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Sean Daly, Michelle Stark and Sharon Kennedy Wynne

Must-watch: Tonight's 'The Mindy Project' finale is the show at its very best

Mindy.

Fox

Mindy.

Fox's The Mindy Project is my No. 1 pick when I'm deciding how to catch up on the shows I missed Tuesday nights. It wasn't always this way. Last year, it was New Girl, when the show was deep into its Nick-Jess heyday. Then it was Trophy Wife, one my absolute faves. Mindy was always in the rotation, but it wasn't always a must-see for me. It's taken the comedy from former The Office writer/star Mindy Kaling some time to find its footing, and at times struggled as it was doing that.

But since the show returned in April from a mid-season break, things have been different, more assured. And tonight's episode, "Mindy and Danny", makes it clear: Mindy has never been better.

Admittedly, the name never really did the show any favors. Besides sounding like something someone wrote on the chalkboard in pre-production, the 'Project' part implies it's a work in progress. And for most of its run, it has been. The first season, beginning with a stronger-than-average pilot, was consistently funny, but the tone and premise of the show shifted wildly from episode to episode. Was this a show about Mindy's life as a single gal in New York City? About her professional career as a gynecologist? Was it an ensemble workplace comedy? At any given moment, it was all of those things. Cast members came and went, plots were dropped constantly, Mindy jumped from white boyfriend to white boyfriend.

Sure, the show was always funny. Kaling has a real knack for joke-writing (she did write some of The Office's funniest episodes, after all), and a wry female millennial sensibility that really appeals to ... female millennials, like me. I can't think of an episode I haven't laughed at.

But the show was capable of more than a few great jokes per episode. And finally, as its second season wraps, it has wisely honed in on its strongest qualities.

The cast has gelled, down to its most vital, hilarious components: Chris Messina as Danny Castellano, Kaling as Mindy Lahiri, Ed Weeks as Jeremy, Ike Barinholtz as Morgan and Adam Pally as Peter. (Mindy's tendency to surround herself with all these white men is still somewhat troubling. Can we get another prominent female character?)

And The Mindy Project has finally found a focus in the tumultous, flirtatious, hysterical pairing of Danny and Mindy. Aside from Mindy, Messina's Danny - a grouchy, Springsteen-worshipping tough guy - is without a doubt the show's strongest creation, a constantly entertaining presence and a great foil for Mindy. So it's no surprise the show's greatest moment came a few months ago when Mindy and Danny released months of sexual tension with a make-out session on a plane.

I'm not going to spoil tonight's episode, but it manages to surpass that very first liplock as one of the show's strongest, most romantic half-hours. As the best episodes of Mindy do, it tweaks rom-com conventions while also playing into them, manages to be sweet and laugh-out-loud funny simultanously, and gives the show a trajectory it can follow into its recently renewed third season. (Plus, these 23 reasons, courtesy of the Deal Divas.) I had a huge smile on my face watching "Mindy and Danny," and not just because it contains a killer Bruce Springsteen music cue. I'm excited that Mindy has finally found itself.

[Last modified: Tuesday, May 6, 2014 12:32pm]

    

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