Monday, May 13, 2013

How I Met Your Mother: "Something New"

Quick Review: This is what we've been waiting for.

Episode Synopsis: The Season 8 finale is set just before Robin and Barney's wedding, with Ted taking Lily to see the house he's been fixing up, and Robin and Barney settling in for a treasured night of relaxation that is rudely interrupted by an obnoxious couple. Meanwhile, Marshall and the baby take a last-minute trip to see his family in Minnesota. -tvguide

Spoiler alert. Seriously. You're reading this and not watching? Come on. This is a huge episode, and I mean it. Huge. Whatever you're doing can wait. Unless you happen to be performing surgery, then you might want to go operate first, then watch the episode. Do they let you watch television while you operate? Probably not. That could be really distracting. So you're allowed to operate first, but as soon as you're done, and you make sure you didn't leave your keys in the patient, then watch the episode.

Full Review: Cristin Milioti just became the most Googled name in America. She's The Mother. Finally, after eight years and many, many teases, we see her sans yellow umbrella, purchasing one ticket to Farhampton. Kids, this is how the audience met your mother.

I like that they cast a relative unknown as The Mother. Expectations have run so high for this very reveal, that no one would be happy if we recognized the face under the yellow umbrella. f she was too famous, it would reek of desperate stunt casting, and if she had already defined herself with another role, it could lesson this character. By casting a relative unknown,they have the chance to define the character without baggage.

Granted, this show has cast several actors who were very much previously defined. Alyson Hannigan was best known for Willow on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and that girl who went to band camp.. Neil Patrick Harris was best known for Doogie Howser and hanging with Harold and Kumar. (Also appearing on this show.) Those two made their characters of Lily and Barney their own.

However, Jason Segel, as awesome as he is, only really plays one character with subtle variations. I like his work, be it Forgetting Sarah Marshall or The Muppets, but it's very clear that we're watching Jason Segel. The same can be said for Sarah Chalke. Again, I enjoy her work, but she's pretty much the same in every role, be it as Ted's first fiance Stella, Dr. Ellot Reed on Scrubs, or her brief turn in Cougartown. Again, when you see her, you're getting Sarah Chalke.

I don't know Cristin Milioti. She is an unknown quantity, and I have no idea if she is a chameleon or only plays one character. But I do know that I won't be comparing her portrayal of The Mother to anything she's played. Her casting won't take me out of the show, because as far as I'm concerned, she is The Mother, much like Josh Radnor is Ted and Cobie Smulders is Robin. While I'll have to see more of her, I think this is perfect casting, as she's cute, quirky, and a great match for Ted. I know they'll make a great couple.

So while we didn't actually get to The Wedding, while we didn't get to see Ted meet The Mother, at least we, as an audience, got to meet her. (We also got to put that "bump girl" rumor to rest, finally.) The last three season finales have all featured a big reveal. Season six revealed Barney to be the groom, season seven revealed Robin as the bride, and this season we got to see the face of The Mother. Of the three, this is easily my favorite.

As a season finale, it's definitely a big improvement over last year's finale. While it's not my favorite finale, that would be season four's The Leap, this is a serviceable one. Sadly, despite the fantastic reveal, the rest of the stories weren't nearly as effective. It was a lot of setup with no payoff. Yes, that's standard for a season finale, but those setups weren't as well executed as they could have been.

The weakest part of the episode was Barney and Robin scheming against the annoying couple and ultimately getting them to commit to marriage. (After only seven years). The story seemed like filler, and if it was making a larger point about Robin and Barney, it missed the mark or was too subtle. We didn't learn anything new about the two, nor did we get any real sign that they would be having doubts about the marriage, as we've already seen in the flash-forwards. It was a waste of time, not to mention the under-rated talents of Casey Wilson.

The second weakest, but most aggravating story was the reveal that Robin already dug up the locket from last week. We are treated to a flashback of Robin getting drunk right before Ted's wedding to Stella and lamenting that she expected to marry Ted. In an attempt to paint a parallel between Ted and Robin, the show conveniently forgot that Robin of four years ago wasn't pining for Ted, nor did she have desires to marry him.

