Season Analysis: Inspired by the death of Marshall’s father, HIMYM plumbed some of its deepest emotional depths in the first half of the season, with Jason Segel doing his best work of the entire series. Then in the second half, there was a little of this, a little of that, and by the end, we still hadn’t quite made it to the wedding that was teased in the season premiere.
As part of a triennial tradition, Ted, Marshall, and Barney gather to watch the original Star Wars trilogy back-to-back-to-back. I would have been happy if this episode had just been the three of them reacting to the movies, but what this episode actually turned out to be was good, too. It turns out that every year of this tradition, they have imagined what their lives will be like three years into the future. This structure of potential flash-forwards within flashbacks was mostly silly, in that it was already known that these possible futures – at points now in the past – would not come to be. But it was also clever in a way that HIMYM often is, displaying a strong awareness of continuity, as Lily and Marshall’s relationship troubles and Barney and Robin’s secret affair are referenced at the appropriate points. There was also a plethora of blink-and-you-miss-’em gags, particularly the presidents mentioned in the newspaper headlines (Al Gore in ’03, Howard Dean in ’06, Dennis Kucinich in ’09, and George W. Bush for a third term in 2015). Gratifyingly, something resembling a self-appointed endgame was established, with an actual flash-forward to the next trilogy time in 2015 revealing that Ted would be breaking the tradition by bringing a girl along – with that girl being his infant daughter.
It was distressing to see Barney struggle to reunite with his father this season not only because we wanted the reconciliation to be a happy one, but also because we wanted to see John Lithgow break loose and show off his comic skills. This finally happened with “Hopeless,” in which Jerry (Lithgow) realized that Barney would never start having a good time with his father until they had a legendary night of partying. So the sometime magician pulls off the ultimate magic trick: a pretend night of debauchery. Using sleight of hand, he downs several shots in a row, and in the hours that follow, he picks a fight with a biker, yanks out a parking meter, and pukes on a cop car, or at least that is how a very drunk Barney sees it. Really, the biker is a statue, and Barney is the one who threw up. As Jerry explains his ruse and its purposes of bonding with Barney and teaching him that he cannot party forever, we have one of those great “think back, remember how it really happened” moments.
Next up: Gossip Girl
They are known as static characters. They are not the main characters (or at least, they should not be). They do not change over the course of the story, but they do not have to. Change is only demanded of the protagonist (and maybe of the antagonist). It would be too much to keep up with if all the supporting characters changed as much as the leads. Barney Stinson is a static character. He is a 21st century lothario, and it is expected that he will remain that way for the entire run of How I Met Your Mother. Even if he does settle into a steady relationship for good, he ought to never give up his “Playbook.” Following his breakup with Robin, Barney went full force back into the Playbook. Eventually, he broke down and admitted that relying on the Playbook was his way of coping with the breakup, which he was truly hurt by. It was interesting to see a version of Barney on the verge of reforming his ways, but it simply did not feel right that that version should last. Ultimately, the breakdown turned out to be a part of Barney’s most elaborate con ever, and all was right. Barney was still what we loved him to be. But somehow in maintaining the status quo, we were given a glimpse behind the master’s work and a peek at a what-if scenario. And it was all intriguing enough to suggest that maybe it was not all part of the con.
Next up: The Big Bang Theory