Little Things Season 3 Episode 2: This is So SAD!

Boy, that headline doesn’t make you want to watch the episode, does it? But it’s a good sad. A healthy sad. And the kind of sad we don’t usually see in art, normal every day non-tragic sad. Which is part of why it is sad, that you don’t feel like you have the right to these emotions. (Little Things review index here)

Mithila and Dhruv said good-bye, and now it is Monday, the first full day that they have been living apart. As a long term couple, there’s a double whammy to this. On the one hand, they are sad because they miss each other. On the other hand, their entire support system has been wiped away and they have to learn how to handle being sad without the thing that usually makes them feel better when they are sad.

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Poor Mithila is, at the moment, in far worse shape than Dhruv. Partly because she has no legitimate excuse. Dhruv is starting a new job in a new city, everyone knows he is having a hard time. His new boss is friendly to him and maybe a little extra nice because it is his first day, his new co-workers take time to invite him to a hang out that night and joke with him and are extra pleasant and happy, and he dresses up in a nice suit and takes a deep breath and braces himself for a hard day. But Mithila is just having a “normal” Monday. Her boss is no more or less kind than usual, her friend breaks plans because she got a date and it’s no big deal, even Mithila is trying to act like it is no big deal, having regular conversations and doing normal things all day as the weight of it hits her more and more. She should have taken a day off work, she should have insisted her friend hang out with her that night, she should have been kind to herself like Dhruv is being kind to himself. But she didn’t know! She thought it was a normal day, until suddenly it wasn’t.

What the show does so well is show us Mithila’s increasing emotional breakdown just in her little micro-expressions, and in the way we see what she is seeing through her eyes. Everything that happens isn’t really a perfect metaphor for her relationship, it’s just that she sees it that way because that is where her mind is. We, the audience, get only glimpses of parts of conversations, the moments that make her wince a bit, until it begins to feel like the whole world is talking about her pain and there is no escape.

The build is in the way the day/episode starts, with random things that have nothing to do with Dhruv leaving. The elevator is broken, so she has to take the stairs with her friend/co-worker as they talk about the presentation they are doing to re-up a contract. They have lunch after the presentation with some male co-workers who start talking about having a life outside of work and how important that is (while also casually talking over Mithila and her friend, nice little example of micro-aggression and maleness). And then Mithila’s boss tells her she is being moved from the support team for the contract that just renewed to a new account. It’s really not a big deal, if anything it’s a compliment, the old account is moving along easily and they want Mithila on new challenges. But suddenly it’s a change and things are different and everything is falling apart.

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The episode is structured so well around that moment. Something shifts, and then Mithila is talking to the new young lead of the team for her old client and we can see how all their casual conversations are making Mithila feel more and more like her world is falling apart. Here’s this woman who looks so young and is so much younger than her talking about being scared to live alone and missing her family and stuff, and Mithila is thinking about how she is being thrown back to a younger part of her life, how her development is weirdly arrested without Dhruv. And then she’s talking about how awesome the client is, and how easy, and it’s merging into talking about Dhruv and saying good-bye to him being in her life. Finally the most obvious moment, she goes to the stand up act and part of it is jokes about long distance. We know, logically, that this is just five minutes of a stand up show. But of course it is the only part Mithila will remember and ruins the whole night for her.

And then we end with Mithila finally being able to talk to Dhruv on the phone (as he is hanging out with his new friends, subtly insulting his new female boss, nice little balance with all the other small insults of women in power this episode). And she starts to cry so hard she can’t talk and finally says the thing that set her day wrong, Dhruv posted a photo on instagram and then sent the same photo to her. It was a little moment in the episode that I barely noticed, but it was enough to send Mithila spinning out and then all the other things piling up. The nice thing is, it really was a small thing and also not a small thing. They are apart now, anything that makes Mithila feel like she isn’t special is a big thing. But also, there was always going to be SOMETHING. Mithila was riding for a fall all day, if it hadn’t been the instagram post, it would have been her boss taking her off the account, or her friend canceling on her, or going to the gig by herself, or Dhruv not answering on the first ring.

It’s just SAD. And there’s no easy answer. You can’t even say “it’s okay to feel bad, this is terrible”, because it isn’t really terrible. Nothing bad happened, Dhruv will be back in 6 months, they didn’t even break up. She just has to be sad for a while.

8 thoughts on “Little Things Season 3 Episode 2: This is So SAD!

