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.
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.
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.