Saturday, February 1, 2014

HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER Skims Other Side of the Story

Article first published as HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER Skims Other Side of the Story on TheTVKing.

For its 200th episode this week, CBS's How I Met Your Mother brushes over the past eight years from The Mother's (Cristin Milioti) perspective. In the installment, entitled "How Your Mother Met Me," we see where she was at the beginning of the show, how her path crossed with Ted's on multiple occasions, and the gaps where the narration previously mentioned her existing are filled in. It's a quick skim of her history.

The problem is how brief it is. The Mother jumps from one thing to the next, skipping years between scenes. It feels very disjointed, and there isn't really time to invest in any of the story's scenarios before it moves on. Even the theme song seems weak, making it more about one character than an ensemble, even though The Mother's story is clearly set up for a larger cast, though I would argue The Mother could carry a show on her own. This really needed to be multiple episodes, or have a narrower focus.

One thread that stands out in "How Your Mother Met Me" is of The Mother's broken heart. Her boyfriend dies in the beginning, and it takes quite a lot of time passing before she wants to date again. When she finally opens herself up and makes a relationship work for two years, it then abruptly ends. This is a sad story, and one that does touch the viewer emotionally, but because it's just one of a number of different elements, it isn't fully fleshed out.

The ending, when The Mother declines the marriage proposal, should be a really great moment. She tearfully talks to her dead boyfriend, and we're left in suspense of her answer, which ends up being a twist. But because we don't have enough of the back story and don't really see The Mother develop throughout her journey, it feels flat. I teared up, but not nearly as much as I should have given the actress's amazing performance.

Now, this could be solved in the potential spin-off, How I Met Your Dad. Should that go to series, all of the gaps can be appropriately filled in and we'll get the depth The Mother deserves. But I do worry that "How Your Mother Met Me" really limits the arcs of that series, as now there are a fair number of dots that must be connected at set points. And if it gets canceled early, we're robbed of the full tale, this outline preventing any quick tie-ups after only a couple of seasons.

Another problem for a potential spin-off is how the supporting characters are worked into this episode. The Mother's best friend, Kelly (Ahna O'Reilly, The Help), has series regular written all over her. But others, like Cindy (Rachel Bilson), Darren (Andrew Rannells), and the long-term boyfriend, show up much later in the timeline. Who knows what the availability of those actors will be in five years? It's a treacherous corner to be painted into. Unless that show unfolds completely non-linearly, which could be cool, but also very difficult to do well. Or if The Mother and Kelly are the only main characters.

I'd like to analyze the episode on its own merits, because I did really enjoy the half hour, finally getting to see more of Minlioti, who is excellent. I also really, really loved when Ted (Josh Radnor) hears her singing and falls for her, one of the best scenes of the whole series. But it's hard to separate this away from a possible expanded franchise. Should How I Met Your Dad never come to fruition, "How Your Mother Met Me" will be a decent entry, if a bit rushed in pacing. However, knowing what could be happening, it seems unwise to play this out in this manner.

How I Met Your Mother continues to wind down its final season Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on CBS.

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