Monday, December 5, 2011

How I Met Your Mother: "Symphony of Illumintation"

Quick Review: When it's not blowing your mind, it's pulling the rug out from under you. 

Episode Synopsis: Robin hears bad news, but hides it from everyone; and Marshall hangs Christmas decorations with a little help from his neighbor. -tvguide

Spoilers ahead, so watch the episode before you proceed. Seriously, there are some big things happening, so make sure you've seen the episode. Trust me.

Best Jaw Dropper: Robin narrating the episode's events to her "children."

Most Heartbreaking Reveal: Robin isn't pregnant, and she'll never be pregnant.

Worst Episode Moment: The Marshall B plot. Time away from Robin's story was time wasted. 

Most Deserving Punch in the Face: Robin clocking Barney in the bathroom (every time)

Best Character Moment: This was Robin's episode, and every moment was her best.

Best Character Progression: Again, Robin as she comes to terms with what it means to not be able to 'pole-vault.'

Best Sagat Narration: The coda when he tells his kids that Robin turned into someone great, and she was never alone.

Best use of AC/DC: Christmas lights + Highway to Hell = Epic Win!

Any hint about The Mother? We now know, 100%, that Robin isn't the mother.

Any hint about The Wedding? We know Robin is never alone, could it be because she married Barney?

Do we like Ted this episode? He was really getting annoying until his Christmas display.

Overall Opinion of the Episode: Wow, was this a mind trip. It opens not with Ted's kids, but with Robin's as she's telling them how she met their father, Barney. Except that we find out that Robin can't have kids and that the kids are imaginary. On one hand, it feels like a cheap fake-out, as if the creators are just sticking it to the audience. But the more I think about it, the more I like what happened in this episode.

For the first few seasons, Robin used to be a strong character, fiercely independent, career driven, and against having children. This season, her mooning over Barney was a betrayal of her character. Last episode's pregnancy reveal seemed like the final nail in the character coffin, that the show was going to turn Robin into a happy mommy. Having a kid would melt her cold heart, because all strong women want to have kids and become suburban housewives.

The show, however, made a bold choice in making Robin infertile. She doesn't want kids and, as it turns out, she can't have them. You'd think this would be too convenient, but as is all too common, the instant you find out you can't have something, you want it. Robin always took for granted that being child-free was a choice, and it was a position she could always change. Being locked into a childless life isn't a time to celebrate, it's something she has to mourn.

Given the gang, it's also understandable that she'd keep it from them. It's one of the issues that they keep coming back to this season, how this group is a little unhealthy with all the time they spend together. This might be the big reason for the alluded-to split between them.

Cobie Smulders really brought it this week, and her final breakdown with Ted was absolutely devastating. It was an honest, emotional note that this show is good at. She portrayed Robin with both strength and vulnerability, a complex character who is seeing the world a lot differently now.

The question, of course, is where they go from here. Is she going to stay with Kevin, now that she knows for sure she can't have kids? Will he want to be with her? Will she need to re-evaluate her life and relationships?

Then there's Barney and his upcoming wedding. Interestingly enough, Barney is very pro-baby, and that is not out of character. Remember, he was against his brother's wedding until he learned they would be adopting a baby. He stole a baby's sock and sang "Cat in the Cradle" at Karaoke. Barney acts like he wants to live the single life, but deep down, he wants a family to call his own. It's why he wants to be Ted's best friend, it's why he spends so much time hanging out in Ted's apartment.

I'm interested to see how Barney will react when he finds out Robin can't have children. This puts a little speed bump on the road to the wedding, especially if Robin is "the bride." It's a very real issue, and I'm eager to see the show address it.

I also can't wait to see strong Robin re-emerge. (Especially Robin the matador, that should be fun.) Robin, the show nearly forgot, has a pretty awesome career ahead of her, and it's time for them to get back to that. This doesn't mean we have to return to first-season Robin. Rather, we can see a Robin who is still strong and amazing, but who's got a different perspective thanks to these friends of hers and all she's gone through.

This was a brave episode, and the only flaw was the B-plot with Marshall. It wasn't needed, didn't connect at all with Robin's story, and not terribly interesting. When Marshall lost his father, they devoted the entire episode to the funeral. The least they could do is give the same amount of screen-time to Robin.

That's it until January. This was a great close for 2011, and here's hoping that 2012 brings episodes just as strong.

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