How I Met Your Mother: Season 9, Episodes 1-2
The Locket / Coming Back
Is it an issue of semantics? Is there one guy whose sole purpose in the HIMYM writers' room to reign in any talk of more logical and thematically satisfying story directions (like a whole season showing Ted and the Mother's courtship) by continuously reminding the room "Guys, the show is called How I Met Your Mother, not How I Got To Know Your Mother! Come on dumb dumbs!"? Never ones to tell a simple story quickly or leave a dead horse unbeaten, show runners Bays and Thomas have chosen to set the entire 9th season over the 72 hour span of time that is Barney and Robin's wedding. I eagerly await the riveting mid-season sweeps episode where Ted and Lily really can't decide if they want to order room service or venture down to the main dining room.
In last night's back-to-back season premiere the pacing problems that are yet to come aren't terribly intrusive yet, but the cracks are already starting to show as we are only 1/12th through this series and certain scenes are already being overly padded (see the checking into the Bed & Breakfast sequence, which while not without it's chuckle worthy moments, screamed "stretch, STRETCH!”).
“The Locket” begins with the gang separated into three groups and making their way to Far Hampton for the Barney and Robin's wedding. For me the most successful of these three story lines was Robin and Barney working their way through who or what might be the wild card at their wedding and stumbling upon the horrifying realization that they might be related. It's a throwaway plot line with little actual payoff, but it mines a lot of fun little gags and a couple sweet moments out of a bottle sub plot. The second most successful was Marshall's attempts to delete a photo off of Facebook and get out of Minnesota. Again another mostly throw away plot that was bolstered by the antagonizing one-liners of guest star Sherri Shepherd.
For me, the least successful part of “The Locket” was the real meat of the episode, Ted and Lily's plot lines. Lily's first meeting with the mother fell a bit flat for me. It really felt like the writers were trying too hard to show how cute and perfect for Ted the mother is, rather than letting the audience discover this slowly over the course of the season. Holding off on her and Ted's meeting also undercuts the success of her introduction because it leaves the writers in the unenviable position of telling us what great chemistry these two will have, rather than just putting them in a scene together and showing us the sparks. I also have an issue with Lily's portrayal in this episode. Yes she misses her son, and yes Ted is extremely annoying on road trips but Lily knows what a fragile and unstable place Ted is in right now. For her to abandon him when he needs a friend most just reeks of callousness not in line with what we know about Lily. An evil genius yes, but not cold hearted.
And then of course we come to the locket, the titular MacGuffin that simultaneously represents Ted's hopes to win back Robin, and everything wrong with the last two seasons of HIMYM. Having been my mantra for pretty much every review of season 8, I don't think I need to go into great detail of why the locket, and Ted's continued pursuit of Robin is such a misstep for this show. Simply put: basing such a huge portion of this season around Ted trying to win back the love of his life makes the woman whom the entire show is based around seem like a mere consolation prize, especially since it looks like we're not going to meet her until Ted does something very, very stupid.
Evidence of pacing problems yet to come aside, “Coming Home” works much better as it spends less time focusing on the structural flaw that is the torch Ted still holds for Robin. Barney's issues with commitment and idolization of his brother are well documented, so it's no surprise that Robin is afraid that the news of James' divorce would send Barney running for the hills. The flashback to The Stinson boys' Russian ancestors complete with gypsy curse and electric guitar solos was definitely the highlight of this sequence. I also liked the emotional beats they capped this plot line with as it really naturally sold the real character growth experienced over the course of this series by for the very cartoony Barney.
Lily's drunken antics were fun, and Ted's dark place was more amusing than dark this week, which is no easy feat. The weak link of “Coming Home” was Marshall's attempt to rent a car to get to the wedding on time, as it really felt like an amalgamation of several past Marshall storylines haphazardly tossed together because they needed something for him to do apart from the rest of the cast due to scheduling conflicts. I am curious regarding how long Sherri Shepherd will stick around though, and I like the idea of random strangers Marshall meets along the course of his road trip showing up at the wedding
HIMYM season 9 is off to a slow start that only promises to get slower. The little moments are enjoyable, the characters are mostly still the friends we fell in love with almost a decade ago, but larger structural flaws continue to cast a dark shadow over the show's swan song.
-"Aw they'll look so cute next to the Ring Bear." "Wait you said Ring Bearer." "Ring Bear"
-"It's men with other men."
-"Just click on options!"
Sherri Shepherd's delivery is wonderful.
-"Hey you just finished my--" "--creepy telepathic murder thought. Aww must be a soul mate thing!" "--unless it's a creepy cousin thing."
-Dark Willow makes another appearance. My fellow RTBN writer (and former HIMYM reviewer) Sam's theory that HIMYM is just an alt universe constructed by Willow from Buffy The Vampire Slayer continues to gain traction.
-Ted giving Robin the opening credits photo was a genuinely sweet moment.
-"Ok. Let's chew some gum and get you guys checked in."
-"Ma'am, it's not a race." "That right there is why you lost." Can we somehow add Herm to Marshall's cross country road trip?
-"Is it just me or does it feel like we just hit an old gypsy woman?" "Yup old gypsy woman."
-It's roughly a 20 hour drive from Minnesota to New York, does that mean Marshall is going to be out of the picture for the first 8 episodes of the season? #pacingproblems.
-"Thank you Linus, Thank you Linus, Thank you Linus, Thank you Linus, Thank you Linus, Thank you Linus"
-"Oh that's a tough one. The nearest one that's kind of dirty is the Sand Box. But the dirtiest one that's near is the Crab Shed."
-"I love chocolate marzipan" "So does Tom. Or he used to."