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Saturday, September 28, 2013

HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER "Coming Back" In the End

Article first published as HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER "Coming Back" In the End on TheTVKing.

CBS's How I Met Your Mother started as a fantastic, hilarious comedy, then devolved into dumb repetition, before bouncing somewhat back by adding a thick emotional layer over the handful of laughs. With the show's ninth and final season upon us, all designated to take place over a single weekend, it seems a big risk that could go either way. Given the track record, despite the past few year's decent delivery, confidence is not high such a move can be pulled off.

However, with last night's two installments, "The Locket" and "Coming Back," it's sure off to a great start.

These episodes are not exactly designed as a two-parter, but don't really stand-alone, either. As the long tale begins to wind up, it seems How I Met Your Mother gets more meandering and less linear, which is actually perfectly fine. We know Ted (Josh Radnor) is at the place where he meets The Mother (Cristin Milioti); the end is in sight. Now, tone is more important than definition.

Thank goodness How I Met Your Mother doesn't make us wait the entire year in order to see Ted and The Mother together. Having them this close, already in the same place, it would be annoying to have them continuously narrowly miss one another. Yet, we also know they can't actually meet until the end of the weekend, most likely the series finale. The show solves this frustration by giving us a glimpse of the two of them one year later in "Coming Back."

Their first scene is positively electric. For anyone who wondered what kind of girl would finally satisfy Ted and still be likable to the viewer, The Mother is it. Perfect casting and writing come together and suddenly the whole effort seems worth it. One small moment glimpsed, and Ted and The Mother seem like they've been destined to be together their entire life. Knowing this, and getting the reward of witnessing it, makes the waiting not hurt so much.

I'm getting ahead of myself, though, because that is the at the end of the hour. First, Lily (Alyson Hannigan) meets The Mother. One thing I've wondered is how this stranger will fit in with the so-well-established gang that makes up the principal cast. The show solves this, too, by first having her meet and befriend Lily. They aren't quite perfectly matched as pals, but they are good enough, The Mother managing to calm Lily down, giving her a valuable skill set to be included in the cast.

Lily needs calmed for two reasons. One, Ted has played her so he can get to Farhampton alone. This is a tricky bit of twist that feels totally in character with Ted, since Lily assumes Ted will try giving Robin (Cobie Smulders) "The Locket," which could reawaken old feelings. We do get a glimpse of Ted crazily flying to L.A. to find it, but don't actually see if he did or not. Hopefully, this will be covered in a later episode, perhaps with return guest appearances by Sarah Chalke and Jason Jones. But it's likely Ted has it.

What may be slightly confusing is that Ted doesn't given Robin "The Locket" yet, instead presenting her with a picture of their group from season one (the one at the end of the show's theme song). Why does Ted need to ditch Lily if that's all he's giving Robin? Logic says he has "The Locket" and has not made up his mind, possibly intending to give it to Robin, then thinking better of it. His "of course"s are not sincere, and there's more to this coming. I'm glad it's being held for now, though, as we need something hanging over the next few weeks, and this does that well.

The second reason for Lily's distress is that she misses her family, but we'll get to that story in a minute.

Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) and Robin's thread starts out less than equal to those of Lily and Ted, beginning with an unnecessary incest scare in Ranjit's (Marshall Manesh) limo in "The Locket." I mean, Ranjit isn't unnecessary, but finding out that the bride and groom share a cousin is. However, it's made up for when Barney drops the "wait for it" from the word "legendary," culminating an arc nine years in the making for him.

Thankfully, "Coming Back" gives the pair something better, having to deal with James' (Wayne Brady) divorce. See, there's a Stinson curse, which we amusingly see cast on Brady and Harris in period-ish costumes back in 1807 Russia, and James' marriage is the only thing that makes Barney believe in lasting love. Robin doesn't want Barney to find out about the split, afraid he may break off their own ceremony, but when a drunk Lily does spill the beans, Barney remains calm, telling Robin she is now why he believes, and doesn't need anyone else.

While Robin and Barney have always possessed a strong chemistry, it isn't until last year, continued in these two episodes, that we see what really makes them work as a couple. They have changed one another in a very profound way, and the depth of their love is incredibly touching. "Coming Back" proves once and for all that this wedding should happen, which makes the anticipation of the impending nuptials all the sweeter.

Finally, we have Marshall (Jason Segel) running into all sorts of obstacles trying to get back to New York before Lily finds out he has been offered a judgeship, wanting to tell her himself. Most of his problems involve a fellow traveler (Sherri Shepherd, 30 Rock). This subplot is the one that works least of all, despite Shepherd being funny, because it wraps up too easily, sort of ruining the rivalry that has been building for an hour. Marshall puts his faith in the woman and she comes through for him, contrary to everything we've seen from her up to this point. It would have been preferable for Marshall to find a different mode of transportation and run into her again along the way. But honestly, as disappointing as the climax is, it doesn't detract too much from the overall enjoyment of the episodes, which are mostly quite good.

Other highlights of "The Locket" and "Coming Back" include: a wonderful turn by Roger Bart (Revenge) as a desk clerk; Ted saying to The Mother "Hey Beautiful," which is the name of the show's theme song; The Mother's cookies' moniker being Lily's catchphrase; and Barney's anniversary gift for James. All of these combine to make the first two episodes special, promising more goodness to come over the rest of the season. These little things are part of what made the show so good in the first place, and it's nice to see them well served now.

How I Met Your Mother's final season airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on CBS.

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