Little Things Season 2 Episode 7: The Big Fight

Hoo boy! Glad we had the light episode before this one, because this one is HEAVY. Man, so heavy! Everything from the whole season before this comes together in a big blow out fight. (full index of Little Things reviews here)

It starts out happy. They are going to the big wedding that has been coming up off and on all season. They are excited, the arrive at the hotel and it is really nice, they go to the first event and joke together and enjoy meeting the married couple, and already there are little moments like saying “this wedding is nice, this is how wedding should be” that open the door to “we should have a wedding”.

Interview: Ahead of Little Things S3, we take a trip down memory ...

And then it all goes bad, all of a sudden. They are having sex (I think this is the first time we see anything specifically sexual between them, because it’s really such a small unimportant part of a relationship), and Mithila gets a work call and asks Dhruv to hurry up. And he blows up because she made him feel like he was forcing her, like she wasn’t enjoying herself. She blows up, because what is the big deal. And then it all comes out, everything that’s been there all season. He’s feeling abandoned and like she doesn’t appreciate him. And she’s feeling like they aren’t on the same path any more, and she can’t seem to pull him on to her path.

Of course, it isn’t really going bad “all of a sudden”. It’s been going bad all season. One thing that occurs to me, maybe the idea of the show is that we only check in on this couple when things are going a little wrong. The first season was about Mithila doing most of the work in the relationship, and it exhausting her until everything else in her life (work, friends) suffered. They finally talked about that in the last episode. Now it is a year or so later, and they have serious problems coming up to the surface again. In the episode when Mithila met the man at her business conference, she mentioned how she took some time off, tried pottery and graphic design and all kinds of things, and then returned to the corporate world realizing that she really really loved it, and was good at it, and liked her job. That’s interesting from the side of Mithila, and has some deeper meaning in terms of her relationship (she needs to feel like this is a choice she is making, and she is in control), but now I am thinking about the show structure as well. Those months when Mithila was struggling came between the seasons. And during that same time Dhruv quit his PhD and found his coaching/teaching jobs. Maybe all that was happening in their lives and careers, but their relationship was solid? Now we are checking in with them again with Dhruv hitting a wall in his career and Mithila plowing forward in hers and suddenly the relationship is hitting rocky ground again.

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This episode is the first time sex comes up between them this season, and I think that might matter a bit as I look back at the rest of the season and the episode. This show likes to make a lot of things unspoken. They are having fun at the wedding, and then they start overhearing a table next to them with other young people talking about their wild sexual adventures on apps and things, and Mithila and Dhruv suddenly go quiet and awkward. I couldn’t quite figure out what was supposed to be happening, were they uncomfortable with the explicit sexual language? Or were the uncomfortable because they suddenly saw how everyone assumes they are having sex all the time? But then we see their sex scene and Mithila telling Dhruv to “hurry up” and him being hurt, and it turning into a whole fight, and I started to wonder, was it just the idea of sex that made them uncomfortable? Had it been a long time for them as a couple? Were they listening to this conversation and thinking about how they arrived in a strange hotel room and were more excited about having a “tub bath” than having sex? And then they have sex, and Mithila is distracted thinking about work, and Dhruv is putting too much pressure on himself, and it ends up being the pressure point that explodes all the other relationship issues they have been facing all season.

This fight is done so well! So well, because as a viewer I can’t even follow all of it. I’m not supposed to be able to follow all of it. When Mithila in the middle suddenly stops Dhruv and declares “you lied!” he knows what she is talking about when she says he lies, but I am at a total loss. They have their own language, their own history, their own telepathic abilities to know what the other person means, which isn’t even shared by the audience watching. And also so well because it picks up on little things (ha!) from the whole season and brings them forward. Dhruv hasn’t gotten the shower fixed, he quit his PhD, Mithila feels like she is carrying him along and he is doing nothing. Mithila was late to dinner with his friend in the first episode, she didn’t reply to his texts when she was out of town, she wasn’t supportive when he quit his job.

It gets down to what they have been fighting about all season. Mithila wants to move forward and accomplish things, Dhruv wants to stay where they are. Dhruv feels abandoned and unloved because Mithila seems to be going into a future without him, Mithila feels abandoned because he isn’t working with her towards that future.

The content of the fight doesn’t really matter, it’s clearly mostly improvised, they had a few points they needed to hit but otherwise it was just flowing between the couple. What matters is the structure of the fight, really the structure of the whole episode. We start with everything more or less okay, as much as it has been for the rest of the season. Then as they spend more time at the wedding, the Wedding Pressure cranks up. They see the happy couple that is seemingly happier than they are, they hear the other guests with their wild single life, they begin to have unspoken doubts about their relationship which leads to a rush to have sex, which just leads to finally having the Big Fight they have been working towards all season. It’s about Dhruv feeling like Mithila doesn’t even like spending time with him any more, and Mithila feeling like Dhruv isn’t thinking about a future with her. It’s about all the little things that add up to big feelings, feelings it was too scary to say even to yourself but were there in the back of your mind and now this fight is bringing them out.

