After months of silence, Hulu has announced that The Mindy Project will be returning on April 12th. This news would normally be met with joy, but there’s an atmosphere of apprehension within the show’s fandom. This is, of course, due to the looming question on everyone’s mind:  what’s next for Mindy and Danny?

Since the first episode, the chemistry between these two has been palpable. Like many fans, I watched avidly as they progressed from enemies to tentative friends, and eventually to lovers. I found comfort in the predictability of the show, in the steady knowledge that Danny and Mindy were ‘endgame’. And for its first three seasons, The Mindy Project played along. The writers adhered to the romcom format that we’re so familiar with, dutifully laying the trail of breadcrumbs towards Happily Ever After. But when Season 4 rolled around, they veered off the map and into uncharted wilderness – and it was all for the best.

The birth of Danny and Mindy’s son was a catalyst for enormous change in their relationship. From the get-go, it was apparent that the two had different ideas about parenthood. Danny wanted the traditional family set-up (breadwinner husband, stay-at-home wife, and lots of children) while Mindy envisioned a future in which she could balance work and motherhood. This conflict only escalated as the season wore on; we soon reached the point where even ultra-conservative Jody Kimball-Kinney was more supportive of Mindy’s decisions than Danny. And that raised some serious red flags for the future of their relationship.

Unsurprisingly, these recent developments have thrown Danny/Mindy shippers into turmoil. Some have declared they will continue to support the pairing no matter what happens, while others have abandoned ship altogether. Although I fall into the latter category, I do sympathise with those who are still clinging to hope. The Danny/Mindy ship is popular not because they’re the perfect couple, but rather because of their imperfections. It’s easy to adopt the viewpoint that this latest issue is just another speedbump in their relationship. But it feels more like a permanent roadblock due to the fact that their clashing personalities are now more problematic than comedic. It’s obvious that Danny and Mindy want vastly different things out of life. Put simply, they’re just not well-suited for each other, and forcing their connection undermines the basic notion of shipping.

Another thing that needs to be factored into the discussion is that Danny’s recent actions are well within the boundaries of emotional abuse. Although he’s always been a tough-but-loveable ‘handsome jerk’, this season saw him take a very negative turn. In short, he’s become a walking, talking representation of 1950s-era misogyny and male entitlement. The list of his wrongdoings includes calling Mindy ‘selfish’ for wanting to return to work, criticising her reluctance to have another child, and – most despicable of all – trying to get her pregnant without her consent. These actions are a permanent stain on Danny’s character. Coercion and manipulation isn’t romantic: it’s abusive. Regardless of how Danny and Mindy used to be, the fact is that their relationship now is far from healthy.

The deterioration of a tv show’s main couple is something that we don’t see too often, and the writers deserve serious praise for how they’ve handled this plotline. The breakdown of Danny and Mindy’s relationship was so subtly played that it’s difficult to pinpoint the moment it began. In Danny’s case, his transition from loving partner to emotional abuser was scarily seamless. This portrayal carries a huge impact, largely because it’s an all-too-accurate reflection of what can happen real life. By stepping outside of the boundaries of its genre, The Mindy Project conveys the important message that relationships aren’t always the stuff of fairy tales.

Given how problematic Danny has become, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where he and Mindy don’t break up. This might be just what is needed to revitalise the show. Without the romance plot, there is room for exploration of single motherhood and self-discovery. And those appalled by the demise of the leading man should remember that the series isn’t named The Mindy and Danny Project. It is – and always has been – about Mindy’s journey, and hers alone. Ultimately, the most significant relationship, the one we should all be supporting, is Mindy and her own happiness.