This summer, it was announced that the ninth and final season of How I Met Your Mother would take place entirely during Barney and Robin’s wedding weekend. Though the season would feature constant flashbacks and flash forwards, the bulk of the story would happen over the course of a weekend. At first, I believed that this was a brave new direction for the show, and put my faith in the creative team. Unfortunately, How I Met Your Mother just isn’t the same anymore. The show I love has turned into something unrecognizable, so even a huge moment like the last scene in Monday’s episode, doesn’t carry the emotional weight that it once would have.
Some say that HIMYM began to lose momentum a couple of seasons ago, but even then it was still capable of incredible episodes like season 8’s “The Time Travelers.” During the episode Ted, Barney, and future versions of themselves discuss whether or not Ted should go to Robots vs. Wrestlers. As the episode plays out, we realize that Ted is in the bar alone, and is only imagining that his friends are there with him. (Talk about a bad night, am I right? *crickets* Wow, tough crowd. I’ll get back to the point now I guess.) The episode ends with Future Ted telling his kids that if he relived that night, he wouldn’t go to Robots vs. Wrestlers, he would visit The Mother. The moment is so real, so emotional, and so well written and set up, that it packs the storytelling punch that most sitcoms could only dream of. If you haven’t seen the episode, or don’t really remember it, watch it now, it’s on Netflix, but if you don’t have time for that here’s a taste.
This season started off well, with an hour-long premier that introduced the audience to the titular mother. The moment in the second hour when Ted brings The Mother to the bar is my highlight of the season thus far. Other than the premiere though, something has been off about the show. From Barney and Robin’s transformation from likable crazy to off-putting crazy to the unfortunate decision to separate Lily and Marshall as the couple continue to push back the best material they’ve had in seasons. The show just isn’t itself, lets break down why.
Season 9 has been divided into three separate storylines, none of which are all that interesting. There is Barney and Robin dealing with every wedding storyline the writers can think of, slowly straying from likeable towards unlikable. There is Ted, lonely Ted, who is about to meet the girl of his dreams, but has to spend an entire season depressed before he can. And then there is Marshall, stuck on a road trip from hell for seemingly no reason. Before I watch the show each week I hope to myself that during the next half hour Marshall will rejoin the crew (So far my wishes have gone unfulfilled). Meanwhile Lily, adrift without her husband Marshall, is seemingly only there to give advice and offer commentary to the other characters.
The moments of the season that aren’t part of these storylines just serve as reminders of what the show used to be. Marshall cashing in all of those “No questions asked” scored the biggest laugh of the season from me, and Lily’s “Thank you Linus” line still makes me chuckle. Other than that Season 9 has been hurt by the lack of interplay between characters and the surprising lack chemistry between actors (Lily and The Mother withstanding).
The best thing about How I Met Your Mother is Neil Patrick Harris, cause well, he’s Neil Patrick Harris, but even he has been saddled with bad material and lack of storylines with Ted and Marshall. Barney has almost exclusively shared screen time with Robin. Though it does make sense for them to be together a lot, they are getting married after all, but Barney has pretty much abandoned his bro’s Ted and Marshall this season. Barney thrives with his bro’s, but this season has all but abandoned the bromance triangle at the center of the show. This decision takes Barney out of his natural bro element (Brolement! Self Five! *clap*) and hurts the show.
In fact, the entire group has been hurt by the lack of diversity in terms of storylines and character pairings. If you don’t believe me ask yourself how different the show would feel if Barney and Robin didn’t interact next episode, or if Lily and Marshall actually had a conversation face to face, or if Ted talked with anyone in the group about anything other than the fact he isn’t in a relationship. While all of this was commonplace during the past 8 seasons, it seems far-fetched in the new look Season 9.
All this didn’t seem like that big of a deal to me before. My love for the show helped me to defend the show’s creative risk to naysayers. Monday night though, when Ted and The Mother shared that big moment and I felt almost no emotional connection I knew something was wrong. For a show that usually is so good at those heartfelt, emotional moments, this scene left a lot to be desired. Even more troubling, I’m starting to worry about what effect a low quality final season would have on the show’s climax, when Ted finally meets the girl of his dreams. If I didn’t feel anything now, will HIMYM’s big episode still be the epic conclusion to show deserves? I really hope I don’t have to find out. I really hope the show weathers the storm and finds a way to be great again.
There is still time to course correct; the recently announced rhyming episode is a great way to break the mold, and when Marshall finally reunites with everyone things should get better as well. Plus we have the return of Robin Sparkles and Bryan Cranston to look forward to. So it is very possible that the show rights itself before it’s all said and done.
Don’t get me wrong, I love How I Met Your Mother a lot, it’s one of my favorite shows, and I think it’s capable and deserving of a better final season then the one it’s currently getting. If the show were Barney’s signature catch phrase, I would say right now the audience is stuck somewhere in the ‘wait for it’ and all I really want is to get to the ‘dary, LEGENDARY!’