“The Mindy Project” Season 1 came to a very funny finish tonight on FOX and one major question is bound to carry over to Season 2: Will doctors Mindy Lahiri (Mindy Kaling) and Danny Castellano (Chris Messina) ever get together?
When “Mindy” launched last fall, the pilot established Mindy’s sexual fling with bad boy co-worker Jeremy (Ed Weeks) but that potentially ongoing story was almost immediately dropped as the series went through some growing pains and creative changes. At the same time, Messina’s Castellano quickly became the show’s breakout character — a guy’s guy from a working class Staten Island background with a love for Springsteen and baseball. He couldn’t be more different from Kaling’s girly pop culture loving romantic comedy fan. And that’s when fans started wondering if they’d hook up.
Blame “Mindy’s” rom-com influences, the sparkling performances of Kaling and Messina, or the writers’ tendency to give Mindy and Danny scenes where their grudging but respectful friendship hinted at a subconscious mutual attraction. Whatever the reason, their playful back-and-forth continued throughout the season even as the characters dated a string of other people.
Those love interests were often played by great guest stars (Tommy Dewey as sports agent Josh and Anders Holm as Pastor Casey were especially well-matched with Kaling over multiple episodes, while Messina’s strongest match was Chloe Sevigny as ex-wife Christina), which is one reason the possibility of coupling up Mindy and Danny gets so complicated. While Kaling and Messina drive the show — and there’s still a lot of room to flesh out the ensemble cast — it might be too much to ask them to carry it together without fun guest stars to bounce off of or the ability to put their characters in separate storylines whenever needed.
Pushing Mindy and Danny into a relationship too fast could compromise something special about the show, or it could create the renewed buzz that lead-in “New Girl” has enjoyed with its Nick-Jess romance in Season 2. That dilemma will surely be weighing on Kaling, the writers and FOX as “Mindy” enters Season 2. Especially since the show still enjoys more critical and creative respect than commercial success (the first season has averaged around 3 million viewers and a 1.6 rating in the 18-49 demo — both so-so numbers that FOX would surely like to see grow), and “Mindy” will once again follow “New Girl” next fall.
Just in case, the Season 1 finale left the door wide open for a Mindy-Danny romance (should we call them Manny or Dindy?). In the final scene, Danny tells Mindy he’s decided to slow it down with Christina, but Mindy reaffirms her interest in Casey and agrees to go with him to Haiti. Still, in that moment when Danny offered to clean Mindy’s glasses and they found themselves face to face, you could see both characters considering the possibilities…
As a show, “Mindy” remains first and foremost a great showcase for Kaling’s comedic voice. Now that she’s surrounded herself with smart writers and strong actors, the series is sharper and more ambitious than nearly any other comedy on network TV. It never settles for the obvious joke or standard variations on characters doing the same thing every week, and doesn’t really deserve to fall into the “will they/won’t they” trap. But based on what “Mindy” established in Season 1, if the writers decide to go there it’s probably not going to happen in any kind of predictable way.