adam Pally is one of the funniest members of this cast, and he’s such an endearing actor that he makes Peter’s frat-bro qualities bizarrely lovable—most of the time. The Mindy Project’s tendency to play fast and loose with jokes about race, sexual assault, and gender identity has consistently been the most frustrating part of the show for me. The little runner about racial slurs in karaoke isn’t funny nor does it even have a point. Peter and Jody are both supposed to be unlikable characters, but the humor often crosses a line into downright racist, sexist, and not to mention insipid. The karaoke bit and Jody’s anti-semitism bring this episode down.

Encouraged by Anna to ignore Cliff’s advice to only talk through lawyers, Mindy decides to talk to Ben. But he’s busy with a patient, so she ends up talking to his daughter Lindsay in a very awkward scene that forces a resolution to Mindy and Ben’s problems in a very heavy-handed way. Nothing anything Lindsay says in the scenes sounds like something a child would say, and Mindy’s “I’m really sorry that I’m not going to be your stepmom anymore” comes off as stilted, too. Mindy ultimately decides that if Ben getting her money means that Lindsay will be able to college then it’s an okay sacrifice to make. This would maybe work if Mindy and Lindsay had a more established relationship on the show, but Lindsay, like Leo, is usually an afterthought. While the episode’s exploration of an amicable yet still somewhat messy divorce starts out strong, it barrels through a hasty resolution that sucks some of the nuance out of it.

While Mindy is going through her divorce, Jeremy and Anna actually end up getting back together. One of the best scenes of the episode comes when Anna tells Mindy she’s thinking of leaving the practice and giving her job to Peter. Anna finds it too hard to be around her ex at work. Mindy tells her to suck it up. She has plenty of experience working with exes, and she doesn’t want Anna to make a major decision just because of some guy. Mindy also points out that she likes working with another woman and that she considers Anna a friend. In truth, Mindy doesn’t seem to have a lot of female friends, and it’s refreshing to see Mindy giving Anna strong, supportive advice. And when Mindy says that Anna’s breakup is more complicated than her divorce because she still has feelings for the other person, something clicks in Anna’s robot-adjacent brain, inspiring her to perform a romantic gesture. She serenades Jeremy, who is thrilled at the thought of his life finally becoming a musical, and the two kiss.


Then the episode ends on a Cliff-delivered cliffhanger: Danny Castellano is getting a divorce. Now, I have never been on board with the idea that Danny and Mindy are soulmates. But it is both fitting and juicy that they’re going through divorces at the same time. It opens the door for Chris Messina’s return, which has been confirmed. And it gives The Mindy Project a chance to explore another complicated dynamic between two characters with a rich history, which is perhaps what the Morgan-Tamra storyline is trying to do at the moment, but it just isn’t working.

Stray observations

  • Mindy’s brother proposes to his girlfriend, but Mindy eats the cake that the ring was in. Kaling’s delivery of “well I definitely swallowed it” is the funniest part of the episode.
  • Morgan thinks the expression “looking like one million bugs.”
  • The depiction of Lauren as super jealous and insecure about Anna is weird and not funny.
  • Mindy’s framed photo of Anna in her apartment is another one of my favorite parts of the episode.