Emily in Paris is one of the greatest hate-watches of our time. In its first two seasons, the show came under fire for cultural stereotypes, unrealistic storylines, and a leading lady with a knack for making terrible decisions. Yet those glib one-liners, fashionable moments, sweeping Parisian backdrops, and saccharine wins kept us coming back for more.
Creator Darren Star knows our appetite for those empty calories, having served up shows like Sex And The City and Younger. The key to any great meal is balance, and as awful as Emily Cooper (Lily Collins) can be towards her chosen family in France, she’s always been supported by a strong cast of (mostly) likable friends and colleagues. Enter Season 3.
[Note: Light spoilers ahead for Emily in Paris Season 3.]
In the show’s third season, Emily finally realizes she can’t always put herself first and she sets off on a genuine course to do better. She puts her relationship before work. She tries to do better by her company culture. Heck, she even begins embracing the language she’s half-heartedly hacked at for two seasons. Unfortunately, it’s through that self-growth that we begin to realize just how bad the other characters have become while our gaze has been on dear old Em.
Camille (Camille Razat) cheats on Gabriel (Lucas Bravo), the same dude she worked so hard to win back. Gabriel’s drunk texts all go to Emily, even as he’s planning to propose to Camille. Alfie (Lucien Laviscount) is emotionally unavailable and runs away instead of facing his problems. Julien (Samuel Arnold) isn’t a team player and resents Emily for every great idea she has. Sylive (Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu) has her moments, but overall she’s temperamental, mean, and loath to adapt in a job that requires constant change. Luc (Bruno Gouery) is sweet but is also the reason face-palm emojis exist. And Madeline (Kate Walsh) is just a hot mess every time she’s on screen.
In short, everyone is awful. Everyone, that is, except for Mindy Chen (Ashley Park).
From the moment Mindy stepped onto the scene as the friendly but straight-shooting nanny and wannabe singer she’s been a fan-favorite — and for good reason. She’s got a fun fashion sense, she embraces that French laissez-faire attitude, and the girl can sing, which the show uses to its advantage in nearly every episode. Somehow, she also remains down to earth, loyal, and accessible despite her dark, rich-girl past and ongoing beef with her father.
Whereas the other characters are spiraling, Season 3 is Mindy’s time to shine. If every other character is putting their own interests first, Mindy is firmly planted on the side of doing what is right and within her own personal convictions. When she’s offered a residency at a famous jazz club but only if she ditches her band, she refuses without hesitation or debate. (Later, it’s her band members who accept the job for her, knowing she’s too good to kick it back with them in the streets.)
When Mindy’s old crush Nicolas de Leon (Paul Forman) crashes into town, she doesn’t give him a second thought as anything other than a friend. Or at least she doesn’t until her jealous boyfriend Benoît (Kevin Dias) makes the mistake of breaking up with her (right after Mindy’s soul-crushing performance of “Shallow,” no less).
Later, when Nicolas asks Mindy out and sends mixed signals, she only spends part of the episode asking other people for their advice before tackling the subject straight on. That Communication 101 is a unicorn on a show like this, and is downright refreshing. When Nicolas and Mindy do begin dating, she uses those skills again to make it clear how important it is to her that Nicolas and Emily get along. She asks Emily to stop making everything about work and when Emily embarrasses a very stubborn Nicolas in front of his father, Mindy gives it a beat before calmly explaining to her roomie why it was so uncool.
When Emily catches Camille cheating on Gabriel with Sofia (Melia Kreiling), it’s Mindy who convinces Emily not to get involved — repeatedly. It’s clear Mindy knows Emily is holding a torch for Gabriel, but winning over le chef like that is never going to save Emily’s relationship with Camille. Furthermore, when Nicolas pulls out some real Succession-like behavior and kicks Emily out of Mindy’s wrap party, a newly reformed Emily tries not to make anything of it because she wants Mindy to be happy. But the moment Mindy gets a whiff of what went down she hugs her friend and goes straight to the source — no catfights required. This girl isn’t going to put any man before her friendships, which is such an uplifting beat on a show that bases almost all of its plot on personal and professional betrayals.
So it’s only natural if we’re concerned about Mindy’s winning qualities heading into the show’s already ordered fourth season. It’s clear Nicholas isn’t the greatest of guys and is used to getting his way. What Mindy actually sees in him other than an unrequited high school crush is murkier. Sure, in the end he did swoop in with a helicopter to save the day and show Mindy how much he wanted to be there for her. But it was a pretty douchey way to make an entrance. Also, he could have done the less complicated and showy thing and just… arrived on time?
This all leads us to believe that Mindy’s fate lies in who she chooses next in her own love triangle. At first, Mindy seemed to get over Benoît pretty quickly (the benefits of jumping into a new relationship right after a breakup). But now that Benoît is back and trying to redeem his behavior by asking her to do Eurovision, will she go with the artist who seems to have her heart? Or does it now belong to the guy with the chip on his shoulder and a deep wallet?
The past indicates that it takes a lot to shake our girl. But on a show that historically hasn’t been afraid to feature characters who don’t always try to be good people, this new relationship should definitely worry fans that Emily in Paris’ last pure character may be the next to break.
Emily in Paris Season 3 is now streaming on Netflix. Join the discussion about the show in our forums.
Amber Dowling is a Toronto-based freelancer, CCA member and former TCA president. Her work has appeared in Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Metacritic, The Globe and Mail, Playback and more. Follow her on Instagram: @amber__dowling.
TOPICS: Emily in Paris, Netflix, Ashley Park, Camille Razat, Darren Star, Kevin Dias, Lily Collins, Lucas Bravo, Lucien Laviscount, Paul Forman, Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu