Mindy Project raises tension before break

Warning: This article contains spoilers for “The Desert”, the midseason finale of The Mindy Project.

TV thrives on sexual tension. It’s just a fact. Sometimes, shows drag it out, season after season, using will-they-won’t-they plots to keep viewers interested. Other times, show runners will jump right in after a few seasons and try to play the series off of new relationships between characters.

The Mindy Project is, thankfully, the latter. At the end of last Tuesday’s midseason finale, titled “The Desert”, the FOX comedy brought together its protagonist, Mindy Lahiri (creator and writer Mindy Kaling) and Danny Castellano (Chris Messina) in a passionate embrace.

The catch? Mindy had just sent a letter to her very recently ex-boyfriend Cliff (Glenn Howerton) explaining her desire to make things work. And back in New York, Cliff realized his desire to do the same.

For viewers, that moment was a welcome surprise after a season of build-up between the pair. In fact, the episode showed them together as friends for the majority of screen time, and even the most casual viewer could see how well they knew and cared for each other.

Show creators are wary of these situations, in which main characters that previously showed strong romantic tension act on their feelings, because they fear losing what made that relationship compelling. A well-known example is the 1980s show Moonlighting, which saw a significant drop in ratings and cancellation in the season following such action on the part of its main characters.

The issue facing The Mindy Project now is whether or not Kaling can keep up that same tension-filled relationship after such a huge event.

Currently in its second season, the show has seen a huge improvement over the first, which was filled with potential, but weighed down by extraneous characters and situations that seemed forced.

Instead, viewers saw the formation of a true ensemble cast this season as the staff of a gynecology practice worked and interfered with each other’s lives. Each character seemed weird until another one outdid them.

Within the first few minutes of “The Desert”, it’d be easy to write Mindy off as insane, after she takes dating advice from Gone With the Wind and references Amanda Knox as “foxy-knoxy.”
But back in New York, only a few minutes later, nurse Morgan Tookers (Ike Barinholtz) is locked in the practice bathroom, and the reactions of the rest of the office staff may make viewers rethink Mindy’s status as the resident weirdo.

Sadly, ratings have not been kind to this gem, but perhaps the simultaneously satisfying and unsatisfying ending to “The Desert” will bring in more viewers looking to see where Kaling takes the fallout. If not, then TV is in danger of losing not only a comedy full of quality humor, but one full of the heart and meaning that is missing elsewhere on television.

Mindy Lahiri is both relatable and distanced by her crazy antics; viewers can sympathize with her everyday problems but also laugh at the way she deals with life. They can write off her dreams of a life lived like a romantic comedy, but at the same time wish right along with her. Mindy is both everyone and no one.

If you’re not watching, you should be. Don’t be turned off by a shaky first season or fear of the Moonlighting curse. The Mindy Project is a prime example of comedy that’s about more than just being funny.