Ultimately, this served to get Ted the locket, so he could give it to Robin. Last week Robin saw the missing locket as a sign she shouldn't marry Barney, and it might be the reason she confides in Ted that she has doubts. I don't know for certain, but it seems obvious to me that Ted will then give Robin the locket, and that's what makes her realize that she should marry barney. The show wants that to be sweet and well meaning, but instead it makes Robin shallow and one-dimensional, yet another crime against a once vibrant and interesting character.

Marshall having to decide between Rome and being a judge definitely got the story moving, but I would have rather had him and his mother have a real moment rather than her "joking" about not letting him go to Italy. Suzie Plaxton is fantastic, but there's more to her, and her character, than Marshall's obnoxious Minnesotan mother. This was a chance for real character growth, for both her and Marshall. Instead, she's a one-dimensional caricature, and that made Marshall's plot far less dramatic. Like many episodes over the last few years, this is yet another example of a wasted opportunity.

We know Ted isn't going to sell the house and move to Chicago, because he finally finished the study that his kids are sitting in, listening to this long, interminable story. We know that meeting The Mother is why he stays in New York, and (let's hope) it's how he finally lets go of Robin once and for all. Seriously, it's beyond irritating to still see Ted hung up on Robin. He's also now a one-dimensional character and far less interesting than he used to be.

All of this setup is no doubt going to explode at The Wedding, and we have to wait until the Fall to see how that turned out. My prediction is that they will draw out The Wedding the entire ninth season. I could see the show flash forward to Fall of 2013, after everything has been resolved, and the entire season involves flashing back to that one, long, meaningful day. Each episode of season nine will show us, in excruciating detail, what exactly happened at The Wedding. And of course, it takes the entire season to build up to Ted meeting The Mother.

Here's what I see happening if the show does go that route. In the Fall 2013, Ted is already dating The Mother. We see them fall in love, and possibly get married, but we never see them actually "meet." For some reason, Ted will have to tell his kids about dating their mother before going back to how he actually met her. Only when we see Ted and The Mother get married (which is probably when we'll learn her name) will we also, finally, get to see how they met.

After all, if the entire premise of the show is the buildup to the moment Ted meets the mother of his children, it can't get there before the final episode. People aren't going to want to stick around once he meets her. However, if the story of that fateful day is doled out over the course of a season, people might still tune in wanting each little drip of information. It would be both a cynical and necessary ploy for the show. (Got to keep those viewers hooked somehow.)

It is possible that the final season won't just be about stringing us along. Now that the show doesn't have to hide The Mother's face, we can actually get her side of the story as well. We can see all the things that happened in her life that brought her to The Wedding. We might even discover that while Ted didn't meet her before that night, everyone else already knew her, and that would be an interesting twist. If that's where they go, I'm game.

I have every confidence that we are still a year out from actually seeing Ted meet The Mother. (Sorry, kids.) Whether this final season will exiting or excruciating remains to be seen. There's a lot of potential for greatness this last season, but as we've seen before, in this episode even, the show has a habit of squandering opportunity.

However, if The Mother is every bit as awesome as Ted describes, she might be just what this show needs. If anyone can save it from mediocrity, it's her.

Episode Breakdown

Best Episode Moment: The Mother puts down the umbrella  and buys a ticket to Farhampton.

Worst Episode Moment: Robin got drunk and dug up the locket four years ago.  

Best Callback: The House, with its familiar study, is finally finished.

Any hint about The Mother? She's adorable.

Any hint about The Wedding? Ted takes the train back because he's leaving for Chicago.

Do we like Ted this episode? He's all about Robin this week, not surprising since she's about to get married. While he still isn't over her, he's not trying to actively sabotage her wedding (yet) so while he's a bit one dimensional, I still liked him this week. Let's hope he gets much, much better next season. (The Mother has her work cut out for her.)


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