Little Things Season 2 Episode 4 Review: If You Watch Only One Episode, This is the One to Watch. Also, MANNAT!

Woot! MANNAT! And a really lovely hopeful small gem of an episode. Don’t watch anything else of this show if you don’t want to, just watch this one episode and feel happy. (full index of reviews here)

This is a really beautiful episode. There is never really anything stressful that happens in it, and there are some beautiful views of Bombay, and a bunch of very quiet pleasant conversations between people who are trying hard to make a connection, and really SEE each other.

There is a special relationship between the boyfriend/girlfriend and the parents of the girlfriend/boyfriend. It’s different from actual in-laws, once there is a formal relationship there are stresses and expectations. But when you are seriously dating, you are in this odd position of spending a lot of time with someone of an older generation, without any hang-ups that stop you from seeing each other as people.

I should say, there is the possibility for that relationship, so long as both sides are nice open people. Which is what we see here in this episode, as Dhruv continues to crawl his way into my heart this season. Mithila’s mother is in town and Dhruv is going to host her for the day while Mithila goes to work. Her mother is a lovely woman who approves of Dhruv’s relationship with Mithila and is being pleasant and nice to him as her host in the city. And Dhruv is a very nice man who appreciates this lovely older woman and wants to be sure she has a good time. They are strangers, sort of, because they haven’t really spent that much time together one on one. But they also aren’t strangers, because they both have heard about each other through Mithila. And because they are coming from a starting point of “this is a person who might be part of my life for the rest of my life”. There’s an extra effort to connect, and an extra interest in each other.

Little Things | Netflix Official Site

Mithila’s mother could easily be disapproving and standoffish. And Dhruv could easily be awkward and ignore her, check his phone, not talk. But instead he goes along with whatever plans she makes for the day, and then truly talks to her and listens to her. By the evening, when they have a nice dinner with Mithila’s work friends over, Dhruv is joking with Mithila’s mother and teasing the young people for always being on their phones. He and Mithila’s Mom are friends now, not just strangers tied by a third party.

Something else I notice, this is an almost entirely Dhruv episode. The meat of it is seeing him and Mithila’s mom going around, without Mithila there. At the end, Mithila has a bit of an emotional tangle as she misses her Mom, and also realizes she doesn’t really know her, not like Dhruv now knows her, as a person. But the show gives Dhruv the ability to give Mithila a solution, and to listen and care about her problem. Mithila has the problem, but Dhruv is as active as she is in this scene (just as Mithila was there to help him talk out his problem with his friend in the first episode). Combine that with him having the most to do in the middle of the episode, and we are increasingly seeing Dhruv’s journey and growth as a person, learning who he is beyond the “statistics and foodie” guy from the first season.

Anyway, plot! Mithila arranges a car for the day and sets up a tourism plan for Dhruv and her Mom to go around Bombay. But then once they are in the car, her mother asks Dhruv if, please, they could go somewhere else. And they go to Mannat. And she takes her hair down and makes herself look pretty and asks Dhruv to take her photo, a little embarrassed but also excited. And Dhruv is happy for her, and tells her she looks nice, and takes the photo. And then she asks to go see where Aamir Khan lives, and is disappointed because it is such a small apartment (I was so caught up at this point, I started saying to the screen “oh, you should go see Jalsa! Or Rajesh Khanna’s bungalow! Or Galaxy apartments for Salman!” and then I realized this very nice middle-aged woman was fiction and I didn’t have to worry about her having a nice time on her Bombay trip). Finally, she asks one more place, and it is the house of an old friend. Dhruv watches the two of them meet, learns they were friends as young women, but haven’t seen each other in years because the friend is never in town when Mithila’s mother visits. And then they go to the beach and talk, and Dhruv tells her a story about when he got food poisoning (that sounds bad, it isn’t a gross story, just a small funny story that you would tell someone you are close to) and she tells him a story about Mithila’s childhood, and then asks him not to tell Mithila about visiting the friend because it would make her feel bad.

