Last night’s second season finale of The Mindy Project took us right where we wanted to go (for now, at least). In 22 minutes, Mindy Kaling and Co. paid perfect tribute to You’ve Got Mail, Sleepless in Seattle, and When Harry Met Sally, and still managed to gently subvert all three. From Tim Daly’s Greg Kinnear character, to Danny’s Billy Crystal run through the street to Springsteen, to the rom-com montage, and finally, a climactic final scene in which Kaling overlaid her sitcom goofiness over the Sleepless in Seattle template, set to the perfect Cars song.
Despite the huge gap between the first and second halves of the season, it’s been a marked improvement over the first, as the focus of The Mindy Project has shifted toward their best characters: Danny, Mindy, and Peter, and Morgan, while the rest of the supporting cast weave in and out in small doses (optimistic secretary Betsy (Zoe Jarman) is the latest casualty of the rotating support staff, as she wasn’t picked up for the third season, joining Anna Camp and Amanda Setton in the discard pile). Peter (Adam Pally), in particular, has given the show demonstrably better B-plots since his arrival, and he’s absorbed much of the dating hijinx humor while the A-plots focused on Danny and Mindy. It’s no longer the show we idly watch after New Girl, it’s become the show we can’t wait to see while idly watching New Girl.
Chris Messina has always been the biggest strength of the show, but I was unsure if Danny could continue to be as funny as he transitioned for the office grump into Mindy’s main love interest, but he’s absolutely shined while dealing with his own jealousy and insecurities. Once Mindy turned the tables on him, he managed to perfectly blend boyish sensitivity with his typical Castellano crustiness. Mindy, meanwhile, absolutely killed it in that bathroom scene last night, showing real vulnerability underneath the ditzy confidence.
I’m not as certain about how good The Mindy Project will be going forward, especially after seeing New Girl lose some of its creative steam once Nick and Jess got together. However, low ratings and possibly a shorter third (and likely final) season should allow for Kaling and the writing staff to maintain their momentum as they heard toward a probable finish line. In fact, three seasons may be the perfect amount of time for The Mindy Project, allowing it to ultimately leave us wanting more.