  1. Aw, Mithila. All that bickering when they were together over the shower and other insignificant things, and now that they’re apart she realizes he’s such a strong, steady support in her life. I feel like the way the episode ends, you can see the separation will end up making them appreciate each other more and will bring them closer.

    Good points about the structure and progression. I didn’t even notice it while watching but it was cunning how they pulled off the slow build to where she topples.

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    • Yes, “aw Mithila”. In theory this was an episode about both of them, we also saw Dhruv start his big new job and make new friends and all that. But poor Mithila was in such bad shape, I didn’t care about the Dhruv bit, I just worried about her.

      On Wed, Apr 22, 2020 at 11:27 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • It’s an interesting switch because I feel like at the end of Season 2 and the first episode of this season, she’s positioned as being more independent and he’s needier. But once they’re alone she’s the one who falls apart.

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        • I think Mithila is set up as the classic person who needs to be needed, right? But a very light version so it isn’t really obvious to us watching, or the character herself. She is the one who makes the plans, she is the one who cheers Dhruv up, why should she be sad when he is gone?

          On Thu, Apr 23, 2020 at 10:36 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  2. This was such a good episode. With regards to Mithila’s storyline, the biggest thing I noticed is how much Dhruv used to text Mithila throughout the day when they were together. Even if she was having a bad day, she could talk to him right away, multiple times a day, and things never really built up because he was always available. This time, she had to wait till the end of the day and even then he might not have picked up her first call.

    With regards to Dhruv, it’s was nice to see him finally making friends as an adult outside of Mithila. I loved seeing the trajectory from being super shy and quiet to slowly opening up and genuinely enjoying himself. In Mumbai, it didn’t seem like he had any friends that were just his. They were always Mithila’s friends or mutual friends.

    Finally, I loved that despite being in the middle of hanging out with his new friends, when Mithila was upset, he instantly stopped what he was doing and went to talk and comfort her. So much love between them.

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    • Isn’t it funny how distance made that change? It’s not like anything has changed which would make him unable to text her multiple times a day, they weren’t actually seeing each other all day anyway, but there is a mental shift where suddenly they are having their own space and he doesn’t think to text her from work they way he might have before. And, on the other hand, that same shift is why he can open up to these new friends in a way he might not have if Mithila was just a few miles away.

      I also noticed him stopping immediately to comfort her! It wasn’t that he was trying to fix her missing him exactly, but that she was upset and he is the person who she turns to when she is upset, for whatever reason. It was so sweet, and appropriate, he wasn’t excusing himself from this party to test with her about casual things, and she didn’t call him all night while she was at the show and on the way home and so on, they were both trying to challenge themselves and not talk until they really really had to.

      On Sun, Apr 26, 2020 at 12:04 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  3. I like that you pointed out all the subtle male-female stuff in this episode, from the co-worker mansplaining Mithila’s friends own feelings to her, to the attitude toward this famous researcher. I don’t really know enough about Indian naming customs, but I wondered if the extended awkwardness about what Dhruv will call his new mentor–Mrs. or Ma’am– is part of that? Like, maybe a male mentor would just be Dr. Whoever? Or, is it because he is a northern Indian and customs are different in the south? Or maybe he’s just an awkward new guy? Doesn’t she have a doctorate? I’m not super clear on what it all means. I’m always Dr. [My real first name] in South Asia with people who don’t know me well, and [My real first name]-Ma’am with people who do know me well but are younger, so I figured the latter was a bit more intimate but still respectful.

    Also, naps are awesome and anyone who can should take a nap after lunch. I do as much as possible. Just 10 minutes turns me into a fiery productivity beast in the afternoon.

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    • The naming thing was fascinating to me! Have you ever had to interact with someone in a research assistant kind of role? Not a straight student? Putting Dhruv in that position is fascinating to me, from my more-than-average knowledge of abstract scientific research, I know it is a really funky betwixt and between position. He isn’t a student, like he would be if he was still in a PhD program doing this same work. And he doesn’t have a PhD so he isn’t a colleague. But he’s working with her closely, more than just a secretary. And then throw the gender gap on the pile and it just becomes impossible. To use her first name might seem presumptuous, like he isn’t respecting her. But to insist on Professor might seem insulting to him, like she sees him as just a student instead of an assistant. To me, that part felt less Indian-y and more just male-female, academic structure, accurate weirdness.

      On Sun, May 17, 2020 at 2:43 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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