Just as the fight has reached its peak, as they are almost ready to say “we should break up” there is a knock on the door, it’s the hotel picking up their laundry. Dhruv gathers the things together, and Mithila tells him not to bother with the tie, she bought him a new one last night, in the colors of his favorite soccer team. And they both feel the sudden weight of how much they love each other and all their time together, along with this fight.

It’s not a big dramatic fight over big dramatic things, not really. No one cheated, no on physically hurt the other, they don’t even break the “rules” of fighting, Dhruv brings up Mithila not having time for her mother just like she has no time for him and she says “HEY!” and he immediately backs off because that is unfair. No one says the other person is ugly, or stupid, or any sort of personal insult. This is a healthy fight in a healthy relationship between two people who are angry with each other but aren’t cruel. And then it is interrupted, and their life returns to the “little things” that make it normal. Mithila is upset and crying sitting on the bed, so Dhruv goes to the door. And he gets the laundry. And Mithila tells him about the new tie, a little thoughtful every day present. Just like Dhruv automatically pulling himself together and handling the laundry stuff is a little thoughtful every day action for her.

The whole structure of the episode is what I appreciate. In a lessor form, it would have them sniping and building towards the fight from the beginning, then the fight in the center, and then a cool down to end it. But that’s not how life is. Instead the beginning is calm and peaceful, the fight explodes suddenly out of nowhere, and then just as suddenly hits pause because life happens. That’s a fight, that’s a real couple. Not contrived sudden issues but ones that have been there for a long time just waiting to break out. And no contrived sudden resolution, but instead an ability to just take a breath and wait for a better time to keep going.

11 thoughts on “Little Things Season 2 Episode 7: The Big Fight

  1. Oh gosh, this was a tough one because it’s so close to real life. I saw the title of your write-up and avoided it for a couple of days, and avoided commenting for another day or two. It’s one of those episodes that I agree, feels raw and authentic, and for that reason no longer feels like entertainment or escapism. I can argue like that with my husband any day of the week, why would I watch that on TV!

    OK, had to get that small rant out. They do a really nice job writing these arguments because I can sympathize with both sides. Mithila is frustrated Dhruv seems so stuck. She wants to be supportive but she also feels like he might just not share her values and she worries she might be leaving him behind. Dhruv feels like he supported her through her period of self-exploration and now it’s his turn. That it shouldn’t be an existential question for them as a couple for them to be in different career places if it wasn’t when he was the one with the steady job. All he wants is for her to be present when she’s with him. I have been on both sides of this argument, they both have reasonable points. And at the same time, they’re at the point in their lives where they’re choosing a path for their adult selves and it does start to feel make or break whether there is agreement.

    To be honest, I found myself distancing a bit during this episode, and the main question in my mind was where is this coming from? Is Dhruv reliving a relationship he had, or has? Is he playacting a possible relationship he doesn’t have? When a series gets this real and personal, I always think it must be so weird on some level performing this pretend couplehood for an audience with a fellow actor standing in as love if your life.

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    • I am also curious about where this is coming from! The characters, and their fights, feel so real that I wonder if it really is just the characters? Like, maybe it can only be that real because it grew organically from the artistic process, not some real life situation artificially put on them. The fight scene has to be largely improvised, right? Not just the words but the blocking, the whole way they are interacting, it feels too loose and all over the place to be scripted.

      On the other hand, that slow build of Dhruv sending texts and not getting a response, making tea and not getting a thank you, all season, leading to his “you don’t want to be with me any more” and her response of “yes, and here’s why”, that feels like something maybe he is working through from real life. The details of quitting the job after quitting the PhD, and her getting a promotion at the same time, all of that maybe is fictional. But that general “I feel like you are pulling away from me” with a response of “I think I have to because you aren’t fulfilling your part of the relationship”, that is a fight I could see him having in the past, or really anyone having. Heck, I could see him being on either side, the one who is subconsciously pulling away because of deep-seated concerns about the relationship, or the one who is sensing that pull back and afraid to mention it and make it worse. And then taking the slow burn feeling of something wrong that explodes into an unexpected fight and putting it into his show.

      Next episode ends really nicely, so it’s worth watching. And then the first three episodes of the next season are good, but hard to watch if you’ve done long distance. And then it goes right into aging parents issues so, yeah, not a lot of escapism any more! But I did check the last five minutes of the final episode of season 3, and they end in a really good place again. Phew!!!!

