Tuesday, September 24, 2013

How I Met Your Mother: "The Locket/Coming Back"

Quick Review: If this is what we can expect from this final season, I'm good.

Episode Synopsis: It's Robin and Barney's wedding weekend on Long Island, where the couple make an unsettling family discovery, while Marshall is winging it back East for the big day, but runs into some problems, and Lily has a confrontation with Ted over his long-standing attachment to Robin. / Robin is concerned about how Barney will take bad news about his brother, while Marshall scrambles to find transportation to the wedding, and an uncomfortable Ted deals with flying solo in a romantic hotel. -tvguide

Spoilers ahead, and you will probably want to view the episode before you venture any further. If you do venture, may I point out that there are some really exciting tourist destinations you may be interested in, including a goat that can blow smoke rings. You don't want to miss that. But I do recommend you bring your leather driving gloves. It's statistically safer.

Full Review: And so it begins, the final season of How I Met Your Mother. This show began as something new: a love story in reverse. We knew how the series would end, with Ted meeting the woman he would marry. The question wasn't if, but rather when, and how, and how could this show credibly stretch this story out?

Fast forward eight seasons and here we are at season nine, the final season, the season in which we know, with absolute certainty, that Ted will meet The Mother. It has been foretold, the signs and portents agree, and those of you reading chicken entrails should really knock that off; it's gross and it doesn't work. The point is, we will finally see Ted meet this woman.

Like a lot of you, I loved the first four seasons (and watched them so much on DVD I have those sumbitches memorized.) Then we all watched in horror as this beloved show declined over seasons 5 - 8. Granted, there were still a lot of strong episodes those years, but it seemed like this powerful sitcom juggernaut had run out of steam and was simply marking time until the end.

Until this episode. The series was originally slated to end last May, as Ted officially meets The Mother on May 25, 2013. You avid calender watchers might notice this date has come and gone, which is why the show, which began with a fantastic innovation, is ending with another one. They are stretching out the final episode for the entire season, 24-style. What we have just witnessed is the first hour of the 12-hour series finale.

I like it. This is how to shake things up when the formula is getting stale. Already I've enjoyed these first two back-to-back episodes more than the majority of season 8. If, for no other reason, than the fact that Cristin Milioti is main cast. She's not just going to make the occasional yellow-umbrella cameo, she's an integral part of the story. Moreso, we finally get a chance to know her outside of Ted's wistful narration.

The writers have indicated that everyone else will meet The Mother before Ted, and if this episode is any indication, that's the right call. The scenes between her and Lily on the train gave us the first real glimpse of her personality. We see that she is kind, very nerdy, bakes a mean sumbitch, can take Lily in a fight, and has a slightly off-kilter sense of humor. I already like her way more than I like Ted.

My only fear, as we move steadily toward the inevitable meeting, is that she'll be too idealized. The last thing this show needs is a Mary Sue character who is too perfect. If The Mother is to be credible after 8 years of anticipation, she needs to not only be perfect for Ted, but have enough imperfections that she's relatable. We know plenty about Ted's annoying habits; what are hers? It can't all be hugs, cookies, and romantic flash-forwards. She's a part of the story now, and that means we need to see the good and the bad.

Of course, the episode wasn't just about her. Everyone else had their moments, some better than others. I wasn't too keen on Marshall's plot this week, as his struggle to tell Lily about his new job was sidetracked by getting kicked off a plane, trying to delete an incriminating photo of himself and a banana, and beginning a cross-country road trip with a stranger. (You'd think the plane incident might put the whole judge thing in jeopardy.) I would have liked to see more substance to that plot, and I'm sure it's coming. His road trip might actually help him figure out what he's going to tell Lily, and it's a way for the show to provide the final episodes with action happening outside Farhampton. I'm not completely thrilled, but I could wind up liking this plot; we'll see how well it pans out.

Barney and Robin got a little scare involving a common cousin, and I appreciated the callback to Barney's Canadian heritage. Coupled with his brother's divorce, we have two obstacles that undoubtedly be a series of events that make Barney and Robin call their wedding into question. Eventually, Robin is going to question herself so much she tells Ted she can't be married, and I wonder what's finally going to be that final straw. (Probably that ring-bear.)

And there's Ted, the wedding wild card. He has Robin's necklace, but while last season it seemed that he had it all along, this season we find out that Stella had it. Of course, Lily tells Ted not to fly out to get it from her. And of course Ted ignores that advice. (And if this means we see Stella again, I'm good with it.) However, what I don't want is to spend the rest of the series watching present-Ted mope over Robin. I'd like to see that he really is over Robin, and if nothing else, his trip to see Stella is what puts that final nail in the coffin.

This is the last season, and I want Ted to be the awesome character we grew to love in the first few seasons. The show seems to have forgotten that he's more than just a single man. He's an architect, a professor, a great friend, and rarely throws up. The Mother can't be the only great character this season, I want to love Ted again.

I did enjoy watching Ted and The Mother be that annoying cute couple in his flash-forward. It was a sweet moment, and those two have fantastic chemistry together. Plus, it quelled a big a big fear I had, that we would have all these years of buildup, only to see barely anything of the actual relationship. After all, if we're supposed to buy that this is an incredible love-story, we need to see Ted and The Mother actually in love. It's not just the first moment that matters, it's the 17 years after. I, and the rest of the fans, need to know that she truly is The One he's been waiting for.

That's why I loved that we got to see them together. I buy them as a real couple, and I want to see more of those moments as this final season marches onward. In fact, I would love to see flash-forwards to all the big moments, from their first date, their wedding, the births of their children, and everything else in between.

If done right, this season will be the long-awaited payoff fans have wanted since 2005. That was the deal: we keep watching and the show gives us the great ending we deserve. I've endured too many terrible series finales over the years, and I don't want this one to join that pathetic pantheon. So far, based on these first two episodes, I have nothing to fear. Let's see if this trend continues.

Episode Breakdown

Best Anniversary Gift: Carmel Marzipan + Chocolate Marzipan

Most Surprising Thing They Got Past the Censors: "How about we nibble on my brother's ding-dong together?"

Best Nickname: "Lady Tedwina Slowsby"

Weirdest Duet: "Kenny Rodgers" and "Dolly Parton"

Worst Computer Advice: Click on "Options"

Best Callback: "It's for the bride."

Best Sagat Narration: "And that's how Lily met your mother."


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