24
May
2010
How I Met Your Mother: Season 5, Episode 24
Doppelgangers
Jordan
Several months ago I wrote about a discussion I had with Sam, my co-critic, over the line between a slump and a bad season. A slump,we reasoned, can be rescued if the show proves it has direction and turns itself around by season's end. Sadly, How I Met Your Mother wasn't having a slump this year. This was just a bad season for the once great sitcom. Now all that's left is to pray that it is JUST a bad season, and that the show can pull itself back from the brink next year and keep me from engaging in a debate over when, exactly, How I Met Your Mother jumped the shark. For now, the season ended without even a whiff of master-plot, as we moved toward the inevitable, dreaded Lily's pregnant storyline, and discovered that Robin wasn't leaving the show afterwards (how shocking).

The one effective moment this finale offered up was a series of flashbacks that showed us how far the characters have moved in the last five years. It did tug at my heart strings to remember Marshall proposing to Lily, Robin meeting Ted, and Barney playing the field like a champ. That montage documented the real changes these characters have undergone over the course of the show, and reminded us as viewers how much time we've invested in their progression. Sadly, the show had to use images from its golden age to affect me emotionally. It just didn't have the confidence, nor possibly the skill, to do it without relying on what it once was. And Ted's message, that we are all doppelgangers of our former selves, felt more forced than honest. The season had to sum up with a big moment, but instead of actually providing one, the show grasped at straws.

I liked the idea that it would be impossible to spot Barney's doppelganger because he goes to such great efforts to bag women that any look-alike could easily just be him. The thought had crossed my mind before, and I'm glad that the show knows its characters well enough to stick that joke. I also honestly liked watching Robin choose love over her career for the first time ever. What I am much less likely to get behind is the idea of Marshall and Lily having a baby, a plot that the show could have handled in its prime, but may fell it in its already weakened state. For a long time, I was a strong defender of the show's slow-paced approach to The Mother question, because I knew it would spell the end (or at least the climax) for the show, and I wasn't ready for that in season two, or three, or even for the most part five. Yet each of those seasons felt tied inextricably to Ted's journey toward the mother.

In Season One Ted realized his desire to get married. In Season Two, he pursued a meaningful relationship that taught him what he wanted, and what he needed in order to make love last. In Season Three he got over that bump, tried to be someone else, and realized he was better off being himself in time to get engaged. Season Four saw his first engagement fall apart and watched him get his groove back and prepare himself to let someone in again. And then season five came along. What happened to Ted in Season Five? What progress did he make, what part of his story was he telling? I understand that while Ted is the center of the show the other characters have storylines too, and I think those can and have been meaningful for the audience as well as for the story of the show. But I have trouble swallowing the idea that this entire season is at all related to the show's central premise, and that, for me at least, is a serious problem.

I support the show's decision to tell the Barney and Robin story (Even though they told it badly). I support the idea of Robin meeting and falling for Don. I don't support the Marshall and Lily having a baby plotline, but I understand that the show stalled on it for a very long time, and it had to tell that story at some point. What I don't get is how, for 24 episodes, the writers entirely forgot to move the masterplot forward. All they gave us this season was a glimpse of the mother's ankle, a tidbit which is entirely inconsequential, and which was confined to a single episode. To put it simply, How I Met Your Mother failed this season. The show has always transcended the sitcom genre with its high concept, a clever idea of a love story told in reverse. This season forgot entirely what the show was about, and acted as if it was just a standard sitcom. Sometimes it was a pretty funny standard sitcom, but mostly it was a pale shadow of its former self. I miss How I Met Your Mother, and I want it to get good again. I hope next season it will. Because I do care about the changes these characters have gone through over the last five years, and I don't want all of that emotional investment to be in vain. I want Ted to finally find the woman of his dreams, and I want it to be done in a way that reminds us this is a story being told from the future, and that each piece is part of the larger puzzle of a man's life, which comes into focus only when he meets the mother of his future children. That's what I expect from Season Six of How I Met Your Mother. But I'll be happy if it just gets funny again and remembers what its supposed to be.

Grade: B-

Notes:

-"What are we all thinking about? Nachos?"

-"That is NOT the outcome we were hoping for..."

-Robin and Don's guest appearance on the puppet show was nice. "I've experimented with drugs..."

-"You're doing surprisingly well in the Baltics."

-"Do you ever read my blog? Its gotten a lot better." I feel like that's something I would say...

-"Why are you in our bedroom? Why are YOU in our bedroom? Why is Ellen Degeneres in our bedroom?"

-See you all next season, when I hope things will be much, much better.
Tags: How I Met Your Mother
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