Little Things Season 2 Episode 2 Review: Money Matters

Another really good episode with a lot of smart observations! Man, just adding those extra 7 minutes added a lot more depth too. (full index of Little Things reviews here)

In my review of the final episode of season 1, I said that it retroactively made the whole season into Mithila’s story. I don’t know for sure what is going to happen this season, but right now it feels like more Dhruv’s story. And that’s okay, that’s really interesting, especially for a show about a couple. Last season, Mithila was a little bit struggling in life, and working hard to keep the relationship going despite her struggle. This season, it’s Dhruv’s turn to be lost and confused and work hard to at least make this relationship work even if nothing else in his life does.

But because Mithila is the woman and Dhruv is the man, it’s different. Money matters differently for couples. When it’s the woman, it’s her money. When it’s the man, it’s our money. No matter how progressive and young and liberal you are, it’s hard to let go of that rule. From both sides.

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This episode is about Dhruv quitting/being fired from his job the same day Mithila gets a big promotion. They have to go to a house warming for Mithila’s boss that night, Dhruv puts off telling Mithila what happened, finally tells her in the cab on the way home expecting her to be understanding, and she is furious with him.

There is so much other stuff that happens along the way, but the big question is what we give up in return for money. For one young party goer, who Dhruv stumbles upon crying over her phone, it is distance from her parents. She is alone in the city working and will see her parents only a few days put together before they die. For the hosts, who we see talking in their room, it is constant worry over appearances, they cannot afford this flat, they are borrowing from relatives to pay the downpayment, and yet are casual and confident in public, enjoying everyone else being impressed with them. And for Mithila, it is the ability to be generous.

Generosity lessons the more money you have. Suddenly you start to enjoy the comfort of it, the luxury, and it is hard to think about sharing it. Especially for a woman in Mithila’s situation. Last season, she and Dhruv were splitting expenses and that was part of her concern when considering quitting her job. But Dhruv was reassuring, told her he would carry her for a bit, and Mithila relaxed and accepted that. The gap between seasons means we missed seeing how they worked as a couple when Dhruv was working and she wasn’t. But that kind of fits with relationships too, they have moved on from that period, and they can’t remember what it was like, they are fully in the now of how their relationship is in the moment instead of how it was then. And for now, Mithila’s identity and confidence and happiness are increasingly tied into her professional success and monetary success. Dhruv quitting his job is about her suddenly being afraid of losing that, and afraid of what it means when Dhruv doesn’t have it. Mithila is scared for her money, and scared for what it means when Dhruv has no “value” in money terms any more. Can she still love him? Should she?

There is a great moment during the party when a group of women are sitting around and Mithila is holding forth on how great it is for women like them “upper middle class” to have the freedom to just buy an expensive pair of shoes without needing to ask a man about it, the freedom and power it gives. This is, obviously, a very privileged statement to make. It starts with the premise of “woe the poor rich woman, who doesn’t have the freedom to work like the poor woman does”. A ridiculous statement which has been repeated by women all over the world. I am sure every woman reading this has, at one point, been part of a conversation in which a woman who has never known hunger says “oh I am so jealous of woman who are allowed to work!” Beyond the whole “no one is as oppressed as the rich women not allowed to work” premise, their is the blindness in Mithila’s example of financial freedom. Sure, buy the expensive shoes, that’s great. But your true freedom is in paying rent, buying food, being able to survive (literally) without needing to rely on a man. The blindness is that none of this women think of “their” money as something that would necessarily go to things like that. Money is a bonus, a pleasant thing to have, for the little extras in life. The necessities come from somewhere else.

Thappad: Taapsee Pannu and Dia Mirza are all smiles in this new ...
In Thappad, Dia was “weird” not because she worked, but because she actually lived off of the money she made from her job. It wasn’t just a bonus.

