Last season, Danny and Mindy’s breakup left many of us wondering what, exactly, this show would be about without its central will-they-won’t-they couple. Then, they reunited via elevator sex in the season finale, and we were even more confused. What could possibly come next?
The Mindy Project’s fifth-season premiere — its second after switching to Hulu — indicates that Mindy’s real project isn’t finding love. It’s finding herself. And it feels like a solid reset for a show that has tried to be many things over the years, but is at its best when it focuses on its charismatic heroine.
When we left her at the end of last season, Mindy didn’t know that Danny was engaged when they hooked up in a stalled elevator at Leo’s school. Oh, and Mindy’s co-worker Jody had just purchased her an entire apartment as a grand romantic gesture. We pick up right there, with Mindy so floored that she’s trying to avoid reacting. She offers instead her “irreverent take on pop culture: I will never see the new Ghostbusters!” Jody, who is himself more adept at sex than romance, just assumes the gesture has worked: “To the bedroom!” She demurs, “No, to the door, for now.” This is the first sign that things are changing for Mindy. (When she puts her gun in her freezer, we realize things won’t change too much, though.)
The next sign comes when Mindy finally receives the invitation to Danny and Sarah’s wedding — and she immediately goes to Danny’s to confront him about it. His response: “Oh, you got the invite. Cool.” He promises to tell Sarah about his hookup with Mindy and call off the wedding, and before we know it, they’re making out yet again! Mindy catches herself, though: “Stop being sexy! … Hindu gods do not like adultery, and I wanna get reincarnated as something cool, like a ladybug or a race car.”
At the office, we learn that everyone is invited to the wedding except Jody. Jeremy is invited and is going, but he’s still concerned about how this will affect Mindy. Or, as Beverly puts it when Mindy arrives, “Everybody’s real worried you’re gonna lose it because Dr. C’s marrying a white woman.” Colette is worried for a different reason: She knows Jody is now courting Mindy. Jody assures his sister that things are going just fine. “I’m gonna call that groundskeeper and tell him to seal up that mausoleum,” Colette chirps confidently. “We don’t need it.”
The real bomb drops when the guy from Bleecker Quaker School calls and leaves a message with Tamra for Mindy: He knows she and Danny were stuck in the elevator, and “our lawyers have advised me to extend our apologies without admitting any culpability, which I have now done.” Tamra, smart cookie that she is, immediately intuits that Danny and Mindy hooked up — they could never be locked up all night alone together, with that sexual chemistry, and keep things under control. Tamra immediately tells Colette, and the two head to the school for some buddy-comedy action.
Soon enough, they are pretending to be lawyers — I would watch that law show! — representing Mindy in a possible $50 million lawsuit against the school for the elevator incident. “A woman of color was falsely imprisoned in your broke-ass elevator for an entire night,” Tamra says to the principal. His response: “This is worse than when we had Robert Durst read from his children’s book.” Under such pressure, he agrees to give them security-camera footage of the evening’s activities. Mission accomplished.
While Mindy is going over fertility-clinic paperwork, she soon comes to her own quick-for-a-sitcom conclusion: Sarah had visited Mindy’s practice under a pseudonym. And while it is very endearing that Jeremy is painting a Japanese fan in his office, Mindy is not okay with the fact that he and Morgan knew of this scheme and did not tell her! But she also begins to realize that Sarah has feelings, too. She asks Jody, “What do you do when you feel guilty about something?” Of course, his answer is, “Well, usually I just donate to the NAACP.” But Mindy has a genuine insight: “I’ve spent so much of my life thinking that I was the protagonist in my own movie that I never stopped to think that I’m the villain in somebody else’s.” This felt as close to a thesis statement for the show — or at least this season — as we will likely get. Though, don’t worry, Jody is here to wipe away any hint of emotional depths. “You’re the amusing ethnic second lead,” he says. “Like that wonderful Oriental boy in Temple of Doom.”
The office staff further breaks the mood by confronting Mindy about her Danny hookup in front of Jody. They’re obviously hoping for fireworks, but instead Jody defends her. “But we were going to slut-shame her!” Beverly protests. “Who are we going to slut-shame now?”
Strangely enough, Mindy finds herself confiding in Beverly in the next scene. Look at Bev, playing a legitimate role in the plot! And being (sort of) wise! When Beverly asks which guy Mindy is going to pick, Mindy reveals that she has great sex with Danny (duh) but doesn’t “feel a spark” with Jody. In return, Beverly offhandedly refers to her own affair with Bernie Sanders in Moscow before advising, “Wait for someone special to come along. Until then, get escorts. Or crank it.” What a thought: Mindy could choose neither side in the love triangle!
This idea is further confirmed when Danny reveals he hasn’t told Sarah yet. Both Danny and Mindy admit that neither wants to change. Even though they love each other, it’s over. This is one of their most affecting breakup scenes to date — it’s such a grownup thing, realizing you can’t be with someone you love. Then Mindy runs through the rain — nice use of a rom-com trope! — to make her grand declaration to Jody: She can’t be with him, either.
And just like that, The Mindy Project has found itself again.