Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

There’s more to Beverly than knives and taxidermy on The Mindy Project

Illustration for article titled There’s more to Beverly than knives and taxidermy on The Mindy Project
TV ReviewsAll of our TV reviews in one convenient place.

Even though the episode’s title doesn’t end up being the central storyline (or even the B-plot, for that matter), the Meryl Streep costume party is, without a doubt, the best part of “Jeremy & Anna’s Meryl Streep Costume Party.” Matching each character to whichever Meryl Streep character they best embody (or think they embody, as is probably the case for Karen’s Miranda Priestley) is a brilliant game in and of itself, and the writers nail it in every instance. Morgan’s love for Ricki And The Flash, far from the best Meryl movie or even a good Meryl movie, fits his weird, always-against-the-grain persona. Tamra looks like she was born in her Death Becomes Her costume. Mindy is so committed to the role of Julia Child that she uses it as an excuse to face a boeuf bourguignon beforehand. And of course, seeing Jeremy in full Florence Foster Jenkins cosplay is a treat. It’s all a fun exploration of character, each costume choice reflecting something about the person wearing it, and the sight gags of the entire party make for the funniest parts of the episode, which is rather serious throughout, seeing two of the most under-developed characters on the show through major self-realizations.

That darkness comes from the central storyline, the first to ever focus on Beverly. Mindy meets a cute guy outside the office and leaps at the potential romantic opportunity. But Mindy’s dating life ends up taking the backseat when David reveals, at that titular Meryl Streep party, that he’s actually Beverly’s son, who she abandoned outside of a Jazzercise studio as a baby, leaving him only with a cassette tape. Of all the one-note bit characters in The Mindy Project, Beverly is the flattest. She’s there to say absurd non sequiturs, often used to punctuate scenes. Sometimes those bombs she drops are funny enough that it doesn’t really matter that she’s more punchline than person, but they don’t always land. (The Banksy moment earlier in the season is one of the best Beverly lines.) Still, Beverly doesn’t really need to be much more than she already is to fulfill her purpose on the show. This episode, however, gives Beverly an emotional arc for the first time, and the character expresses real feelings instead of just saying something outlandish or mysterious.

Namely, Beverly reveals that she knows how others perceive her. She knows that people think she’s a bad person, so she self-sabotages her meeting with David by stealing his wallet to live up to people’s expectations of her. Mindy and Jeremy become over-involved in the mother-son reunion, which makes perfect sense for both characters: Jeremy has his own deep-seated familial issues, and Mindy thinks real-life should be like movies, romanticizing the reconnection between Beverly and David (she also has the ulterior motive of wanting to date David, but in the end, he’s married). So as bizarre as a subplot about Beverly’s past seems at first, it all unfolds rather organically, pushing the character to a new place without it coming off as forced. Beverly’s still the same Beverly, but the character development here acknowledges that she doesn’t exist in a vacuum. And it’s refreshing that Mindy’s romantic endeavors never leave the back burner in the episode. Beverly’s story doesn’t function as a way of introducing a new romantic interest; it’s all about Beverly.

The episode also introduces Mary Hernandez, played by the brilliant and underrated Ana Ortiz. Mary is a doctor in a free women’s health clinic on the Lower East Side that has been ranked the top women’s healthcare provider in New York. That ranking along with the fact that he loses a patient to Mary sets Jody on a spiteful, arrogant path to prove he’s better than Mary. With Morgan, he re-opens the mobile clinic unit and offers no-cost care and prescriptions to women in lower-income areas. Jody realizes that helping others...makes him feel good. Who knew! I see, of course, what The Mindy Project is trying to do here, and it’s something that has been done before. Showing that Jody is more complex than his theatrical sexism, racism, and overall patriarchal bullshit is something the show has tried to do many times before. But they’ve dug themselves a hole with Jody. In order for him to be more than a punchline, they have to give him little moments like these where he seems to transcend his own beliefs, but those moments often ring as hollow and forced. The humor of Jody is applied inconsistently, and too many jokes fall flat.

But the most frustrating part of the Jody storyline is that it all seems to be a vehicle for a potential romance between him and Mary. This show often pairs unlikely couples, but the whole adversaries-turned-lovers arc is tough to pull off over and over again, and in the case of Mary and Jody, the messy seams are already showing. Ortiz is underutilized in the episode, and as of now, Mary’s just a foil for Jody to run up against, a cog in the mechanics of his path to self-betterment. Whereas Beverly’s arc is emotionally resonant and cogent, Jody’s is ham-fisted. This final season of the show has been all about major life changes for each and every character. And as unexpected as it is, Beverly’s carries weight.

Stray observations

  • I was sad to see no one cosplaying Meryl in The Hours.
  • I guess the patient hugging Jody is supposed to be a touching moment, but for me, it was totally cringe-worthy.
  • Jody does have a point about pretty much no one at Shulman & Associates being philanthropic.
  • More Ana Ortiz, please!