How I Met Your Mother – “Subway Wars”

“Subway Wars”

October 11th, 2010

This is precisely the kind of episode which is particularly dangerous for a show in How I Met Your Mother’s position. “Subway Wars” feels like a gimmick from the very beginning, and the show is at a point where it risks seeming unsubstantial. Back in the second season, something like “Subway Wars” might have seemed novel, but in the context of a sixth season it seems almost a bit desperate.

That being said, I think “Subway Wars” ends up working because it quite successfully ties the race towards Woody Allen into a personal journey for each of its characters. By grounding the journey in Robin’s belief that New York is turning on her, and Marshall and Lily’s struggles to conceive, the episode manages to make broad subject matter transition into legitimate character stories without too much difficulty.

It isn’t quite as well-oiled as it may have been four seasons ago, but I think that the risk ended up enough reward to make “Subway Wars” a solid entry.

Robin’s identity has always been particularly interesting, and what has been so annoying this season is the way in which Robin’s character seems to lack purpose. It is purposeful, this lack of purpose: Robin is supposed to be aimless and lost, still not quite over her relationship with Don, and so she is sad and lonely and feeling that the city is turning on her. I like where this story begins, with questions about whether Robin is a New Yorker and what it takes to be part of the city. And as the story developed, and Robin deals with a new frustration in her perky co-host, Robin won the game: she was the one who needed the win the most, the one who is currently in the most difficult position. This felt honest, and more importantly paved the way for Robin to perhaps move forward in the weeks ahead (although not so far ahead that she won’t be killing cockroaches with her bare hand, stealing cabs from people who need them, and perhaps occasionally crying on the subway).

Lily and Marshall, meanwhile, are the second most deserving: their struggles have made them doubt their bodies and their ability to conceive, which seemed like a logical turn for their characters to take. The story was perhaps the toughest sell, in that it switched from very broad comedy (Marshall’s folk song, Lily’s usual competitiveness) to a small emotional moment in Ranjit’s car at episode’s end as they ride off to Coney Island, but I like these two getting an honest storyline enough that I can power through it.

Of course, Ted and Barney get less interesting storylines since they have far less emotional weight, but I liked that Barney didn’t need the win, and that Ted learned more in losing (and embarrassing himself on the bus) than he would have in winning. Similarly, Barney learned that Robin needed it more than he did, the sort of honest moment that reflects nicely on the character and even taps into some of the series’ history. Even thought their stories were broad, it seemed like the characters fit quite comfortably into their pre-established characteristics, which may seem complacent but was a necessary bit of stability in an episode very much about chaos.

Now, I thought the Maury Povich runner was never particularly funny, outside of perhaps the first few instances, and as a whole I thought the race was pretty unmemorable (especially since the prize at the end was a lunch date with one of Marshall’s law school friends who we had never met before, at least as far as I am aware). However, the character moments at the end seemed more memorable, and even if the show isn’t breaking any new ground I appreciate the time spent with the characters – even if episodes aren’t laugh out loud funny, and lack the novelty they had in earlier seasons, the show and its characters have enough goodwill that I’m not close to jumping ship.

Cultural Observations

  • I thought there was a lot more potential, comically speaking, with Marshall’s song: I like when Jason Segel sings, but there were very few laughs involved.
  • Robin’s story was also particularly effective since it got to connect with the three things that real New Yorkers need to do – some nice work pulling those together within his emotional journey.
  • Think that they’re really willing to give Marshall and Lily fertility problems?

1 Comment

Filed under How I Met Your Mother

One response to “How I Met Your Mother – “Subway Wars”

  1. Jennifer

    I really liked this one, felt like the show was back at its old fun pace, and dealt with the Barney/Robin thing, and showed Robin and Lily’s friendship, and I enjoyed Marshall’s technology issues/song/beating up on calculator guy. (Note to Marshall, though: John Henry DIED doing that!)

    I like group crazy episodes. It’s been a long time and we could use one.

    As for the lack of baby, well… the show is caught between a rock and a hard place on that one because in real life those two would have kids by now, vs. “babies ruin sitcoms.” As far as I’m concerned, the show probably should put it off for as long as they can manage (of course, six seasons is about hitting the plausibility limit), so I’d be happy to see “bucket list” stuff for M&L instead.

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