Tuesday, March 25, 2014

How I Met Your Mother: "The End of the Aisle"

Quick Review: For a big event, it's a very personal and satisfying episode.

Episode Synopsis: Half an hour before their nuptials, Barney and Robin both suffer panic attacks, while Marshall and Lily take the occasion to rewrite their original wedding vows. -tvguide

Spoiler Alert. Look, at this point in the series, do you really want to get spoiled? I know, you aren't the same viewer you were in 2005, or whenever you began watching the show. And the show is not the same as it was in 2005. That can be hard to accept, especially when the 2005 season is right at our fingertips, be it through Netflix or the DVDs on your shelf. But while it's nice to go back and relive those early days, it's important to realize that we can't live in the past. We have to accept that the show moved on, for better or worse. So what I'm saying is that this is the next to last time I've got a spoiler warning for you. Why not watch the show and then get back here. Otherwise, I'll be forced to make awful puns at you, and you will have never known such suffering. (Unless you've been through some actual suffering.)

Full Review: Almost four years go, How I Met Your Mother laid the groundwork for it's inevitable conclusion. The first episode of season six told us that Ted meets his future wife at "a wedding" in which he's the best man. We didn't learn until the end of that season that it was Barney's wedding, and we didn't find out until the next season that he was marrying Robin. The first and final episodes of seasons 6-8 teased us with the final minutes leading up to that ceremony, and the last thing we knew, Barney was trying to dive out a window and Robin told Ted that she couldn't marry Robin.

Now, after seeing what brought everyone to this point, we get to see what happens next. But this isn't just a story about how Barney and Robin go from doubting their decision to lovingly exchanging vows. It's a story about how everyone in that church isn't the same person they used to be. In particular, the gang all have to confront the truth that time moves on, and we don't often become who we set out to be.

I like how this episode is mostly a personal story with the gang. Yes, many familiar faces return to the end, but for the second to last episode, I like that the focus is on the five people we've come to care about over the course of the series. And while The Mother does make a small, yet important appearance, her role in this episode is very small. She steps back to let the main cast sort things out for themselves one more time.

As Barney tries to finish his vows, Marshall and Lily come to his aid. While at first they roll their eyes at Barney's selfish vows, he turns the table on them. Barney confronts Lily and Marshall by pointing out the fact that they've broken every one of their own vows. It's an age old dilemma long married couples often face, the fact that their married lives haven't turned out the way they intended, especially when the vows you made at the start were only based on an ideal you had for marriage, not the reality. 

True, they haven't ever been unfaithful to each other, but Marshall hasn't always been there for Lily when vomit was involved, and Lily played an integral part in an embarrassing image of Marshall going viral. This weekend saw them get into a huge fight, and as far as Barney's concerned, if this is what happens to the best couple he knows, what hope is there for him?

I liked that Barney was panicking less about being married and more about whether he could really be the kind of married mad he wants to be. It shows how far he's come as a character. If I have one criticism of the show, it's that it missed the perfect opportunity for him and his father, John Lithgow, to talk about it. It would make the perfect bookend to their conversation about being broken. While the resolution of Barney's crisis mostly worked, watching Marshall and Lily exchange new vows, I would have liked to see Lithgow involved in more than a brief cameo.

Ted, too, spends the episode confronting the fact that he is no longer the Ted of 2005, who stole the Blue French Horn and did many amazing things to impress Robin. This time, when confronted with yet another bride who wants to run away, he shows that he has changed, telling Robin that he isn't the man he used to be. Granted, he did jump in the river to get the locket, but when given the opportunity to whisk Robin away, he instead gives the locket to Barney, hoping to reassure Robin that she is marrying the right man.

Finally, we're seeing a better Ted who is starting to grow up. It's hard for him to admit that he's not the same guy who was in love with Robin. It's probably harder to admit that Robin isn't the same girl he fell in love with. But time marches on with or without our consent, and Ted knows that Robin should marry Barney. Robin, of course, doesn't know that. So she bolts.

Only to run into The Mother. (And share a very special moment.) Providing a lovely bookend to her meeting with Barney, The Mother helps Robin calm down before making any rash decision. Walking away quietly, she leaves Robin alone long enough for Barney to find her. After realizing he's been going about it wrong, Barney makes the one vow that means anything: he'll always be honest.

Finally we get the wedding, and I think the show made a good choice to go with a music montage than the actual ceremony. The drama was all in getting to that point. The sea of smiling, familiar faces watching Robin and Barney get married made for a wonderful tableau. For any other show, that might have been how the series ended, with two cast members get married while everyone else they've ever known watch, cry, clap, and hug.Especially with the conclusion of one of the greatest running gags of all time.

We knew the fifth slap was coming (technically eighth), but the only question was when. All the other slaps were meant to torment Barney, often with elaborate backstories or countdown timers. This slap, however, was the slap of friendship, given to calm Barney down as he has one final freakout before the wedding. It's a nice way for Barney to begin his married life, free of the years of torment of a slap lurking around every corner. The slap bet commissioner can rest easy, her work is done. (For now.)

With Barney and Robin married, the slaps doled out, and Marshall and Lily better than ever and moving to Italy, we really have only one story left. After nine years of waiting, we are down to one last story. We're finally going to find out, once and for all, how Ted met The Mother. Will this ending be worth it the wait. It's hard to believe that after nine years, we only have one week left.

Episode Breakdown

Cutest Wedding Party Member: The ring bear

Best Vow: Stop petitioning Paul McCartney to record “Chicken Pot Pie” to the tune of “Live And Let Die”

Worst Vow: "I vow to love you forever unconditionally, unless you pudge out, in which case I'm a Barney-shaped hole in the wall."

Worst Vow Pun: Vowerpoint Presentation

Best Callback:The final slap.

Best Sagat Narration: "In the end, all we can do is promise to love each other with everything we've got. Because love's the best thing we do. And on that lovely spring evening, that's exactly what Barney and Robin vowed to each other. And it was legendary."

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