When two TV characters tie the knot, the first instalment where we get a glimpse of their married life should sound like a happy one, right? For example, the Office episode where Jim (John Krasinski) and Pam (Jenna Fischer) return from their honeymoon is called “The Lover.” The Mindy Project’s Mindy Lahiri (Mindy Kaling) and Ben (Bryan Greenberg) do not get the same optimistic treatment. Their introductory episode as Mr. and Mrs. is called “Is That All There Is.” Is That All There Is! That is the greatest hint a relationship is not long for this world since Britney Spears was allowed to obtain a marriage licence at 4.30am in Sin City. The actual content of “Is That All There Is”, the finale season 6 premiere, further proves Dr. Mindy will not get a fairytale ending as a happily wedded woman and mother — and I couldn’t be happier about it.
As longtime fans of The Mindy Project can agree, the focus on Mindy’s search for the perfect partner was oftentimes the weakest part of the series. Take Pastor Casey Peerson (Anders Holm), one of Mindy’s greatest boyfriends. Casey was perfect for Mindy, specifically, and not just a stock “good guy”. He challenged her, they had instant chemistry, and she cut off all her hair for him. That’s huge. But thanks to the rom-com-ish nature of The Mindy Project, what’s gold could never stay. It’s not like our titular doctor could find her soulmate within the first 19 episodes of the whole show. What would the rest of the comedy even be about? Their perfect, religiously quirky lives together? I never. So Casey’s figurative character was assassinated and he was turned into a ridiculous DJ and sneakerhead who couldn’t help but scream every syllable.
Danny Castellano (Chris Messina), Mindy’s true Project ship, was similarly ruined for the good of the story and real-life talent contracts. Just as everything was really starting to fall into place for little Leo’s parents, Danny was bizarrely overcome by his worst personality traits. He wanted Mindy to give up her entire career, he abandoned her for weeks on end to “care” for his dad while she had a newborn, and he stopped going to couple’s therapy. Of course, this helped explain why Danny would no longer be on screen every week, as Messina exited as a series regular, and pushed Mindy back into her dating “project”; but it didn’t feel very good.
After these big, messy heartbreaks, it’s no surprise Mindy has settled on Nurse Ben (Bryan Greenberg). Ben is handsome, and a homeowner, and sweet, and a good father, and notices that Mindy is a weirdo, but doesn’t exactly care. Hypothetically, Ben is the Perfect Guy. But you know how we can tell The Mindy Project, and therefore Mindy Lahiri herself, doesn’t care about Ben? Ben doesn’t have a damn last name. Ben is just Ben, unless we’re saying “Nurse” is his legal first name, and “Ben” is actually his surname.
Ben is so Nice, there’s an entire season 5 episode, “Hot Mess Time Machine”, where the universe literally forces Mindy into a Groundhog Day situation where she keeps repeating a Wednesday until she realises the magic of Ben. She has to learn everything there is to know about his lovably nerdy hobbies, put on cosplay costumes, and let him poke fun at her pop culture blind spots. You know, because Ben is a perfect dude!
But why is Ben a perfect guy for Mindy, specifically? As a couple they lack the crackling chemistry she had with someone like Pastor Casey — or even lower-level love interests like Jamie (Kaling's IRL ex-boyfriend B.J. Novak), who also didn’t have a last name — and Ben could never even try to compare to the so-fiery-it-couldn’t-survive passion between enemies-turned-lovers Mindy and Danny.
Instead, he’s a lukewarm nice guy any Bachelor(ette) viewer would love to see hand out his own roses. As season 6 premiere “Is That All There Is” proves, Mindy isn’t happy with merely “that”. She barely wants to spend alone time with Ben, going so far as to exercise to get away from him in the morning. Mindy Lahiri does a lot of things, but she doesn’t exercise. The doctor would also rather hang out with known wet blanket Jeremy Reed (Ed Weeks) or take a nap on an uncomfortable-looking break room couch, than go home to dinner and wine with Ben. Mindy loves food and alcohol! Things are so bad in her marriage, Mindy doesn’t even realise the difference in bed between a lump of motionless pillows and Ben, who was in New Jersey for days on end without her knowledge. Try to imagine Mindy going to sleep two nights in a row and not noticing Danny wasn’t sleeping next to her. Impossible.
While it may sound like I’m happy Mindy and Ben likely won’t finish season 6 as a couple simply because the male nurse isn’t Danny, that’s not the case. All of Mindy’s relationships were a failure because The Mindy Project turned them into failures for the benefit of a forward-moving story. Soon enough, we’ll see her get divorced, as writer-creator-star Mindy Kaling has confirmed, adding to the pile of romantic fiascos. With a single Mindy at the end of this Project, it will prove it doesn’t matter what relationship ups and downs she went through, because the aim all along wasn’t to watch our heroine find a man — it was to watch her find herself through an endless string of mishaps and successes. In fact, all of the bad romances were merely escapist window dressing, as is normally the case in real life.
If you think this is unfair to all the time you watched Mindy try to find The One, think about when the doctor truly shines. That glow never came from a relationship but rather during the moments that related to her on an individual, personal level. Mindy may be a mess, explaining why the original working title was It's Messy, but she’s a star at her job. It’s always a joy to see her deliver a new baby, enter an exciting fellowship, or start her own business. Think about the light in Mindy’s eyes whenever she deals with Later, Baby, her specialised fertility clinic. Danny, Ben, Casey, Jamie and every other man Mindy dated combined could never make her that happy. The only guy who could maybe make her happier is her son Leo, and she’s similarly smiling so hard her face probably hurts when she deals with her role as a mother, which she excels at in her classic, over-the-top Mindy fashion.
The Mindy Project began as an homage to the classic romantic comedy, where the girl always gets the guy before the credits roll. But over the years, Mindy Kaling's brainchild has proven to be the anti-rom-com, with its bonkers themed episodes and its fart-pill-popping, fashionable, impossible-to-pin-down lead. Now it’s seemingly time to watch Mindy go down with the Mindy Project ship solo, and likely very happy, proving the real romance of this rom-com was between Mindy Lahiri and Mindy Lahiri all along.
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