To paraphrase a wise old man, “This was the episode you’re looking for.”
By no mean’s was the lead up to “Something New” perfect. In fact, I strongly disagree with much of the direction this season has taken, never mind the fact that a lot of it has been flatly bad. But if you can forget for a moment the conceptual issues (how many times have we supposedly moved on from the fact that Ted is hung up on Robin?), this episode represented a showing of old form.
I had thought going in that the season finale was to be Barney and Robin’s wedding, and that Ted’s moment of actually meeting the mother would take place at the very end. That seemed terribly rushed, but based on the way the rest of the season has gone I just figured them’s the breaks. Thank goodness, the episode never gets nearly so far, ending as the entire crew is on their way out of New York bound for Farhampton two days before the wedding. That doesn’t mean there’s not a ton going on.
Oh, yeah, there will be full episode spoilers beyond this point.
It’s been rare this season that the balance of the various storylines have felt appropriate, but they certainly do here. Everyone has something interesting to do, but even when there are big events going on elsewhere, the episode is centered on Ted. It seemed a little careless of Ted to bring Lily to his Westchester house when there was a “For Sale” sign sitting out in plain view, but I can buy that “mistake” being accidental-on-purpose. And the big reveal that Ted is moving to Chicago feels perfect. Two of his best friends are moving to Rome. His other two are getting married. The love of his life is nowhere to be found, and he’s at the end of his rope. I completely buy that Ted needs a change of scenery. There are only two changes I would have made: 1) this should have been teased with subtle clues earlier on (maybe it was, but I didn’t notice). I would have loved to see flashbacks a-la-Ted and Robin at the end of season 2 when they break up with something like five episodes to go, but it’s not revealed until the finale. And 2) I wish the move hadn’t been all about Robin. I think it feels to Ted like his friends are moving on without him, like they don’t need him anymore. He’s convinced himself the love of his life might really be in Chicago, or at least it’s worth a shot. I even think it’s ok that he’s trying to get away from Robin and Barney, but not because he still has feelings for Robin. No matter how much this season has pushed that storyline, it’s felt stale. I think Ted still will get up and do anything for Robin in a moment’s notice, but it’s more odd reflex than true romantic feeling at this point. And while it makes him a good friend, he realizes it’s intrusive to Barney.
Anyways, loved that reveal, and I can’t wait to see how it informs the beginning of season 9. A final note on the “A” plot – the writers nailed it by including Lily in the scenes with Ted. It’s more than she just needs somewhere to be. Lily is like a sister to Ted, and it’s easy to forget how close they are. They’ve been with each other for several big moments throughout the series, and their relationship now spans about 15 years.
Lily’s presence in Westchester is structurally a nice touch as well, because it directly integrates the “B” plot, which involves Marshall and Marvin visiting Marshall’s mother as Lily, Marshall, and Marvin prepare to move to Rome. This was kind of goofy, but it worked for me. It kept Marshall involved, provided some decent humor, and led to the episode’s second major reveal: Marshall is selected for a judgeship. It’s the first real character movement Marshall’s had in a while, and while I’m not crazy about this, too, having to come to the head at Barney and Robin’s wedding, I do think it will provide some excellent drama. Side note: I’m predicting feminist outcry online when Lily ultimately leaves her job and they stay in New York so Marshall can be a judge.
Finally, we have our “C” storyline: Barney and Robin out to dinner. With the exception of seeing everyone leave for the wedding at the very end of the episode, this storyline exists completely separate from the others. And that’s ok. Barney and Robin need their time alone; they’re getting married. Thankfully, the episode doesn’t try to pull them center stage. We get everything we need, and perhaps what we should have been getting more of this season, to show definitively that Barney and Robin work together as a couple. They’re in love, confident in one another, and, as they try to tear apart a snooty rival couple, unquestionably two peas in a pod.
Then there’s the final reveal, the one we’ve all been waiting for: the reveal of The Mother. And frankly, it’s a little anticlimactic. I didn’t dislike it, per se. It fit with the episode, it was cool to finally see the mother, and I’m guessing it’ll be funny to see how near Ted keeps coming to running into her at the wedding before finally meeting her. But on the other hand, we already knew the mother would be at Barney and Robin’s wedding; furthermore, we knew she was the bassist in the band. What if all we had gotten was her legs walking up to the ticket counter, her yellow umbrella, and her voice? Can you imagine the tension of the wedding episodes if we held our breath every time Ted ran into a girl? Alas, it shall not be.
The sharper among you may have noticed that I did, indeed, say wedding episodes. As in more than one. I’m betting it will take two, but it wouldn’t wholly surprise me, and it might actually be a good idea, if it stretched to three, including the train ride back to New York. This season finale has set up a lot of ground to cover, and the showrunners would be wise to take their time and cover it meticulously. This collectively is the biggest moment the show has ever had. Marshall and Lily’s wedding took two episodes, and that was with Barney lacking any larger narrative to cover. Every character has major stuff to deal with going into next season. It needs to be seen through.
Color me excited, though, as we look forward to the final season of HIMYM, and be on the lookout for my episode-by-episode re-imagining of seasons 7 and 8 to finally come out sometime this summer!