That’s what is swirling around this whole episode, with Dhruv’s bombshell coming towards Mithila all along. At this party, Mithila’s boss is worried about paying for the down payment on the house and might need to borrow money from his sister to do it. Meanwhile Mithila is talking about spending her massive salary increase on clothes, and encouraging a friend who is “bored” at work to just quit and find something she loves, and complimenting her boss’ wife for staying busy and working. And then there is the young woman who cries because she realized she is making money in Bombay doing silly things when she could be spending time with her parents. All these women who take these jobs as a status symbol, a bonus, but don’t actually NEED to work.

I don’t think the show is judging these women as evil, any more than it judges any character, it is just observing. No one at this party really understands working-to-live versus working-for-a-living. And that is a trap for them, Mithila’s boss and his wife are trapped in this apartment they can’t afford which, at the end of the episode, is revealed to have cracks and water damage. The young woman is trapped away from her family and lonely. Heck, everyone at the party is trapped by being at this party. It’s a networking event and a work event, not like the casual rumpled Taboo game party we saw last season.

The end of the episode, Dhruv imagines telling Mithila in the car and imagines her saying “okay, we will figure it out”. But when he actually tells her, she is horrified. He points out that she did the same thing, quit a job she hated, but she says that was different because they talked first. He says that she knew he hated his job, she knew he was struggling, and his boss just put it to him today that he should quit or be fired, it just happened. Mithila’s wrong, she is, but after seeing the whole episode I can understand why she feels like that. To be brought down suddenly from thinking “jobs are so satisfying and wonderful, money is for luxuries and a mark of success, of course I don’t really care about it but it is nice and feminist to have it” to face to face with “I can’t picture myself with a man who doesn’t have a job” is a very ugly bucket of ice water.

Mostly though, I love watching those woman talk with the camera silently showing us how empty the talk is. Over and over again in Indian films, and in Indian society, I see how proper wealthy woman now work. But there is a difference between how they work, and how men work. Or how lower class women work. They have boutiques, or decorator shops. Or they open and close agencies, or start fashion lines, or write books. Sometimes they have office jobs, but very fancy office jobs at very fancy offices. Having a job is the extra proper thing to do, just like having classical dance or instrument or singing training. But these women don’t actually NEED to work. That would be humiliating, disgusting. The work is a little bonus for them to talk about at parties, and for everyone to feel very modern and feminist about it. But if they want to quit, they can quit, their male relatives will take care of them. A woman who works and supports her family? That’s just low class.

What Bollywood Can Teach You About India: Dear Zindagi Edition ...
Alia and her maid/friend in Dear Zindagi I think have the right kind of relationship They are both aware that Alia works for joy and her maid works from necessity. And because of that, Alia makes sure her maid will always have a job even when she does not.

6 thoughts on “Little Things Season 2 Episode 2 Review: Money Matters

  1. It’s interesting, I had a totally different reaction to Mithila’s speech at the party. I heard her as saying that it was so nice to be independent, to be able to make her own choices, buy a nice pair of shoes because she felt like it without having to justify it to anyone. She notes that their mothers never got to make their own choices like this, and then the friends talk about how their parents are relieved, happy even, because they can fend for themselves and not be dependent on a man.

    The argument at the end is interesting because they’re both right. Dhruv wants her to be supportive like he was of her, to tell him it’s OK, that she can carry the household expenses for a bit, to ask him how he’s feeling. And you know, she probably should. Mithila says she’s mad because he keeps quitting everything (last episode we found out he quit his doctoral program, this time his job), and he makes all these big life decisions without consulting her. Which you know, he should. It’s a fight of equals but they each see it differently. Dhruv thinks that if he’s expecting the same of her as he gave, including financial support, that makes them even. His version is a taking turns kind of equal. Mithila sees their money as one pool and feels she should have equal power of decision over choices that affect both of them.

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    • I heard Mithila saying that, but then I felt like the camera took a step back and made us question it. Because she is talking this big talk, but is really thrown at the idea of her partner being out of a job. And we see her boss and his wife struggling with money as well, not just fancy shoe money but money for their apartment. It’s true, woman in their level of society would have housekeeping money and need to justify any big expense to their husband. But it’s also a bit superficial to see money as something for extras, and to believe that women earning their own money means they are fully independent.