That night, Mithila has her friends over for dinner, Dhruv and her Mom tease a little bit about the young woman worrying about “carbs” and playing with their phones, and then her Mom leaves. And Mithila misses her and starts talking randomly, and mentions that it is nice how their parents got married, so young, their whole life things only they shared, the only person they ever kissed was each other. Dhruv reacts to that, Mithila sees it on his face and forces him to tell her, even though he knows it is wrong, and he tells her about her mother meeting this old friend and them talking about “first kisses”. He doesn’t know if it was her mother’s kiss or her mother’s friend’s kiss, or even if it was with Mithila’s father. But Mithila is still upset because it makes her realize she doesn’t really know her mother as a person. She didn’t know she had this old friend in Bombay, she didn’t know about her as a young woman, she didn’t know anything about her. Dhruv listens and reassures her and then suggests a simple solution, just take some time, go on a trip with her for a few days. That’s all they need, time.

Pav Bhaji - Knowing the person behind a parent.

This is really just a beautiful episode. I don’t think I can convey in the review how lovely it is. If you watch only one episode of this show, this is the one to see. I think what makes it so beautiful is that there is so much love there, people who don’t necessarily know everything about each other but love each other anyway. Just the small details of the visit are so pleasant. Mithila’s mother starts the day cooking with her maid. And they are chatting about being mothers and raising children, two women happily working together. The maid could be irritable about another woman in her kitchen, Mithila’s mother could be snobby about interacting with a servant, but instead they are just friends, mother’s together, happy to make a new friend. At the end of the episode, Mithila suddenly remembers and rushes to give her mother some lime juice and things made for her by the maid as a going away present. And her mother wonders if the maid liked the sari she brought her and they talk about the sari she gave her last visit. It’s just a nice thing to do, and something it makes everyone happy to do. Does that make sense? Mithila’s mother isn’t saying “ugh, I have to remember a sari for the maid”, she is saying “oh I hope she likes it!” And in the same way, she is anxious that Dhruv enjoys the food they eat, and Dhruv is anxious to make sure she feels happy and pretty when she takes her Mannat photo. And Mithila is anxious when Dhruv teases her friend about being on the phone because her friend is trying to get over a break up. Everyone is so aware of everyone else’s feelings and concerned about them being happy.

Even the end, Mithila is worried about not really knowing her mother, when she gets a message from her Mom. That part is a reasonable narrative touch. If nothing else, they needed a reason for Dhruv to leave the room for a second and then come back with the solution of “go on a trip together” to end the conversation. But the message from her mother wasn’t “I made it home” or “I left my bag”, it was “I left some money in the apartment for you.” And there is a whole world to fill in with that. Of course she is texting this hours later, because she wanted to be sure there was no chance of them giving the money back. And of course she left money, even though Mithila is now making gobs and gobs of money at her new job, because mother’s always leave money for their kids just in case. And of course she didn’t make a big deal about it, just sent a text, because she doesn’t want Mithila to feel bad or awkward, just to know it is there. It’s the perfect ending to the whole episode, a little moment of motherly love with no expectations in return.

Really, just a beautiful loving 25 minutes of art! I encourage everyone to watch it, whether or not you are watching the Little Things seasons in general, just to feel good about the world.

9 thoughts on “Little Things Season 2 Episode 4 Review: If You Watch Only One Episode, This is the One to Watch. Also, MANNAT!

  1. Oh yeah, I really enjoyed this episode. It was fun and lighthearted and I really liked Kavya’s dilemma about never knowing your parents as actual people. At a certain point, you’re so ingrained in your relationship roles that it’s hard to break out of them and actually get to know them through a different lens.

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    • It was just such a nice light happy episode! And the one that felt most isolated. The rest of the season was arguments of work and money and stuff over and over again that kind of blurred together, but this episode was a pleasant little thing all on its own.

      On Tue, Apr 14, 2020 at 5:26 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • Yeah, that’s also probably why it stands out as well. I kinda forgot what happens in season 2 but I remember this episode pretty well.

