The Mindy Project Season 2 Review: When Danny Met Mindy

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Though it often gave in to the clichés it was trying to subvert, the second season of The Mindy Project still provided enough of its earnest charm and quick wit to warm all of our hearts.

A long, long time ago, James Franco guest starred on The Mindy Project. Okay, so that actually happened back in September, but with the eventful nature of this comedy’s second season, it really does feel like an eternity. In fact, the amount of ground covered over the course of 22 episodes is surprising, given the show’s break over the holidays and a two-month long hiatus in February.

Another reason that it was hard to remember, at least for me, that Franco’s hilarious guest turn took place this season was perhaps because one plot loomed large over the rest. Yes, the story of Mindy and Danny crept up quietly, with little seeds being planted in episodes like “You’ve Got Sext” and “Mindy Lahiri is a Racist,” but it soon took full-force after their romantic kiss on the plane in “The Desert.”

I will say, I think that evolving their relationship was a fascinating move. I’m always curious of how a show will deal with its central will-they-or-won’t-they relationship. Friends chose to take things slowly, often leading viewers to feel like we were being strung along at the mercy of the writers. New Girl took the speedy route, leading to a season of redundancies and a breakup that has no real reasoning behind it. The Mindy Project seems to be somewhere in between. Mindy and Danny are still growing, but they certainly jumped the gun sooner than I expected. As of now, I have yet to decide which method works best.

The truth is, this show was actually on quite a roll before the Mindy-Danny love story got introduced. Aside from the weaker detour episodes like “Sk8er Man” and “Bro Club For Dudes,” the series was producing nothing but excellent comedy. The premiere quickly brought Mindy back into the fold, while introducing us to James Franco’s Dr. Leotard.

His guest starring role was short-lived, but at least he left on the high note that was “The Other Dr. L.” That episode perfectly exemplified what Mindy can do at its best. The humor was top-notch, there was some solid character development, and Danny’s plotline with Christina was closed in a way that was efficient without being cheap.

This was followed by “Music Festival,” which essentially did the same thing with Mindy and Pastor Casey. The episodes that followed never reached their full potential, but they each worked on some level, be it through well-written humor or wonderfully explored character moments. Even the aforementioned “Bro Club For Dudes,” with all its nonsensicality, had some irresistibly funny lines.

If there was a standalone episode that I think highlighted the best this season of The Mindy Project has done, it would have to be “Christmas Party Sex Trap.” Holiday-themed sitcom episodes can either veer into the cliché or serve as a wonderful microcosm of the characters’ various conflicts, and this was definitely the latter. Between Mindy’s hysterical wine bra, guest star Maria Menounos singing “Santa Baby,” the awesomeness of Danny’s dance for Mindy, and their tension building almost-kiss, it really was a magnificent half-hour. Credit goes to the Emmy-winning Tracey Wigfield, who’s had a hand in writing some of the season’s best moments.

Then the came “L.A.” and “The Desert,” two episodes that changed the course of the season–and the series, for that matter–forever. I will admit that “The Desert” was really a fantastic episode, and not just because of the bold kiss cliffhanger. Danny’s relationship with his father provided welcome backstory for his gruff, grumpy character, and allowed Mindy to see a different side of him. When the kiss finally happened it was shocking, but in a way I was ready for it. I’m a big fan of when TV shows make bold moves, as long as they have a plan in place to keep the momentum going.

Unfortunately, I don’t think The Mindy Project really did. Mindy and Danny break up almost as quickly as they got together, leading to some wayward episodes like “Girl Crush” and “An Officer and a Gynecologist,” that felt overstuffed with distractions to try and make you forget that Danny dumped Mindy for a dumb reason, and then went on the rebound a week later. Of course, “Girl Crush” also brought us the fabulous Anna Gunn, so I can’t dislike it entirely.

The show often felt like it was toying with viewers emotions a lot. I still can’t tell if Mindy and Peter are meant to be friends or something more, and the episode “Think Like A Peter” only further confused me. I can tell, however, that out of all the cast change-ups that came with season 2, the addition of Adam Pally was the smartest. His character of Peter Prentiss fit right in with the rest of the doctors while still allowing Pally to showcase his unique brand of humor.

Second runner-up in this category was the decision to give Xosha Roquemore’s Tamra a lot more to do. Roquemore has great comedic instinct, and I especially enjoyed her character’s interactions with her deadbeat boyfriend Ray Ron (guest star Josh Peck). The show often has trouble managing all its background characters–I seriously don’t even know what Jeremy’s purpose was this season–but it at least found some use for these two.

By the time we got to the finale, I was ready to expect the worst. Yet, in a strange twist of fate, The Mindy Project pulled off its best episode in weeks with “Danny and Mindy.” The episode was a mix of genuine romantic earnest and the wisecracking rom-com parody that we’ve come to expect. Danny meeting Mindy at the top of the Empire State Building felt exactly like something he would do to try and win back her love. Mindy climbing hundreds of flights of stairs to get to the top and then collapsing on the ground saved the episode from having too much cheese.

This show isn’t perfect, but few romances ever are. In a way, I kind of like that The Mindy Project has flaws because I never know what to expect. One thing I can count on, though, is that it’ll always find a way to pull me back in. Grade: B

 

By Mike Papirmeister

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