Review: ‘The Mindy Project’ – ‘Harry & Mindy’

A review of tonight’s “The Mindy Project” coming up just as soon as I contest a jaywalking ticket…

Yeah, I’m very pleased with how this “When Harry Met Sally”-ish two-parter turned out. “Harry & Mindy” in particular worked nicely for several reasons.

First, it pared the cast down to the bare essentials. And to be honest, I could have just skipped the Jeremy/Morgan subplot, much as I often like Ike Barinholtz. No time wasted bouncing around to different underdeveloped stories built around underfed characters, which gave us much more time to deal with the genuinely interesting and funny idea at the center of the episode.

And speaking of which, trapping Mindy in the middle of a classic romantic comedy story – but, to her chagrin, as a supporting character – not only brought “The Mindy Project” back to what made it distinctive back in the pilot, but made Mindy sharper and more self-aware than she’s sometimes been this season. The best episodes of the series so far (including this two-parter and the high school episode) have all placed Mindy in positions where she gets to be in a position of authority, even if she’s not perfectly suited to the role. She spent eight years wringing laughs out of the vapidity of Kelly Kapoor, but I think Mindy Kaling as a lead actress is much better-served playing someone smart, even if her smarts come from unexpected places at times.  Here, she twigged pretty quickly to the Harry & Sally of Jamie and Lucy’s relationship, and she was both 100 percent right, but as a result prepared for the moment when Jamie admitted he loved Lucy. This was a mildly awkward moment for her, but not a mortifying disaster, because she’d suspected this all along and as a result hadn’t invested too much in the relationship.

The episode also did an excellent job of giving Chris Messina funny things to do (Danny as drunken hot mess on the floor of his office, Danny reacting to Lucy and Jamie’s make-out session on Mindy’s steps) while also softening a character who too often comes across as more of a jerk than I think the writers intend. The pizzeria scene was a good human moment – and a nice illustration of the difference in Danny and Mindy’s worldviews – even as it still left room for some humor with the punchline about the quality of the pizza.

I know there are still some cast changes to come (even though, again, the show needs fewer bodies, not more), and I’m not sure you could do an explicit rom-com analogy(*) every single week, but these two episodes have felt very much like the series beginning to find itself. More like this, please.

(*) I wondered at first if the teaser with with Common as the Empire State Building security guard was originally filmed for a different episode, because even though it set up Jamie bringing Mindy back there later, it also seemed to be taking place at a point when Mindy wasn’t in a relationship. (And they’ve switched around teasers at least once before, when they inserted a Josh teaser into “Danny Castellano Is My Gynecologist,” which was originally produced pre-Josh.) But I’m told it was specifically for this one, with the idea that Mindy’s still looking for her real soulmate, and was understandably not sold on Jamie as that guy.

What did everybody else think?