      On Sun, Apr 19, 2020 at 11:01 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • It’s not revenge scripting because Mithila’s viewpoint is always strong and clearly articulated too. The writing never makes her look bad. It does however feel like Dhruv always in the end manages to say the perfect thing. In a way none of us manage to do in real life. And because he’s the main writer and playing a character with his same name, it just makes me wonder. Is he saying all the things he wishes he’d said, taking the chance to write a happier ending for himself? Is he practicing what it would look like to be a more perfect version of himself, if he ever finds himself in such a circumstance?

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        • I’m gonna go with the second, practicing the perfect things to say, were he to find himself in this situation. And I also feel a little bit like he is modeling good male behavior for the audience, and to remind himself of it. He never blames Mithila for her ambitions or her career or her needs, at least not in that final “perfect thing” statement. Most of the time it is about putting her needs first and thinking about her problems, not convincing her to go along with his. We have so much stuff where there is the perfect guy who says the perfect thing to convince the woman to marry him, or date him, or blah blah blah. And this time it is just the perfect thing to make her feel better.

          On Mon, Apr 20, 2020 at 3:50 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • I completely feel the same way as you and Emily. I finished season 2 and have to wait a bit to start season 3 because it is just a little too real. There hasn’t been a single episode that my husband and I haven’t related to. Every argument, every loving gesture, it’s just so real. I too am curious how Dhruv crafted this. Is he currently on a relationship and this is based on his life? This can’t all just be imagined.

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          • I’m trying to figure out his relationship plus age. If he’s basing this on real life, it has to be a relationship of at least two years at the time the show was first developed, right? That first season was distinctly an established couple. He was 25 when it came out, so that would be his college girlfriend I guess? And then it moves on to an even longer established relationship in season 2, and season 3 is a some time of long distance in a relationship.

            You know where I land? Real Dhruv has been with his college girlfriend for 6 years now, including a long distance time, WHY AREN’T THEY MARRIED? Which is not the point at all, but really, if this is based on a real life relationship with a 1 to 2 year lag time for show production, how are they not married yet?

            Alternatively, it could be based on multiple relationships, if he had a two year thing that the first season was based on, and then a more solid second relationship that the second season was based on. The Chetan Bhagat 3 Idiots/2 States theory. And then the third season could be a time he did long distance with either girlfriend A or girlfriend B.

            Or, he just has a really good imagination! It reminds me of Red Badge of Courage, Stephan Crane’s mini-novel about a young Civil War soldier. It came out 30 years after the war and at some signing or something, this old soldier came up demanding to meet his fellow veteran who wrote the book. And then 25 year old Stephen Crane introduced himself, and the soldier just couldn’t believe it, that this kid had so perfectly captured the experience of war time.

            And warning, season 3 deals with long distance and aging parent stress. So, you know, total escapism!

            On Mon, Apr 20, 2020 at 3:59 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • OMG, you are so right about the Red Badge of Courage example. Great analogy. I still cannot believe it is total imagination. Here is an interview with him where he says he feels like he is 50% Dhruv and 50% Kavya (which is LITERALLY how my husband and I feel watching every episode). But the interview also shows that he has lots of plants in his house and (in the wiki entry) I read that he loves to cook. So maybe the outlines of the couple are based on who Dhruv and Mithala are in real life but the problems are drawn from just life and observation? It really is a wonderful show.

            Also, yes, the aging parents is what is stoping me from watching season 3. I’ll do it soon, but I needed a break and Heer was the perfect distraction.

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          • Seeing as I am currently living in my parents’ guestroom, I am fearless in the face of aging parents! I’m missing no precious time together and blah blah blah. But I am also aware that I am in a very rare and lucky position 🙂

            On Mon, Apr 20, 2020 at 4:43 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  2. It’s really interesting that this is the episode where everyone starts thinking: how much is Dhruv “Dhruv”? I was wondering that exact thing as I watched. The characters are so real–inconsistent and flawed–that it seems they should exist somewhere in the real world. I like your point about the argument being so hard to follow. One of the things I really dislike about screen couple fighting is the pattern of partner A making some exquisitely well thought out and crafted argument while partner B quietly listens, and then partner B does the same, except one of them is clearly right. This is so much more true to life, and there’s not clearly right person (except sheesh, don’t tell someone to “hurry up” when you’re having sex).

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    • Especially don’t tell someone to “hurry up” after a year in which you have been subconsciously pulling away from them!

      But yes, I loved that fight. It went up and down and over and back and hither and yon and wasn’t really “about” anything beyond “do you love me like I love you”.

      On Thu, Apr 23, 2020 at 10:50 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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