One of the biggest tropes of romantic comedies is the idea that opposites attract. Kathleen Kelly forgives Joe Fox for putting her out of business in You’ve Got Mail and Bridget Jones and Mark Darcy somehow make it work in Bridget Jones’ Diary. Hell, Colin Firth and his lady love in Love, Actually never even had a truly effective conversation before they decided to marry. It’s an unspoken rule of rom-coms, however, not to show the hard work that comes after “I love you.” (It’s best to ignore the existence of Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason.) Sure, Matthew McConaughey and John Cusack get the girl in the end, but do they really have what it takes to make a relationship last? Honestly, it doesn’t matter. That’s not why we watch romantic comedies. We want the quick and digestible grand speech, not the arguments over finances and family planning later.
Or maybe we do. Mindy Kaling, well-documented fan of the rom-com, is peeling back the facade of what comes after “happily ever after” on The Mindy Project, tearing down the relationship that she built up between Danny and Mindy because of its shaky foundation. The nagging issue of Danny wanting Mindy to give up her career to have more children plagues the couple at every turn, and neither one seems willing to give on the issue. As the holidays approach, Mindy is reminded of her first day at Schulman and Associates. She and Danny are immediately antagonistic, with him unable to see her competency as a doctor beneath her designer clothes and bubbly demeanor. After seeing her come through in a pinch with a difficult delivery, however, we see Danny begrudgingly begin to accept her as a colleague and someone he doesn’t totally hate. Despite initially firing her, he then helps Mindy move her new armoire into her office, convincing her to stay when the piece of furniture fits. The episode does serve to remind viewers of the relationship before the romance; their differences are immediately noticeable, driving home the division between the two that have been apparent from the pilot. He’s traditional, she takes risks. He likes puzzles, she prefers happy hour. These are hardly insurmountable differences; opposites attract for a reason, and can even make for a better relationship. They do bely a friction, though, that can cause a break that no amount of love and adorable reading glasses can overcome.
After past Danny tells Mindy to never let anyone tell her that she can’t accomplish things, not even him, we get a clue for what’s coming. A few minutes later, when Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me” begins to play, you know you’re in for a world of heartache. As Mindy sneaks out of their apartment to head to her old place (which she’s been hesitant to sell), she measures the space to see if there’s room for Leo’s crib. There is. As she cries and sadly takes down the “For Sale” sign from the window, we’re left wondering what will happen to this previously beloved couple when the show returns next year. Beyond that, we’re left wondering what should happen to these two, and honestly, there isn’t an easy answer.
Kaling isn’t pulling any punches, nor is she sugarcoating the difficulties that can come when couples don’t share the same values. However, it’s a little frustrating that characters who have shown the ability to compromise in the past are so unwilling to come to an agreement on this issue. Mindy moved back from California for Danny in the last season, and Danny overcame his fear of remarriage to commit to Mindy in the way that she needed him to. Still, careers and raising children are some of the biggest stressors that a couple can face, so it makes sense that this would be the issue to put such a great strain on the Lahiri-Castellano family. Whether they’ll find a compromise for an issue with a ton of gray areas or decide to break up and co-parent apart, it’s becoming clear that Kaling is choosing realism over romance.