May 18th, 2009
“The trouble doesn’t seem so troubling”
As I was taking a look at a really enjoyable spec script for How I Met Your Mother last night, I was forced to consider the question of whether or not the show’s defining characteristics are necessary components of its success. The show is known, at this point, for its time-bending narratives, ridiculous life theories, and its continuity in regards to both tiny throwaway jokes and the eponymous question of the Mother’s identity, but are those qualities necessary to create a good episode of the series or, in the case of “The Leap,” a fitting season finale?
In many ways, “The Leap” isn’t an episode that relies heavily on HIMYM’s signature story-telling methods, but they’re all present in a way: it features some narrative shuffling designed to assist the dramatic end of its storyline, it uses the show’s own continuity to create another life theory, and the continuity of the four-legged farm animal mistakenly inserted into Ted’s Birthday last year makes an appearance. But, outside of a brief mention at episode’s end that promises yet again that we are closer than ever before to the identity of the Mother, the episode was not about Ted’s love life.
The result is, without question, a stronger finale than last season: Ted’s relationship with Stella was an element of the series that never quite worked, and I was worried a few weeks ago that it was going to rear its ugly head for the finale, creating drama where drama was not necessary. Instead, Ted ends up facing his dramatic arc of the season with a lady of another species, and the drama comes from the right place and, more importantly, at the right pace considering what has come before it. Combine with the return of Lily, and Marshall being Marshall, and this felt like vintage HIMYM without feeling as if they were relying too heavily on those broader signifiers.
They weren’t exactly stepping out on a ledge and leaping across a metaphorical alleyway with revolutionary plotting, but in many ways the finale felt more grounded as a result.
“The Naked Man”
November 24th, 2008
[UPDATE: For those who want a better look at Lily’s list of 50 reasons to have sex, Mo Ryan at the Chicago Tribune has the enormous napkin list. I think my favourite is #39 because of its history between Marshall and Lily and the early Season Two period.]
When adding terms to the HIMYM Lexicon, it is usually Barney who takes the mantle, but “The Naked Man” takes a slightly different approach. For once, it places all of our characters on the same page: they are all students to Mitch The Naked Man’s teacher, and the result is that all of them test out his unorthodox method for their own purposes.
What could have been, as a result, a highly unorganized episode smartly lays low in regards to the show’s central dramas. With Barney and Robin’s love, and Ted’s recent breakup with Stella, payed homage to without dominating the episode, you have a chance for each character to play their comic beat while not becoming overloaded in drama. Yes, ultimately this episode feels quite inconsequential, but it was indulgent in a way HIMYM hasn’t been all season with the cloud of Stella or Major Life Changes hanging in the air.
And in many ways, this episode is the transition point: from this point forward, Ted’s in a new place in his life and perhaps we can find a new turn around the horizon…just as long as Mitch isn’t there when we turn the corner.
April 28th, 2008
A true sign of a show’s commitment to continuity is when they flash forward to the future during an early episode, and then when they reach said moment in time (If this is a show that pays attention to time) they actually deliver on this moment. Needless to say, there are not many shows with the same commitment as How I Met Your Mother in this area, and so it is not too surprising that they live up to their promise: having reached the story of Ted’s 30th Birthday, it is time for the goat…maybe.
Of course, after last week’s episode left us on Barney and Robin about to hook up, are we really thinking about the goat? The aftershocks of the events of last week are perfect because they affect most the character who is usually so inscrutable: within seconds of returning to McLaren’s, Barney is assaulted with reminders left, right and centre of his deed. Sleeping with his best friend’s ex-girlfriend is something that Barney has never quite done, even considering how much he’s done.
It’s even more delightful that Robin is (on the surface) far less affected by it, as Barney is a nervous wreck by comparison; actually, you don’t even need the comparison to know that Barney is destroying himself inside and out. This takes the form, most directly, Barney scrambling a legal defense against the Bro Code.
What is the Bro Code, you ask? Why, it was a legal document written in 1776 in Philadelphia by Barnibus Stinson, contemporary of Benjamin Franklin and George Washington, while they were having a drink. And, yes, it’s delightful.