The Mindy Project, “Christmas”

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So even though the events leading up to the halfway-season-marker Christmas episode felt rushed to me, everything culminated pretty nicely here, leading up to a decent enough cliffhanger while the show goes on a holiday hiatus.

We’ve been watching a shift in the Mindy-Danny relationship unfold over the last few weeks. I stand by my feeling that the catalyst conflict was abruptly put on – let’s not forget this whole trajectory began when Mindy called out Danny for not staying over her place enough. Looking back, we actually establish two pivotal elements in that episode that culminate into the result of the Christmas episode: 1) how much is Danny willing to commit to the relationship with Mindy, and 2) how good of a doctor and mentor Mindy really is. Since “Diary of a Mad Indian Woman,” both of these developments have continued forth nicely and subtly, even if I may have complained about it feeling rushed to hit some sort of climax. Ever since Mindy put the challenge to Danny, her attitude toward their relationship has definitely changed, matured even. I do find it hard to believe that she would never have considered / acknowledged the hesitance on Danny’s part stemming from his previous marriage. It was a little irrational for her diary to set up that expectation – an expectation perhaps touted by all the trashy TV and girly magazines she reads – but nevertheless that’s what’s given Danny reason to pause and consider what is he doing in the relationship and where he wants it to go. And in the wonderful rom-com twists that the writers’ strive for in this show, this instead becomes more about Mindy’s personal self fulfillment than what her life-relationship expectations are. You can even say it almost turns the show’s trajectory on its head a little – we kind of went into this show with the premise of Mindy navigating her love life in the midst of her rising medical career. She’s defined herself largely on the terms of her relationships. The conclusion we come to this week – though there are a few things I have issue with – highlights instead a real personal step forward for Mindy’s character, while also presenting a new (but thankfully not life-or-death detrimental) challenge to Mindy and Danny’s relationship.

The path we take in this episode goes from misunderstood expectations to coming full circle and figuring out the best thing for Mindy as a person. Mindy thinks Danny’s lined up a ring, and over dinner, Danny reveals he was lining up his burial plot. This to Danny is a romantic gesture (that’s so Danny). Prior to the dinner, Dr. Fishman in a now mentor moment for Mindy encourages her to apply for a fellowship in Stanford. Mindy at first is put off by the thought – she’s supposed to be engaged soon, why would she think to go away? (Of course, logically she could have both at once but whatever. She’s obviously fallen prey to a particular mainstream antiquated expectation of what fulfills a woman) Again, we observe the pattern of Mindy going into something with the wrong intention, but coming out doing the right thing. She knee-jerks the decision to apply to the fellowship immediately following the disappointment from Danny, and in the end comes around and decides yes, this is the best opportunity for her career to grow and flourish. And I love that this is revealed through Danny’s eyes too, since he (knowing Mindy so well) uses the excuse of Mindy doing things for the wrong reason to deter his mom’s doctor beau from writing a recommendation letter.

Now, here’s where I do have a little bit of issue: Danny’s reaction to Mindy’s totally wonderful Christmas gift to him (which, this is totally one of the funniest things ever: a Ken Burns-style documentary dedicated to Danny about his love for Ken Burns WITH an appearance from Ken Burns? Brilliant) is to attempt an immediate marriage proposal. Granted, he totally gets how much of a win she is for him in his life. That’s awesome. Rushing the proposal to keep her around? Valid. Asking his mom her opinion? I feel like her encouraging him to write the missing recommendation letter needed for her application came largely from a place of not wanting her engagement ring to go on the finger of a non-Catholic (we did JUST hear her make a comment about Mindy’s religion in her section of the Ken Burns documentary). Even though this is ultimately the best thing for Mindy’s development for Danny to encourage the fellowship, I feel like this, too, came from the wrong place. But oh well – when Danny gives Mindy the full application, after Mindy mentions she really wanted to go after all for herself, it’s the total romantic equal to the Ken Burns gift.

As for Morgan and Peter, another romantic mislead storyline happens here. I have a couple issues with this, but we get some good moments. Julia Stiles is a fellow doctor in the hospital who Danny wants to set up with Peter, after Danny sees Peter being a responsible adult and tenant. Somehow, Julia Stiles mistakes Morgan for Peter and goes on a date. Of course, they wind up being perfect for each other in their own mildly insane quirkiness. Julia Stiles is a hoarder, Morgan is just Morgan. He doesn’t realize she thinks he’s Peter until the morning after, and he knows they had a wonderful date and a real connection. At the Shulman and Associates Christmas party, he enlists Peter to go along with the ruse and trade identities, which Jeremy and Lauren agree to play along with. Of course, the Ken Burns doc reveals the truth. I don’t really know how far we’re going here with Julia Stiles, and I don’t completely buy her as a comedic player in the show. But we’ll see, I guess. The best thing of all this? That we establish the better connection between Lauren and Peter, as Peter gives Lauren a gift for her son. Would Jeremy have done that? Probably not. Perhaps this love triangle is still alive.

So what can we expect in the new year now that we hit the halfway point? We have the first real test to Mindy and Danny’s relationship – long distance. Danny’s changed enough that I’m not worried about him. I’m just curious about Mindy and her rediscovered independence and respect for herself. Now, there’s confirmation of a multi-episode arc featuring Lee Pace as a former lover, and we’re likely to meet him during Mindy’s time in Stanford, which gets me SUPER excited to see Lee Pace return to some lighter, comedic fare on the TV screen. Could this also create another wedge in the relationship?

Till the new year then!

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