“The Mindy Project” is the type of working title a network assigns a show until a final title has been cleared. It’s supposed to be temporary. But in this case, the name stuck — presaging a pattern of breaking rules and subverting expectations that the show has followed throughout its run.
As it enters its sixth season, “The Mindy Project” title has taken on a new meaning. Heroine Mindy Lahiri (Mindy Kaling) has been working on the project that is herself and her romantic notions all along. And now the time has come in the final season for Mindy to finally discover her happy ending, whatever that may be.
True to its rom-com roots, the show kicks off its final season by doubling down — nay, quadrupling down — on romance, with at least four couples circling each other in the first three episodes provided to critics. Of course, it’s Mindy’s relationship with Ben (Bryan Greenberg) that is the focus, after the Season 5 finale ended with Mindy’s decision to accept his proposal.
The show picks up about eight months after the impromptu wedding, and fast forwarding to this point in their marriage is a little disorienting. That means there’s been eight months of marital bliss that’s been yadda-yadda-yadda’d over hiatus.
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“The Mindy Project” has often moved at breakneck speeds to pack in as many boyfriends for Mindy as possible, and that’s by design. Sure, in order to stretch out the rom-com formula, the show must always hit the reset button. But the parade of love interests is more than that. It’s really the only way that Mindy — a romantic reared on Nora Ephron and “The Princess Bride” — can learn because she’s not the most insightful or self-aware person.
Therefore, Mindy runs headlong into lust or love, bungles it completely, and then reevaluates. That doesn’t make for the most stable TV show, and this episodic style of dating takes its toll on creating compelling characters. Why bother falling for Pastor Casey (Anders Holm) if he’s just going to peace out within a predetermined number of episodes? And does that mean the time invested with Ben has been wasted?
This is where “The Mindy Project” challenges the idea of what a rom-com means for television. The end game may not be the viewers’ favorite couple finally getting together for good. Instead, it may be about personal happiness first with the promise of couplehood second.
The series certainly seems to be heading in that direction, although viewers have gravitated to one of Mindy’s relationships in particular. Danny Castellano (Chris Messina), the man who appeared to be the love of Mindy’s life and with whom she even has a child, eventually faded away into his own plot offscreen with guest star Greta Gerwig.
Until this season, that is. The show is wisely bringing back Danny because that chapter of Mindy’s life has always felt unfinished. Although there’s still no guarantee that his return means a reconciliation between the two, producers have promised that at least their relationship status will gain some “clarity.”
Despite the looming presence of that unresolved relationship, this season remains as insouciant and goofy as ever with its unique celebration of grotesqueries. Mindy and her coterie are all reprehensible in some way, but each time that someone is selfish, crass, or inappropriate gives viewers just another reason to love them. “The Mindy Project” has always existed in a fantastical plane of reality in which nothing terribly wretched can happen, which makes it easy to embrace these well-meaning, imperfect weirdos. The deeper that the characters are asked to dig, the more unhinged and ridiculous the reactions promise to be.
Jordin Althaus/Universal Television/Hulu
While Mindy’s journey can wear sometimes — after all, her maturation process has taken quite a long time — this season has shifted to include other people’s journeys. It’s clear that since this is the home stretch, everyone will get some sort of arc and resolution. In particular, Jeremy (Ed Weeks) and Tamra (Xosha Roquemore) each gain more depth and dimension to their stories early on. And loose ends with popular guest stars like Glenn Howerton, the Duplass brothers and Adam Pally will also be tied up in time for the bittersweet farewell.
“The Mindy Project” is poised for its most meaningful season ever. It’s easy to dismiss the show for its light tone, but it’s already accomplished so much in creating a wholly resilient and positive character, one for whom a failed engagement is merely a learning experience, and single motherhood is to be embraced, not stigmatized. The uncertainty of where Mindy will end up — with a relationship or not — isn’t so much unsettling as it is promising. This is a character who can (eventually) handle whatever is thrown at her in the end.
Watch a trailer for Season 6 below:
Beginning Sept. 12, “The Mindy Project” releases new episodes on Tuesdays on Hulu.