      You are making me sympathize with Mithila more in that final scene! One thing that I thought of after I published the review (I hate that!) is that Mithila talked to Dhruv before she quit, and she talked about money as part of that conversation. It was a concern for her, she was aware of money and job as a connected thing. Dhruv didn’t seem to even consider it. He says he was unhappy and was unhappy for a while but he doesn’t say “I kept working because I wanted to contribute to the household” or anything like that. Or talk about not having a job as a financial concern. It wouldn’t be logical of course, she is making sooooooooooooooooo much money now that whatever he was bringing in to the household before was a drop in the bucket (If I understood their conversation at the party, translated to USD their respective incomes were probably something like $200,000 a year versus $20,000 a year). But logic doesn’t really enter into it, he should have thought about money as part of the reason you have a job instead of this feeling of “money doesn’t matter any more because my girlfriend is rich” which is almost where he was going. Before, their income was roughly equal, and so it meant something different when Dhruv offered to carry her. Now, it feels like he is just assuming she will carry him because she makes so much more.

      On Fri, Apr 10, 2020 at 11:04 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • Yes, I don’t think they actually disagree about money in the sense that what they will do in each case is not really in dispute. It’s not like he blew a bunch of cash on a frivolous purchase, or even that she’s objecting to the money he sends to his parents, or some other spending dispute like the friends who bought the house. They’re really fighting about each other’s attitude towards money. Dhruv has a more lax attitude, he assumes everything will work out and wants Mithila to focus on him instead of the money. She sees this attitude as a symptom of his failure to take her seriously and consult her about important decisions he makes with his life.

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        • YES! They are really a very compatible couple in terms of money. Which maybe is why this kind of fight is happening so late in the relationship? They both enjoyed eating out, they both liked their apartment, they both appreciated each other’s hobbies, there wasn’t a dispute until now.

          I would also say that Mithila sees Dhruv’s casual attitude about money as part of his whole casual attitude about his life, I think if he said “I quit my job and am excited about this unpaid internship I just signed up for” she would react differently.

          On Sat, Apr 11, 2020 at 11:21 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  2. I think the first season sort of set Dhruv up as the logical one and Mithila as more intuitive. Dhruv makes plans and gets upset if they aren’t able to be carried out, while Mithila is more spontaneous and a little flakey. A lot of their fights arise from this of course, but it’s also a strength in their relationship. Mithila eggs Dhruv into exploring a winery when their plans fall through, or going on impulse to a street fair, and she gets him to see what his old friend means to him when he is looking at the “value” his friend adds to his life. And Dhruv is able to take Mithila’s emotional decision, “I want to quit my job,” and helps her to look at pros and cons and really think about a decision she’ll be happy with. With Dhruv suddenly quitting his PhD program and then his job, maybe it’s really just upsetting their equilibrium. Mithila might depend on Dhruv to be logical and dependable even more than she’s thinking about money. And Dhruv is expecting Mithila to be not so worried about plans but willing to support his emotional decision, so he’s thrown off as well. This is a really interesting shift in their dynamic.

    I’m also interested in the way other couples serve as a foil to our couple. Last season they went to the Taboo party where the hosting couple had a really bad fight. I mean bad in that this is how couples counselors tell you not to fight. It started because the boyfriend didn’t feel secure in the relationship and cheated at the game, and then the girlfriend publicly humiliated him and exaggerated the effect on her. Compared with this, Dhruv and Mithila have a “good” fight: quick and private and ending with loving words. I’m not sure about the couple in this episode: maybe they are sharing their money worries where Dhruv and Mithila, at the moment, can’t.

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    • Thank you for bringing up “bad” and “good” fights! There is a really major blow out fight later this season which I found really well done because it is a big fight, but still a “good” fight. No personal insults, private, honest, and so on.

      I like your point about the balance of the relationship. This whole season is clearly about something wrong at the beginning and then growing and changing over the course of the season and finally reaching a different place at the end. I hadn’t thought about it in terms of the logical/emotional balance between them, but you are totally right. Leading up to the end when Dhruv finally is able to express his emotions and Mithila can find a logical reaction.

      On Thu, Apr 16, 2020 at 10:22 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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