Tuesday, February 4, 2014

How I Met Your Mother: "Sunrise"

Quick Review: A good theme, nice character moments, but perhaps a bit too packed.

Episode Synopsis: On the day of the wedding, a tipsy Barney goes missing, and while out searching for him, Ted and Robin recall Ted's former relationships. Meanwhile, Lily and Marshall clear up their on-going issues; and Barney imparts his women-meeting wisdom and techniques to two young wannabe ladies' men. -tvguide

Spoilers ahead, so you might want to hold off on reading this review until you watch the episode. You know, it's hard to believe that there are only seven episodes left of the series. And here you are, squandering those last moments with spoilers. Is that really how you want to end this experience, being spoiled on a fairly good episode? It's your choice, obviously, but is this a choice you're going to regret. I've seen those old yearbook pictures. Trust me, you're going to regret a few of those. Especially when your kids find them.

Full Review: It's hard to let go. For eight years, Ted has never been able to let go of Robin. Marshall, it seems, has never really let go of Lily leaving him for San Francisco. Barney's having difficulty letting go of his bro-style. That was the unifying theme of tonight's episode. As the sun came up, they all have to learn to let go.

Ted, of course, has to finally let go of Robin. A lot of us have been waiting for him to do so for years, but in many ways, his holding onto Robin is why he was able to meet The Mother. It's why he only fell for women who were wrong for him. Stella, Zoe, Blah Blah, Jeanette, Strawberry, that random girl be brought to Lily's birthday and is in all the pictures, none of them were right. And deep down, Ted knew this. He didn't want them to be right because it let him still hold onto Robin.

I found it very interesting that when Robin listed Ted's top 5, she wasn't on the list. She also wasn't on the worst list, either. It's a subtle but substantial character moment that Robin thinks at least 5 women were better for Ted than her. It shows that she truly does care about Ted, because she knows he's better off not dating her. Unfortunately, while everyone else knows this, Ted doesn't.

But much like The Mother had to do that same night, as we saw in last week's episode, Ted had to finally let go. He had to release Robin and let her float away into the arms of his second best friend. Now, having finally done this, he can truly open himself up to love. He can met the woman of his dreams who, coincidentally, also just opened herself up to love.

I've long been a critic of the way this show, like Ted, refused to move on. I've long thought that Ted should have let go a while back, because his obsession with Robin was robbing him of so many other character dimensions. We spent far too little time seeing Ted be a professor. We also barely got to see Ted design the GNB tower. While I get what the show is doing by having both Ted and The Mother let go now, I feel it could have been a much better show letting Ted just be Ted for a while. He didn't need to be defined by a string of bad relationships.

But since that's how this story played out, let's look at how well the show executed it. I liked how we finally got to see the saga of the locket, complete with seeing Stella and Victoria back again. I liked how both of them told Ted how crazy he was, and if you won't listen to the woman who left you at the alter and a women who left someone else at the alter to run off with you, who will you listen to? Probably the crazy ex-girlfriend who's stealing your mail.

While Stella and Victoria got a phone conversation, Ted and Jeanette had a face-to-face so he could get the locket from her. And while I thought Jeanette overstayed her welcome last season, I thought this was a perfect use of the character. Because when Jeanette is telling you that you've gone off the deep end, it's time to listen. In the end, I liked how Jeanette took the decision of whether to give the locket to Robin out of Ted's hands. because sometimes that's how it works. You don't get to make that call, you only get to choose how to deal with it.

In this case, Ted has to choose how to deal with Robin getting married. he has to let go, and I really enjoyed the visual of Robin rising up into the air like Ted's old balloon (and best friend.) This show can work a metaphor like no one's business, and tonight was no exception.

Today on Reddit, Bays and Carter had an AMA (ask me anything) session. They revealed that the reason Colbie Smulders is Robin was because Jennifer Love Hewett turned them down. For which I'm grateful. I can't imagine Robin being played by anyone else, and tonight's scenes between Ted and Robin just work so well. The two actors have so much chemistry, they should after nine years, and watching them hash things out was beautiful. While I do want to see more of The Mother, I'd forgotten how much I do like seeing Radnor and Smulders onscreen together.

I'd argue that while Ted and Robin had the strongest scenes together, Marshall and Ghost-Lily's scenes were the weakest. Not because I didn't like the idea of Marshall sorting through his feelings with all the ghosts. But because those scenes got very little screen time, and too much of that time was wasted on 2006 Lily making references to the fact that she was from 2006.

I would have liked to see Marshall finally have it out with 2006 Lily, even if it's only in his head. I think having her play it straight would have been much more powerful, especially when she and 2013 Lilly tag-team Marshall. (Not like that. Come on, his dad is there.) It would have been better for 2006 Lily to show how her leaving Marshall wasn't completely her fault, and for Marshall to come to terms with how he helped drive her away the first time. And how his behavior now is driving Lily away again. I did like how Marshall had to understand that it doesn't matter who "wins" the argument if he loses the relationship.

This is why I would have liked more time on these scenes, because bringing back Marshall's dad for jut a few zingers seems like a waste. I'd have loved to see Marvin pull Marshall aside and the two of them have a ghost-father/son moment. I think we needed to see Marvin tell Marshall that he was disappointed in his son's behavior toward Lily and declare that he didn't raise him to be that kind of guy. Since Marvin is the man Marshall strives to be as a husband and father, that would have some serious impact.

Still, I liked how Marshall did listen to Ghost 2013 Lily and realized that his marriage was more important that anything. At the end of the episode, Lily's back, because we knew she'd be back, and she says that Italy is off. We don't know what happened or why Lily has a change of heart, and I suspect that we'll see her side of things next time. What we get now is a reconciliation, and Marshall understanding that he was wrong for what he said and did. We'll see where that takes us.

Now, at first glance, Barney's storyline seems almost unneccesary. While Ted, Robin, Marshall, and Ghost Lily are all having a meaningful discussion about the future, letting go, and holding on to what matters, Barney is teaching two new bros "how to live." Why waste time on that? However, as the episode wore on, Barney's story made sense. It, too, was about letting go. On his last night as a single man, Barney can't just let go of his old lifestyle. Instead, he's got to pass it on to two young men who are more than willing to listen.

Everyone in this episode had to figure out how to let go. For Barney, it was helping these two boys learn how to follow in his footsteps. By passing on his knowledge, he can let go of that life. That's why he gave them a new copy of the playbook. He doesn't need it, and now that it's in someone else's hands, he can't go back to it. He's released it into the wild. This might just be a part of his subconscious, because he may not remember that night, but deep down he knows that he's entered a new part of his life, and this was how he did it.

And if he does wonder what he did that night, I'm certain Television's Tim Gunn will be able to fill in the pieces.

While this wasn't the most exciting episode, we did get some storylines resolved, hopefully for good. We didn't get any of The Mother this week, but after the last episode, we needed to spend some quality time with the gang. Plus, she was probably the only one who actually got some sleep that night.

Overall, while it did feel a bit too packed, and we got too few of the Marshall scenes, it was a solid episode. It gave us a lot of good character work as we finally arrive at the day of the wedding. With just seven episodes left, we're at endgame. I can't wait to see how it bears out.

Episode Breakdown

Best Friend: A balloon dressed as a cowboy.

Worst Friend: The guy who shows everyone a picture of you and the balloon dressed as a cowboy.

Best Thing Left in 2006: Borat references.

Statement We All Can Agree On: Zoey is on Ted's best and worst lists.

Best Ghost Parental Guilt: "I'm right here!"

Best Callback: Yeah, Ted, that was the signal.

Best Sagat Narration: "Liar!"

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