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  2. Her mom is so sweet. And she and Dhruv start out so nervous and awkward, and by the end they’re conspirators, all because Dhruv listened to what she really wanted all day and didn’t try to force her into the visits on Mithila’s well intentioned itinerary.

    I focused in on that last conversation like Niki, Mithila’s comments about how mothers get so wrapped up in the mother role that their children never even get a chance to know them for themselves. It’s a valid and interesting comment, but it kind of stuck out after the rest of the episode having shown Dhruv patiently sticking by her mom all day and getting to know her. Going back to the moment when Mithila was leaving the house, it felt like if she had gone with them they wouldn’t have gone to Mannat or the friend’s house because Mithila had an idea of what she wanted to show her mom, and mom would have gone along with it to please her. That is the mother being stuck in her role, but it’s also the daughter being stuck in her role. Dhruv’s answer is good, but it was necessary for him to show Mithila what she was missing before she could think to plan a trip or use it to listen to her mom and draw her out.

    Also, interesting in connection with the last couple of episodes that Dhruv has the time to spend because he’s out of work, while Mithila misses out because she’s in the office. It feels like a moment where she’s seeing what she’s giving up as she gets more ambitious with her career.

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    • This whole season feels like it is playing with reversing the traditional gender roles in interesting ways. Usually it’s the woman who does the emotional labor to bridge the in-law gap, here it is Dhruv doing it while Mithila flits in and out of the house. I also like that you can see Mithila really did want to stay home, not like it was breaking her heart to go to the office, but she cared about her Mom and had planned out the whole day, and obviously wanted her new work friends to meet her Mom and vice versa, she was being a good daughter. Just in a different kind of way. Heck, she was paying for everything! It was her money that went for the car hired for the day which was key to it being such a pleasant day for Dhruv and her Mom, that they could just go anywhere. But that’s the “male” role, to make plans and give the money but not be there every minute.

      Maybe it’s the daughter making the mother be stuck in that role, just a little bit? Mithila has a vision of her mother and her mother wants to please her, so she sticks with that vision. Even in her conversation with Dhruv, she asked him not to tell Mithila about her old friend because she knew it would upset her. And it did upset her. Mithila needed to work through to the other side of “I don’t want my Mom to be a person” to “but she is a person, and I want to know that person”.

      I also think maybe Dhruv is so patient and ready to listen and open this episode, because he has just lost his job? that is, he is in flux right now, so he is less locked in to his own vision of the world and who he is, which makes him more open to seeing other people for who they really are?

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  3. I love this episode, too, and the thing I notice about it is it’s mostly in Hindi, unlike around 50% English like when it’s Dhruv and Mithila together. Almost all of the interactions involve either Mithila’s mother or the maid or her son. It’s a really nice example of code-switching and I wish my linguistics students understood enough English to get it.

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    • Oh oh! I need you to help me figure something out! Season 3, they switched to having two audio tracks, English and Hindi. I went back and forth between, and the English track is really good, clearly written in English (not translated) and all the actors are saying their own lines and everything.

      So, does this mean the show is aimed at the urban class who speak primarily English? Or does it mean it’s in fact more aimed at the Hindi speakers since the new Hindi option is 100% Hindi versus the mixed up option? I’m at a loss. And also kind of disturbed at the idea of something filmed twice, seamlessly, in two languages. I know it’s a thing that happens a lot, but it’s still disturbing to change between the two without even a flicker onscreen to mark the language shift.

      On Mon, Apr 20, 2020 at 10:37 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • Hhhhmmmm. Why would that be? I was assuming that the English/Hindi mix was because it was natural for a young urban Indian? Wouldn’t either all English or all Hindi seem less natural? Or, maybe as you said it’s aimed at Hindi speakers–maybe it’s more easily understandable for people who aren’t urban/young, and the rest of us can just listen to the English or get the subtitles.

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        • I have now finished the season, and there were multiple times I had to double check that I was on the Hindi not English setting, because there was still so much English. So I guess it is Hinglish, or full English. A nice example for you of language slippage!

          On Tue, Apr 21, 2020 at 11:07 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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