May 19th, 2008
For quite a few series, there isn’t much to go on as far as judging the show’s return post-strike – can we really fairly judge the quality of a series by only four or five episodes designed to either tie up loose ends or pump out content for their network before May Sweeps ends? However, in the case of How I Met Your Mother, you can’t really make the same argument.
We got almost as many episodes post-strike as we did before, and as a result there is a sense that the show got to tell actual storylines and to lay down important pieces for its (now confirmed) future. The biggest problem with this is that I don’t know if they actually told enough of those storylines, particularly the unfortunately absent Stella (Busy with Scrubs Sarah Chalke); if we are to buy this as the season’s big purpose, for Ted to meet this one woman, why is it that we still don’t really feel we’ve met her ourselves.
This isn’t to say that the show is falling apart at the seams, but rather part of me would have preferred a classic apartment setting to the hospital retrospective we ended up getting. It felt like too much of a cop-out, an admission that even with nine episodes post-strike they still weren’t able to build to the finale it feels like they wanted to write.
The result is a finale that is humorous, moderately eventful, and felt less identifiable as an episode of this series than the month’s other comedy finales.
The basic story is, in itself, a bit of a stretch for the series – Ted breaks up with Stella, he gets into a cab, and then a near-death experience in the form of a car accident wakes him up to reality: he loves Stella. Cue Stella reconnecting with a barely injured Ted, and then realizing that he had broken up with her in their earlier fight, and then cue drama. And then, well, we’ll get to the resolution in a second here.
The biggest problem is that centering on that point of drama takes all focus away from the series’ other two recurring storylines: Marshall and Lily’s apartment/job drama, and Barney and Ted’s shattered relationship. Now, the show attempted to address both of these issues, but it certainly never hit either of them on a particularly humorous or resonant fashion. That Barney and Ted reconcile over a humorous full body cast and a bus accident seems a bit too melodramatic for my own tastes.
That’s being a bit harsh on the episode, to be honest – as it concluded, Barney’s relationship with Robin in particular was subtly nodded to as Barney thought about the things he loves. I guess that counts as addressing that particular development, but I’m not entirely sure that I buy it: we never got to see Barney’s side of the story, and while his epic run to be at Ted’s bedside is vaguely transformative I think it seems a bit easy considering how much dramatic potential their initial breakup created.
And the episode’s attempt at addressing Marshall and Lily’s problems was even more haphazard, a convoluted subplot wherein Marshall recollects various similar miracles to Ted being alive. None of them were particularly funny, at least not by the show’s usual standards, and it seemed especially egregious for them to wipe away his old job in an SEC/Lice related tale. I felt that the two certainly got the short end of the stick during most of the post-strike period, in favour of setting up the Ted and Stella story, and it certainly was evident here.
And yes, let’s discuss: Ted proposed to Stella at the end of the episode. And no, we don’t know what this means, nor are we supposed to know – it seems unsafe to presume that she is the Mother considering that we have no evidence, but yet all signs seem to point to yes. Considering Ted’s voiceover, talking about how that car accident was a total miracle, I would say that Stella is looking pretty good right now.
Unless, of course, that the real mother is someone who knows Stella: I don’t know if this fits with the umbrella, or any of the other clues we’ve received. I definitely think that there is something about Stella that relates to the search for the Mother, but as of this moment I refuse to fall on one side or the other.
But, I guess if you had to force me to take a side, I’d say no. And, I’d also fall on the side of the episode being below par, an episode that lacked the pathos of the series’ previous efforts and failed to address the broadness of the cast’s potential. Not being able to see Sarah Chalke for so long killed a lot of the storyline between the two (And it looks like Chalke will most certainly be back for at least part of next season once Scrubs finishes filming), and at the end of the day the episode couldn’t tie up the loose ends while maintaining the show’s comic qualities.
- Amongst Marshall’s miracles: a pencil going into Barney’s nose, him getting lice and avoiding an SEC investigation, and not getting arrested for smuggling drugs into the country.
- Yes, Robin, Bruce Springsteen is like the American Bryan Adams – absolutely.
- My other favourite gag of the episode was certainly Barney accepting a body cast high five, mainly because of how much I appreciate a good high five joke (And yeah, really, can’t think of much else).