Tuesday, February 25, 2014

How I Met Your Mother: "Rally"

Quick Review: A very funny start to the final set of episodes.

Episode Synopsis: On the day of his wedding, Barney is suffering from a horrific hangover, and the gang tries to concoct a, wait for it, legendary Stinson Hangover Fixer Elixir, but finding the bizarre ingredients proves to be a challenge. -tvguide

Spoiler alert. I realize that there aren't that many of these left to give. I'm starting to get a little emotional thinking about how this is one of my last spoiler warnings. This show has really gone by in a blink. It seems like only yesterday I was reviewing season seven, and now we're on the final run of episodes. But that won't stop me from my duty of warning you that there are spoilers beyond this point, so think twice before proceeding. I'd hate for you to get depressed and go an an epic binge and then vow never to do that again. It won't be pretty.

Full Review: So here we are, the day of The Wedding, the day Ted finally meets The Mother. This was a strong start to the final batch of episodes, and if the series makes its final lap with episodes as strong as this, or better, then we're in for a good ride.

We begin, however, several years into the future on an auspicious New Year's Eve. It's about to be 2022, and Ted and The Mother are celebrating her first book, a brilliant piece of world changing literature if Ted, and only Ted, says so himself. I still like seeing these two together, and I want to see more of this bookending in the remaining episodes. I've said it before and I'll keep saying it - this ninth season, getting to know The Mother and see her with Ted, has saved the show.

Keeping with tradition, this flash-forward is still in chronological order with all the other Ted/Mother moments. I hope the show doesn't just keep moving forward into the future, 2030, because I still want to see some of the earlier moments between Ted and The Mother. Their wedding, for instance. But that's something to worry about for the next few episodes. For now, we have this story in 2022.

Of course, as per usual with Ted, the story of the 2022 New Years Eve, and the morning after, begins nine years earlier on the day of Barney's wedding. Barney is epically hung over, having spent the last three episodes very drunk. This causes the gang to flash back further to the times Barney gave them Stinson's Hangover Fixer-Elixer after they each had one too many and then a lot more after that.

We foll Ted and Marshall as they try to put together the ingrediants, during which time Ted has a religious awakening involving bacon. While the show doesn't have a good track record breaking the fourth wall, the cook and Marshall looking right at the camera after Ted wondered whether he'd like bacon was perfect. We also had some fun moments watching Lily and Robin try their hand at waking up Barney. Not only were their attempts amusing, especially the bear, we also get another glimpse into Robin's scarred psyche as she reveals how her dad got her up for Kindergarten.

With nothing else working for Lily and Robin, they try one more tactic sure to get Barney's blood pumping: making out. Lily, of course, has wanted this for years, and Robin, out of desperation, is game for anything. It works, and here's where we get a small twist that gives the episode some heart. Because as amusing as everyone's antics were, they would fall flat without a place to go.

The secret ingredient for Barney's hangover cure was his secret ingredient for hooking up with a woman: lies. Taking a cue from Kung Fu Panda and many other stories, a supposed miracle turns out to be a fib that becomes self-fulfilling prophesy. The cure worked because the gang believed it would. Barney lied to them out of love, because it was what his friends needed to hear. It's an episode moment that goes a lot deeper into the series than one might realize.

Barney has always been the odd one out of the group, even back before Robin came into the picture. Ted, Marhshall, and Lily all went to college together. Ted met Barney at a urinal, and for some reason never went away. Over the years, I've wondered why Barney stuck around, because someone like him could easily have wormed his way into the cities super-elite. This episode confirms why Barney spent so much time just sitting around that old, ratty apartment: he loves these people.

The gang are his family, and to them he's not an outsider or a one-night stand; he's part of their world. Not only is he loved, he has someone to love. Barney, underneath his many, many flaws, just wants to love and be loved. He's pretty screwed up, but the gang has helped him come around. So that's why he stays tied to them. We revisit those earlier flashbacks to see that Barney not only helped them through a hangover, he helped then through very tough moments in their lives, which is what caused them to drink in the first place. For a hangover story, it's surprisingly sweet and deep.

It's that love that moves the gang to finally get Barney to rally: they lie to him about pulling off "Weekend at Barney's" for the pictures. It's a nice callback to Barney's wishes for when he dies, not to mention one of his plays, so it works on multiple levels.

I like how that tied back to the final scene between Ted and The Mother, in which he then gives her Barney's hangover cure. He knows it's a lie, but it's a lie she needs because she's the one who went big. She also need it because she and Ted are bombarded by a young Penny and Luke (I love that I can finally use their names!). It's a great close to the story and ties together nicely.

I was a little disappointed that we got no mention of Lily and Marshall's fight. I do hope last episode wasn't the final resolution, because I want to see why Lily changed her mind. Hopefully we'll see her have just as much a struggle as Marshall did. As much as I want that plotline resolved, it needs to be properly resolved, not just brushed aside.

I did enjoy the flashforward to 2020 and Marshall's election to judge, as well as Marshall and Lily taking their college-age son to Weslyan. I'm also pleased that future Lily's hair is correct this time. And speaking of hair, this is why I never plan to run for office: Marshall's hair loss was just tragic.

We didn't get much of Ray Wise as Robin's dad, but I'm sure we're getting to him. Maybe Robin will finally get his approval, but given that he started his day kicking her hung-over fiance in the balls, that's probably not going to happen. 

We also didn't see The Mother in the present, and while I did enjoy the flash-forwards, why couldn't she at least have been in the background for one of the present scenes? It's not a huge complaint, but definitely yet another missed opportunity. This show loves playing with background characters, why not have her trying and failing to get bacon, for example?

Overall I hope this is the start of a solid final run of episodes. We're a little more than a month away from the final episode, and it's starting to hit me that come April, there will be no more new episodes of How I Met Your Mother. But do you know what dulls the pain of a beloved series going off the air? Ending well.

Because if this show doesn't nail the ending, I know a lot of people who might be needing an elixir of their own the following morning.

Episode Breakdown

Best use of Government Money: The "Too Many Manhattens" Project

What You Don't Want to Hear from Mom: "You son of a me!"

Best New Religion: Bacon

Worst Campaign Promise: Wanting Batman to work harder.

Best Callback: We finally learn the origin of Marshall's nickname, "Big Fudge."

Best Sagat Narration: "Kids, you see where this is going."

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