This post deals with spoilers from Tuesday night's episode of The Mindy Project. Be warned.
It was hard not to see this one coming: last night, after one* and a half seasons worth of sexual tension, doctors and The Mindy Project protagonists Mindy Lahiri (Mindy Kaling) and Danny Castellano (Chris Messina) kissed. Really, he kissed her, and it was a full on make-out. It was, for lack of a better word, hot. It was also in some ways highly reminiscent of an arc on The Mindy Project's fellow Tuesday night comedy New Girl, an arc that hasn't necessarily worked so well for the Zooey Deschanel-headlined show.
Last year, around the midseason mark of New Girl's second season, the show brought together the two will-they-or-won't-they characters, Nick and Jess. In that episode, "Cooler," their big kiss comes at the end of an episode where Jess (Deschanel) was trying to help Nick (Jake Johnson) get laid by someone else (Brooklyn Decker, but that's not important right now). It was also a good kiss.
In last night's episode of Mindy, Mindy Kaling's title character began the episode having just been dumped by lawyer boyfriend Cliff (Glenn Howerton). While she's plotting to fly home to New York—the gang has been on a business trip in L.A.—to get him back, Danny kidnaps her so she can help him face his formerly-deadbeat-now-a-pretty-nice guy dad played by Dan Hedaya. Danny gets drunk in the desert, she rescues him, hijinks ensue, and Danny makes up with his father. On the plane back to New York, Danny helps Mindy construct a letter to Cliff explaining why she wants to get back together. It's perfectly romantic and we can see exactly why he's really writing the letter. (It's directed toward Mindy!) As she goes to get him a drink, he gets that rom-com revelation of who he really wants to be with, goes to her, and they kiss. Cheers!
At the beginning of this season I wrote about what a disappointment I've found Mindy, but in many ways the show seems to have fixed a lot of its issues. The supporting characters now each have their own voices. Adam Pally's Dr. Peter Prentice and Ike Barinholtz's Nurse Morgan now feel like distinctive weirdo characters that can play off one another, not ape each other's story lines. But even when I didn't think the show was as good as it could be, the one thing that has always been consistent has been Danny and Mindy's spiky chemistry. See, for perhaps the best examples, season one's "Danny Castellano Is My Gynecologist" and season two's "Danny Castellano Is My Personal Trainer."
Mindy is best when it's playing off of romantic comedy tropes, so it was hard to imagine that creator/star Kaling wouldn't put her Kathleen Kelly and Joe Fox together. The show was drawing closer and closer to that conclusion as the season went on. The Christmas episode, for instance, saw Danny performing a dance to Aaliyah's "Try Again" for Mindy and looked longingly out a window when she and Cliff got together. So it was hard not to see this coming when Kaling tweeted: "You can't miss tonite's #themindyproject, which is so full of sexual tension I can't take it. The last ten minutes are insane."
It's obviously hard to predict what exactly will happen to the show next—it will deal with post-kiss "fallout"—and it's also hard not to root for Mindy and Danny. The same way it was hard not to root for Nick and Jess. New Girl left the couple in a sort of limbo for the rest of the second season following the kiss, but brought them officially together for the third. When the season began, the romance was oddly unexciting and felt generic. The Nick and Jess romance isn't the sole source of the show's third season slump, but it's also hard not to blame it a little bit. Jess has become a rote annoyed-girlfriend at times—she gets annoyed when Nick goes to a strip club—and Nick has questioned his manliness. Shortly after Nick and Jess kissed, Willa Paskin wrote at Salon that "there’s a pretty solid consensus that the 'Moonlighting curse' is bogus." Still, it's tempting to blame the legacy of that Cybill Shepherd-Bruce Willis outing for whatever is going on over in the New Girl loft.
Unexpressed romantic tension is like catnip for sitcom writers, but the temptation to put characters together can prove too great. Kaling told E! in an interview after the episode aired: "There are only so many times two characters can almost-kiss before your audience begins to feel jerked around. We could have kept up the loaded tension between Danny and Mindy for a while longer, but I think at a certain point, the option that seemed the most fun to write was to have them kiss and deal with the comedic fallout for these characters." Mindy and Danny together could be a wonderful thing. Their predilection to trade barbs could truly make them a latter-day Sam and Diane. Here's hoping.
*The original post mistakenly said there were two and a half seasons worth of sexual tension. Of course, that sexual tension has only been brewing for one and a half seasons.