This has been, for me, a great episode. Possibly the best of the season thus far. Hear me out.
Now, the pressure to be great wasn’t so extreme for this episode. The premiere had a double duty: to invite new viewers to their world and to tie in with the previous season for the existing viewers. They crammed a lot into that 22 minutes, and I felt like the pacing was very uneven, even if individual scenes were great. Episode 302 had to bear the weight of Annette Castellano (and Rhea Perlman carried it forward beautifully as we knew she would.) I suppose this argument singles Crimes and Misdemeanors and Ex-boyfriends out as one of the “filler” episodes, but I see it as more of a connector.
Why it worked for me:
The B plot was not quite so shoehorned in. Now I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it had the development it deserved, but it didn’t feel quite so much like an afterthought to the Danny/Mindy line - which is very much what the B for 301 and 302 felt for me.
We got to see Mindy as a professional for a moment. I know the basic idea is that TMP is as much about medicine as The Office was about paper, but I love the moments where Mindy is portrayed as a competent professional. I don’t think that’s instantly undone by the fact that she was careless with money, and I don’t think the money issues are actually out-of-character. They’ve been building that since at least late last season (time share, anyone?) and believe me when I say that there are plenty of smart, capable people who are just totally adrift when it comes to financial matters.
Domesticity at it’s realest. Do I love Danny calling himself “Daddy” or even calling Mindy “Baby”? No. Gross. However, the look on Mindy’s face when he says it makes me think he hasn’t tried that one before and he’s going to be asked never to do it again. They’ve been together 5 months, which is such a short amount of time, even if you really, really know someone. They haven’t gotten the pet name thing down, they still struggle with honesty (like actually saying “Danny, if you want an overnight guest you’re gonna have to ease off this territorial nonsense”) and they both assume a level of mind-reading that’s just not ever going to be true. They haven’t gotten their rhythms down. I’ve seen this demonstrated on other shows really beautifully (Jim and Pam once Pam goes to NYC) but the level of awkward is actually pretty representative.
The secondary cast was used to much greater effect. Now I could be saying this because I’m one of those people who thinks Morgan is better as seasoning than sauce, but I think the balance was much better and I was happy to have more Jeremy and more Beverly. This is one of my number one complaints about the show - failure to use secondary characters as more than a punchline. They handled this much more successfully this time around. Now let’s just pry Dr. That Lady back out of the series (sorry, Tracy Wigfield) and give time back to Tamra.
Did it still have faults? Yeah, of course. In terms of structure it was far more coherent though, and hopefully once we get further into the season we’ll move closer to a balance in the way the episode is put together and clever ways to move the story along.