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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

"Sunrise" On Final Day of HIMYM

Article first published as "Sunrise" On Final Day of HIMYM on TheTVKing.

CBS's How I Met Your Mother has reached the final day of its three-day final season, meaning we're in the last third of the last year of the show. This week's installment, "Sunrise," resolved a few lingering issues between the main characters, and despite revealing that none of them are getting a realistic amount of sleep to actually function and enjoy the wedding day, it also nicely, if unevenly, sets up the concluding arcs.

Ted (Josh Radnor) has always been in love with Robin (Cobie Smulders). That's been a major plot of the show, and this last season would ring false if it didn't pay tribute to that, even as Ted serves as the Best Man for Robin's wedding to Barney (Neil Patrick Harris). The two don't need to end up together, but Ted must finally let Robin go.

This really has to happen before Ted meets The Mother (Cristin Milioti). Otherwise, his commitment to her wouldn't feel right, just replacing his feelings for Robin with those for someone else. Ted must be in a place where is open to meeting a soul mate. For most of the show, he has not been because of Robin.

And letting go is exactly what happens. Ted makes peace with the fact that he'll never be with Robin. The metaphor with the balloon is a little hokey, but it accomplishes what How I Met Your Mother needs to do. Ted and Robin are now firmly friends, never to be anything more. It's sad, but it's also a necessary, important step to take for both of them, one Robin kind of did awhile ago, and now Ted can follow in. This story is very well done and emotionally fulfilling.

As Ted confesses his feelings anew, thankfully in a way that doesn't sound like he's asking Robin to call off the ceremony, we flashback to Ted's recent activities, allowing guest spots for a few memorable exes including Stella (Sarah Chalke), Victoria (Ashley Williams), and Jeanette (Abby Elliott). It's gratifying to revisit those faces in a natural way, woven with a tale in which Ted is almost crazy enough to try to win Robin back, and then is convinced not to. Though, I do wish Zoe (Jennifer Morrison) had been a part of it, certainly the biggest relationship neglected here, perhaps because of Morrison's lack of availability.

The three girls aren't the only returning guest stars in "Sunrise." As Marshall (Jason Segel) argues with two imaginary versions of Lily (Alyson Hannigan), his deceased father, Marvin (Bill Fagerbakke), appears to off his two cents. I do feel like Marvin is underutilized in this episode. It may have played better had only Marvin been present, instead of the two Lilys, though it's reasonable to include Lily because she is a main character who would otherwise have sat the episode out and because Marshall's problem is with Lily. Still, having Marvin deliver a couple of lines, as resonant as they might be, isn't enough use for him.

"Sunrise" resolves in Lily returning and agreeing to stay in New York. This feels cheap. Perhaps because Marshall doesn't have the argument with the real Lily and we don't get her side of the fight, or perhaps because this seems like Lily is giving up her dream for Marshall, but this doesn't sit right.


It's interesting that Marshall brings up Lily fleeing to San Francisco as they fight about their future. This is something he should long have gotten over, and it's certainly well past a fair time to bring it up. But if he is still holding on to that incident, he needs to deal with it. "Sunrise" isn't clear about if he does or not. I assume this is supposed to balance the scales when Lily agrees not to go to Italy, but instead, it feels like their relationship is crumbling and surely a breeding ground for resentment. Not a great episode for them.

In order to keep Barney in the half hour, he has a strange side story where he basically sleepwalks drunkenly down the road and passes on his wisdom to two young boys, getting Tim Gun (himself) to suit them up. This seems like a perfect story for Barney, but the way in which it plays out rings a bit hollow. I'd rather Barney have made a conscious decision to ensure the survival of his player legacy, or come to an understanding that it should die. This is fun fluff that doesn't quite hit its mark.

"Sunrise" has some things going for it, such as the strong Robin / Ted bits, but it also doesn't live up to the best emotional heft of How I Met Your Mother. Will that continue in this last batch of installments, or will it find its way to a triumphant end?

How I Met Your Mother airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on CBS.

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