Season four of The Mindy Project almost didn’t happen. After Fox cancelled the sitcom in early May, Hulu swept in to order a super-sized fourth season of 26 episodes. The shift from network to digital media platform means the show will no longer have to adhere to sensors, and although Mindy Kaling (creator, executive producer and lead actress of the show) has hinted in recent interviews that things will get a little racier this season, there was no evidence of this in the premiere, “While I Was Sleeping”.
The episode picks up exactly where the season three finale left off, with Danny Castellano (Chris Messina) flying to India to meet Mindy’s parents (Ajay Mehta and Sakina Jaffrey) now that she is pregnant with his child. Meanwhile, back in New York City, Mindy awakes to find herself in an alternate universe where she is married to Matt (Joseph Gordon Levitt), a producer of the “Real Housewives” franchise.
In her Sliding Doors-esque alternate universe, Mindy revels in her new life – a giant engagement ring, an apartment in Gramercy Park and a “hot husband.” But this world is far from ideal. Mindy and Danny haven’t spoken in two years, she’s having an affair with Brendan, a midwife and her ex-boyfriend (Mark Duplass), and instead of opening a fertility clinic, alternate-universe-Mindy’s business venture is called Delectable Desires, “slutty girdles for the sexually active obese”.
Back in “reality”, Danny gets roped in to helping Mindy’s parents find a suitable man for their daughter, as they plan to arrange a marriage for her. He makes it as difficult as possible, vetoing every man they suggest, until Morgan (Ike Barinholtz) shows up in India, having left Peter’s (Adam Pally) wedding to search for Danny. He takes the process in his own hands, finding a suitor (Kunal Nayyar) for Mindy himself in the hopes of pressuring Danny into proposing. The suitor appears to be winning the favour of Mindy’s parents, as well as Morgan, until he finds out Mindy is 35 and pregnant. He deems her a “lemon”, causing the Lahiris to tell him just how lucky he would be to join their family, and, in the process, showing Danny just how deep the love in a marriage (an arranged marriage at that) can run.
In her alternate universe, Mindy crashes Danny’s date with Freida Pinto, who he met in spin class, and drags him out in the rain to confront him. She insists that he was supposed to kiss her on the plane where she and Matt met, because they’re meant to be together. They kiss (twice), and Danny pulls away (twice). She chases him across the street, gets hit by a bus, and wakes up in her bed – with Danny sitting right beside her.
Danny says, “I told [your parents] that I love you but I don’t believe in marriage. But when two strangers can meet on their wedding day and still be in love forty years later, maybe I’m wrong. I’d like to be wrong” before dropping to one knee and proposing.
This episode, like so much of the previous three seasons, has the feel of a romantic comedy. Mindy Kaling has never been shy about her love of the genre, making frequent references to classics such as You’ve Got Mail, When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle and An Affair to Remember. The season three finale, “Best Man”, was an ode to these movies and to the love story of Danny and Mindy. The premiere continued this theme.
“While I Was Sleeping” is a sweet, charming beginning to the season and I can’t wait to see how Danny and Mindy adjust to life as engaged, soon-to-be parents.
New episodes of The Mindy Project are available on Hulu every Tuesday at 12am. The current season will premiere in Canada Thursday, November 5 at 9:30pm on CityTV.