After a total of six seasons, 117 episodes, 21 love interests, 2 failed marriages, one cancellation, and a network transition from Fox to Hulu in 2015, the five-year long show The Mindy Project finally came to an end this past Tuesday. For a show that has changed direction and cast members so often that it’s almost second nature for the writers, the only constant has been change— and it’s only fitting that The Mindy Project would end with more change.
In the finale, we pick up a short bit before Tamra and Morgan are ready to tie the knot. Mindy’s been out of the dating game the entire season— a bit of a feat for her, considering the way she bounced from one white male suitor to the next over the length of the show— and preventing the potential foreclosure of her fertility clinic while she and Danny both deal with Danny’s mother Annette’s cancer with varying degrees of success.
The episode directly parallels the first episode, complete with a wedding, a strange feeling of loneliness, a speech, and a bike. More than anything, it clearly shows Mindy’s growth as a character— the first time we saw her give a speech at a wedding, she could barely drunkenly muster up false happiness for an ex before biking out of the wedding and falling into a pool. This time, Mindy gives a speech for two coworkers and friends she cares about before hopping on a bike so that she can chase her own happiness as well. We even see the pool she fell in five seasons ago, which she dodges with a quick, “Not this time.”
I’ve always thought Tamra and Morgan’s coupling too forced and convenient, but in the finale I see that it had to happen in order for there to be another wedding. After everyone gets their happy endings (Tamra and Morgan tie the knot; Jeremy and Anna are happy together; Beverly is reunited with her estranged son; and Jody has left the practice for Physicians On The Front with a benevolent and intelligent doctor), the only one left is Mindy. Mindy is still the brash, reactive, obnoxious, and outspoken woman that she’s always been, but she’s matured. She’s a full-time mother, a full-time OB/GYN, the part-time owner of her own fertility clinic, and she knows how to manage Annette’s cancer better than even Danny does while juggling the potential shut-down of her business. For a moment, I wondered whether the show would pull the “independent woman” card and end with Mindy being happy and single (it would certainly fit the tone of the newly matured Mindy) but it seems almost like a cop-out for a show built on exploring both the endearing and the completely wack (though usually a combination of both) clichés of traditional romcoms. She can’t end up with Danny again, can she?
After an ugly divorce in season 4 caused by the wildly traditional and controlling nature of Danny’s inability to accept Mindy balancing work and being a mom (while the The Mindy Project tiptoed along the edge of challenging the negative perception of working mothers, it never did so as effectively as I would have liked) and various lust-driven interactions, it isn’t until season 6 when Danny sees the caring way Mindy handles Annette’s cancer that Danny finally sees that Mindy can do both. “You helped so many people, Min, and it hasn’t affected you as a mom. I couldn’t believe it back then, but I was wrong,” he tells her. “I don’t want to tell you how to run your business. I believe in you.” Danny’s time away from the show has left his character more room to stop being so angry and harsh— like Mindy, he’s grown up too.
We’ve seen one too many cliché Danny and Mindy moments driven by a mix of impulse and hormones (like their first kiss on a plane, a grand gesture on the Empire State Building, marriage after an accidental pregnancy) and when they reunite in the finale, I thought it was another example of the show falling back on their old patterns of romcom-like grand gestures with everything swept under the rug of an unrealistic unconditional love. But it isn’t— for the first time, they’ve both thought it out and still want a relationship. It doesn’t feel formulaic or forced in the way it has been so many times, nor is it desperately and fantastically romantic; when Danny starts to push questions about their future together, Mindy tells him to just relax.
The last episode, titled “It Had To Be You,” is both the perfect fairy tale ending and not the perfect fairy tale ending. Yes, Mindy and Danny are back together, but nothing has been defined or promised. They are the same Mindy-and-Danny they were five years ago when The Mindy Project started, but they are also vastly different people who have grown and are no longer fooled by the glossy promise of a perfect love. They started and ended the show together, and no matter what, it is clear they continue to care for each other. No longer driven solely by emotion, their relationship is one of compromise and understanding of how difficult love can really be, but are willing to make it work anyway.
“photo taken from the Mindy Project”