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The Mindy Project and the Rom-Com Narrative Part 5

18 Sep

A year has passed since the first Mindy Project and the Rom-Com Narrative column and what started as a standalone piece has produced multiple parts and spinoffs (incorporating New Girl and the “What Next?”). The Mindy Project plays with the rom-com formula with direct references to Nora Ephron classics like When Harry Met Sally while using traditional rom-com devices such as voiceover and subverting the genre through a strong awareness of the common tropes. In the first episode of season 3 big steps have been made as Danny and Mindy have progressed from friends, to lovers to exes and now to a couple who are not hiding their relationship from their co-workers. Smooth sailing from here then, right?

The Mindy Project 3.01Well that wouldn’t be interesting would it? There are plenty of obstacles and conflicts ahead for this new couple; the biggest one being how diametrically opposite they are about pretty much everything besides how they feel about each other. Last season Danny went through a stage of not wanting anyone to know about their relationship and then he tried to use the ‘you’re my best friend and I don’t want to lose you’ excuse as a reason to split up. Mindy saw through Danny’s scared BS and she didn’t just take him back when he simply tried to kiss her. This was one heartbreak that really hurt and so it required a little more than Danny simply responding in a possessive manner to the new dude in Mindy’s life.

They are a couple now, haters (bitches) and as I have mentioned throughout this rom-com series the “will they/won’t they” then turns into a “What next?” as they have to deal with what normally comes after the credits of a movie. The story doesn’t just end with smooching at the top of the Empire State Building.

The new season opens with Danny as the narrator mentioning the unlikelihood of this coupling when the show started and his assertion that they are very different is backed up with Mindy’s portion of the voiceover. Mindy likes to share and this is what lies at the heart of their first fight this season; it doesn’t matter that Mindy is very complimentary about Danny’s technique as it still makes him incredibly uncomfortable. Throw in a secret stripping past plus a piece of office gossip and we’ve got our first Mindy and Danny raging argument of season 3 as Danny tells Mindy that he can’t trust her. Trust is a relationship dealbreaker so are things looking precarious already?

[Source]

Far from it and while I am sure that somewhere down the line there will be a string of misunderstandings that might lead to something more contentious, this disagreement ends up with Danny spilling a lot more about himself including his Diamond Dan stripping past (which not only paid for medical school, but also allowed him to pay the mortgage on his mother’s house) and that he does have a middle name. His middle name is Alan after his dad and last season we found out more about his fractured relationship with his father with Mindy getting to witness Danny’s emotionally vulnerable side. The first time Danny kissed Mindy was on the plane ride home after this trip to see Danny’s father; boundaries got dropped all over the place.

Part of the appeal of this couple is the back and forth banter, which on occasion crosses the line with a derogatory remark about appearance such as Danny telling Mindy “get your big ass in there now” in the season 3 premiere. Comments like this cause much furrowing of the brow; Danny does refer to himself “as kind of a dick back then” in his opening narration and these moments do still slip in and on this occasion his annoyance at Mindy’s inability to keep secrets causes this unpleasant outburst. Danny is rough around the edges – not an excuse for his behavior, but an observation – and yet those edges have softened.

The list he has prepared is a big step, as is Mindy’s confession explaining why she has been so vocal about their relationship “I want it to be real and the more real it seems, the less likely it is that it could all get taken away from me.” Mindy wears her romantic temperament on her sleeve, but this level of honesty and vulnerability is rare from this character too. This statement solidifies their commitment to each other and it also signifies to the audience that we shouldn’t expect a break up in the next few episodes; they are at least in this for some sort of long haul. It is a welcome gesture as sometimes with a “will they/won’t they” couple it is easy to feel emotionally manipulated if there is a constant stream of “oh we’re almost a couple, now we’re not, now we are, oops broken up again” shenanigans. You know what else is a welcome gesture? This.

[Source – includes whole sequence]

As I said at the start of this piece conflict and obstacles should continue, but there has to be a reason for it. Danny and Mindy as an opposites attract coupling should provide plenty of material for this, however scenes like the one on the fire escape are important and still offer opportunity for absurdist/dark humor such as the kitchen knife Mindy accidentally drops followed by the sound of sirens. This first episode back is promising and this pairing is the strongest/most consistent on The Mindy Project; now they are a couple there are a new series of challenges and I am hopeful that this creative team will blast any Moonlighting curse nonsense out of the water so we can stop citing this a reason why a “will they/won’t they” shouldn’t progress to “What next?”

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