The saga of getting The Mindy Project to its sixth and final season was…something, even by modern television standards. The series originally aired on Fox and remained there for three seasons before getting the axe. Hulu jumped in to save the Mindy Kaling-led series from the abyss, and it now remains one of the most popular original series on the streaming platform.
The show often elicits odd reactions from fans. Lead character Dr. Mindy Lahiri (Kaling) does not seem like your typical feminist lead: she’s hyperfeminine, bubbly and laser focused on finding herself a man. But the show’s deeply Millennial feminism complicates the usual conversation surrounding what a “strong female” is supposed to look like. While Lahiri is an educated, accomplished OB/GYN, viewers often only see her making a fool of herself or tripping over her own trysts with coworkers.
We finally got to see Mindy get her happily ever after in the season five finale where she agreed to marry Ben (Bryan Greenberg)–the male nurse who took up the majority of season five’s romantic plot. The season six premiere picks up several years after the marriage and sees Mindy and Ben firmly settled in their married routine. So settled, in fact, that Mindy neglects to notice Ben moves out for two days, tricking her with the ol’ “pillows arranged like a person under the covers” tactic. It seems as though this newest season is priming itself for some serious potential break up action.
Mindy and Ben make up quickly, and Ben moves right back in, but audiences are clearly tuned into the idea that Mindy is not as happy about her marriage as Ben–and possibly even the viewers. The ending is predictable; Mindy agrees to spend quality time with Ben, only to fall asleep at work after telling him she was on her way. Mindy’s selfishness has always been at the heart of the series and plays out in positive and negative ways in her various relationships. In breaking up with former flame and baby daddy, Danny Castellano (Chris Messina), Mindy’s selfishness served to give her the freedom to not be confined by traditional, heteronormative relationship roles.
But, with Ben, it seems that Mindy’s selfishness always serves to undermine her ability to really be there for her partner. Mindy loves being in love, but Mindy also loves Mindy first.
While the show’s plot and predictive season six trajectory typically adhere to standard comedy lines, I would argue that Mindy Lahiri is still one of the most relatable women on television right now. She’s smart and successful, but that doesn’t mean she always does the right thing. She’s selfish and occasionally vain, but doesn’t know exactly what she wants versus what she’s been told to want by her self-proclaimed obsession with romantic comedies. She wants to be a strong, successful woman but she also wants to connect with someone, though her narcissism often prevents her from investing time into that connection so it can “go the distance,” so to speak.
While these complications may make The Mindy Project seem unfocused or poorly produced, they make the series one filled with heart and, what appear to be, real people grappling with the inconsistencies inherent in the roles and labels we’re still clinging to in terms of identity and interpersonal relationships.
Will Mindy and Ben end up together? Will the series give us any kind of closure? At this juncture, we seem to only have two conclusions left: Mindy and Ben stay together, or they don’t. Let’s hope the series can surprise us and make one of those two endings seem less boring than they really are.
Ashley Szanter is the associate editor of Salt Lake magazine and co-hosts the UniversiTV podcast.