When The Mindy Project premiered in 2012, star and creator Mindy Kaling had really hit her stride. She was coming off of a wildly successful run on The Office, which she also occasionally wrote for and co-starred in, and had written her first best-selling memoir, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? After some creative shake-ups during the first season, The Mindy Project eventually settled in to become one of the sharpest and funniest sitcoms currently on the air. Unfortunately, quality doesn’t always lead to big ratings and the show struggled to find an audience, causing it to be cancelled by Fox, its original network. However, Hulu swooped in and added it to its growing catalog of original programming, and will be premiering the 26-episode fourth season on September 15.
Part of the appeal of the show is the romantic tension between Kaling’s Dr. Mindy Lahiri and her coworker, fellow OBGYN Dr. Danny Castellano, played by “That Guy Who Is in Everything” Chris Messina (who, incidentally, turns 41 today). The two have organically transitioned from being congenially antagonistic to a place where they are in a fun and sometimes challenging relationship, with a give-and-take rapport that have led many to label them the new “Sam and Diane.” While the finale of season three may have left the strength of that relationship in doubt, hopefully they will find a happier ending than the famed Cheers couple. Let’s take a look at some highlights from their relationship and ponder their longevity as romantic partners in preparation for season four. Warning: Spoilers Ahead
Going back and watching the pilot of The Mindy Project is an odd experience. Mindy was a hot mess, she was hooking up with Jeremy, and the core cast was quite different. At the beginning of the show, Mindy and Danny really do not get along. While they have a begrudging respect for each other as doctors, the rivalry is clear. When Mindy asks her coworkers for advice over what to wear on a first date, Danny informs her that she would look best if she lost some weight. That kind of unnecessary meanness runs through much of their first season relationship (though they do become increasingly more friendly), with Danny only softening when Mindy starts to date Casey and plans a move to Haiti. At the prospect of potentially losing his friend, Danny is forced to reevaluate his feelings.
When They Pretended To Be A Couple
As Danny recovers from his issues with his ex-wife and deals with his burgeoning crush on Mindy, he makes some questionable choices regarding sexual partners. Two rules that everyone should follow if they want to avoid awkwardness: No one night stands with people who live in your building and no crazies who will break into your apartment if they suspect you of lying.
At this point in the show, Mindy and Danny had undeniably transitioned from work friends to friend-friends, so of course she helps him get rid of a hookup by pretending to be his pregnant fiancée. When the woman believes their ruse and comments on the authenticity of their connection, Danny realizes that maybe his feelings for Mindy are deeper than a mere crush.
At this point in season two, Danny has a full blown case of feelings for Mindy, throwing longing glances her way while she is pretty oblivious to his affections and slaying dudes left and right. This was a welcome and surprising reversal of the “pining woman” trope.
As is her wont, Mindy plans an elaborate “Christmas sex trap” that includes an all-building party and a randy rendition of “Santa Baby” in order to hook up with Cliff. Because this is a sitcom, it fails spectacularly. As Mindy drowns her sorrows in a bottle of wine (hidden in her bra, of course), Danny gives her his Secret Santa gift… a fully choreographed dance to Aaliyah’s “Try Again.” Meaningful stares and an almost-kiss ensues, and guys across America realized that they really needed to up their gift giving game and maybe take a dance class.
Danny Castellano Is My Personal Trainer
Kaling has been very clear that her work out motivation includes elaborate fantasy revenge scenarios involving Michael Fassbender, but, in this episode, Fassbender has nothing on Danny in the dreamboat department. Mindy wants to get in shape to impress her new boyfriend, Cliff, and asks Danny to help her get into a workout routine. After a disastrous outing at the gym, including an awkward bout of shower nudity, Mindy lists off all the things that she would change about her body, hitting on the usual offenders… bigger boobs, get rid of cellulite, blue eyes, etc. Showing a marked change from his pilot response to her physique, Danny cuts her off, telling her that “he doesn’t want that,” saying that she looks like a woman and that’s a good thing.
While they’re at a conference in L.A., Danny tricks Mindy into accompanying him on a visit to see his estranged father, the source of a lot of Danny’s emotional issues. Also on this trip, Cliff breaks up with Mindy. Between the emotional family moments and Mindy’s romantic frustration, emotions are at a fever pitch on the flight home. Danny finally does what fans had been waiting for for almost a season, and kisses Mindy, letting her know that Cliff is not her only romantic option. For the remainder of season two, the couple struggles with going public with their relationship and Mindy’s insecurity about whether or not Danny is all in. When the finale’s touching and hilarious homage to Sleepless in Seattle occurs, the lovers appear to be on solid ground. Laying right on it, actually.
Season three’s San Francisco arc is filled with drama for Mindy and Danny. They’ve settled into this new phase of their relationship in New York, but Mindy decides to follow her dreams to San Francisco to take a fellowship a Stanford University. While this is a great move for her career, it does put a strain on her relationship with Danny, largely due to his unwillingness to compromise. Mindy eventually decides to make the move permanent and start a fertility clinic with one of her professors before finding out that she is pregnant. Danny, though excited about the baby, makes it very clear that he does not want to leave New York. Eventually, Mindy decides to open her clinic in New York instead. This pattern of Mindy modifying her dreams to fit with Danny when he is unwilling to do so highlights a troubling trend for the relationship. Mindy allows the relationship to change for the better, while Danny doesn’t believe that he needs to change at all.
Leaving Things In Doubt
Meeting the parents is a huge step in any relationship, and Danny really fumbles this one. Over the course of an episode, Danny skips meeting Mindy’s parents before they move to India for a year and proclaims that he doesn’t ever want to get married again, despite claiming to be committed to Mindy and their future child. Mindy doesn’t think that he is willing to stick it out through the rougher parts of a relationship, and breaks up with him. Realizing his mistake, he apologizes, but Mindy isn’t having it. The episode ends with Danny flying to India alone to meet her parents and to tell them that he loves their daughter. Thank God for Hulu picking this show up or that cliffhanger ending would have cruelly served as our last glimpse of the show. Fans will have to see where the couple ends up next season, and whether or not parenthood brings them together again or forces them further apart.