Monday, September 23, 2013

How I Met Your Mother Season Premiere Review: "The Locket/Coming Back" - Slow Sprint to the Finish Line

Cristin Milioti as the mother, finally, in "How I Met Your Mother"

There are many people (myself included) who have felt that the last several seasons of How I Met Your Mother have been disappointing as the show spun itself in circles trying not to reveal the mother.  It’s not that we needed to know who the mother was - after all, the show’s best season was its second, in which we spent the entire season following a relationship we knew was doomed (Ted and Robin).  Rather, it felt like the show had run out of narrative juice.  They weren’t telling interesting stories and, worst of all, the main character, whose journey we were supposed to be following, was kind of turning into a douche.  We hoped that, by introducing the mother, the show might get a creative resurgence, and get back to telling funny stories.

So when Cristin Milioti stepped up to that ticket counter last May, there was much rejoicing.  Finally, we were going to see the mother who we’d waited so long for.  And then, after the season finale, showrunners Carter Bays and Craig Thomas spoke to the press and indicated that they still intended for the show to fulfill its titular promise: Ted would not meet the mother until the end of the final season, and that season would take place entirely over the course of Barney and Robin’s wedding weekend which, I should point out, we first saw in the season SIX premiere, three full years ago. 

When that information came out, there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth.  Then, at Comic-Con, Bays and Thomas walked back some of their comments, insisting that, while Ted and the mother wouldn’t “officially” meet until the series finale, the wedding was being used largely as a framing device for telling stories about the gang’s past and future, and that we would see the two characters in that context throughout the season.

And, indeed, that’s just what we got at the end of the HIMYM hour-long season premiere.  Ted and the mother sit at a table at the Farhampton Inn one year after Barney and Robin's wedding, with Ted reminiscing about the last time he was at that table, douchetastic as ever, but praying for her to come along.  It was a sweet, tender, and long awaited scene that legitimately put tears in my eyes.  Also pretty great was Milioti’s first scene with Lily, as the two bonded in the train over solace cookies (somebitches!).  Milioti and Hanigan have marvelous chemistry, though I could have done with a little less telling (as Bob Saget explains how the mother loves all his character quirks, like esoteric trivia and sidetrips) and a little more showing, but the end of the episode gave us plenty of that, so I was happy.

The rest of the episode was pretty unspectacular, Marshall’s storyline especially.  I’m assuming that it was part of Jason Segel’s contract that he’d be able to have some downtime to do movies (and sure seems like his scenes in this episode were all shot in one day), but I do hope we get to see him back with the gang soon, because there’s only so much of him sparring with sassy Sherri Shepherd that I can handle. 

We also get the first of what will likely be many returning guest stars as Wayne Brady joins the party.  His cameo in “The Locket” playing both sides of the Kenny Loggins/Dollie Parton duet “Islands in the Stream” was fantastic, though his main story in “Coming Back” (he’s getting divorced) was less so.  I get that the entire hour is based around showing us that Barney doesn’t need external validation of love now that he has Robin, but the execution kind of lacked, with the notable exception of Ted walking into his room to discover a life-size cake of James and his husband.

Overall, I’d call this a positive start for the final season of HIMYM.  The episode as a whole wasn’t great, but I’m extremely relieved to see the plan they have for showing us the mother.  It will be really nice to get to know her over these last 22 episodes.

A couple of spare thoughts –

Between the front desk clerk’s exclamation of the inn’s romanticism, the fact that we see Ted and the mother at the inn in May 2014, and the fact that Ted’s daughter is born by April 2015 (as seen in "Trilogy Time," I’m pretty sure that kid is getting conceived at the Farhampton Inn, one year from now.

So Ted went to Los Angeles to get the locket from Stella.  He’s still got that wild card to play at some point during this weekend, but I can’t imagine him making a play for Robin.  I have to think he would have done that as soon as he arrived.  Perhaps it will serve as his gift to Barney.

So thoughts?  Comments?  Just want to tell me my blog sucks?  Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @TyTalksTV.

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