While many fans of How I Met Your Mother might lament that the show is not a laugh riot, I don't subscribe to the notion that it's a poor imitation of what it once was. Yes, the series has changed and developed into something different over the years, and yes, sometimes it makes poor decisions (Lily's "Thank you, Linus" drink gag went on at least six drinks too long), but then it pulls out a combination like tonight's "The Locket" and "Coming Back" and it reminds us that there's more to this show than just laughs.
HIMYM is a romantic series in several senses of the word. Ted is a romantic, someone who's constantly searching for that great love and wants everything about love to be ideal and perfect. But it's also romantic in the sense that for eight season we've watched a long, often embellished, tale about our group of heroes and their extraordinary (or legendary, as it were) experiences in Manhattan. And I don't know that we can look at the series and judge it solely on the quality of laughs it produces. Because it's not the same series it was at the outset. And that's not a bad thing.
The series stopped being a joke factory when it developed these characters into actual people with real feelings, specifically when it gave Neil Patrick Harris something to do other than just act like a horndog. Harris's best work has always been when Barney's emotional and sweet and in love, and there's a reason he was nominated for all those Emmys (damn you, Jon Cryer!) earlier in the show's run. I'm not saying that the past few seasons haven't been rough, because they certainly have, but I'm also not willing to dismiss the show and say that it's a shell of what it once was as others might. Robin and Barney's relationship in Season 4 was definitely the catalyst for change on HIMYM, and while the writers clearly didn't know what to do with them in Season 5, I do feel their relationship is just as important now to the trajectory of HIMYM as Ted's search for the mother. After all, if it weren't for their wedding, he never would have met her.
And speaking of the wedding, in tonight's hour-long premiere, several storylines were introduced, both sentimental and humorous. But perhaps the only one that really mattered was the one involving Cristin Milioti's titular mother. Lily has now met her, having bailed on Ted's meticulously planned roadtrip and hopping a train to Farhampton (can't say I really blame her, Mennonite windmills do nothing for me either). And although Lily doesn't know that this woman will soon become a much larger part of her life, their friendship on the train was as easy as it was fun to watch. But for the record, as a general rule, you should never ever take a cookie from a stranger on a train. I don't care how upset you are about not seeing your child, or about how stupid Ted is. Do. Not. Take. The Cookie.
Prior to tonight, we'd only heard Milioti utter one sentence: "One ticket to Farhampton, please." But she had much more to do this time around, and in the short time we spent with her, it's obvious why she was cast as the mother. She's funny, and she has the ability to go toe-to-toe with Angry Lily and come out relatively unscathed. It couldn't have been easy joining a show in its ninth and final season, but she's assimilated herself into the cast and made it look as if she'd been there all along. Her chemistry with Josh Radnor in the final scene of tonight's premiere was both sweet and sexy, and while her character is much funnier than Ted, she likes the same things that Ted likes, like driving gloves and taking seven hour detours to see roadside attractions like goats blowing smoke rings. It's easy to see why Ted would fall for her. And why Milioti was cast in the first place.
But if I have one complaint about Season 9 so far, it's about the season-long wedding setup. Right now it's still new, but I fear it will soon wear out its welcome. We've only seen the first two hours of the wedding weekend (one hour our time), but we've already had Douchey Ted, an incest scare involving Cousin Mitch the Lumberjack with 6 Fingers, a scary Sherri Shepherd, a long cautionary joke about how everything we put on the internet is permanent (unless your child is Baby Marvin), a patented Stinson history lesson that involved a pretty funny White Russian joke, a Bondage Five, a divorce announcement, an erotic cake, and several painful reminders that Ted is single.
Next week Barney and Robin's relatives arrive and I worry that we'll soon run out of worthy wedding-related stories to tell. But more importantly, I worry that we'll all soon be banging our heads against the metaphorical car window on this long, tedious road to the finish line. And after nine years that would be a horrible way to go out. Let's hope the writers can come through and that the addition of Milioti to the cast is enough to make this drawn-out final season worth it.
– How sweet was it to see the cast picture from the opening credits with Josh, Jason, Alyson, Cobie, and Neil? That was eight years ago. Everyone looks so young! It's the perfect wedding gift for Robin.
– What did you think of Cristin Milioti as the Mother?
– Why exactly is Ted going to Los Angeles? We do not need more Ted pining over Robin, or a scene about giving her the locket. And we sure as hell do not need more Stella.
– Marshall feels very disconnected from the story, which makes sense considering he's in Minnesota and trying to get back to New York in time for the wedding, but I don't care for it. I don't like Marshmallow without his Lilypad.
– Ted's question about why the glove compartment is called the glove compartment if it isn't meant to hold your gloves? As the great prophet Ben Gibbard once said, "The glove compartment isn't accurately named, and everybody knows it."
– "You're a 21st century toilet." Ouch, Ted Mosby with the zinger
– "I'm coming back and I'm bringing you."
– Barney: "Our wedding is going to be legendary." Robin: "No wait-for-it?" Barney: "I've got you. I don't have to wait for it anymore." AWWW.