21
Mar
2011
How I Met Your Mother: Season 6, Episode 19
Legendaddy
Jordan
If there has been a theme to this season of How I Met Your Mother, and I would argue at this point that there certainly has, its the idea of fatherhood. We began this season with Marshall struggling with the idea of becoming his father and Barney struggling with his strong desire to meet his dad. Along the way, Marshall lost his dad and Barney found his. These two characters have really formed the center of the show this year, and while from a masterplot standpoint that might bother me a bit (I doubt either of these plotlines is crucial to Ted meeting The Mother, but then, what is these days?), in terms of creating a season that hangs together as a coherent narrative I think it works. The show's creators promised us at the dawn of season six that this would be a return to form after the wayward (read: directionless and completely bungled) fifth season, and while I'm not sure I can call this season a full return to form, it has been at its strongest when dealing with continuing stories (I have even liked some of what the show has done with ted and Zoey, though I may be in the minority there).

"Legendaddy" is a big episode for this season, then, as Barney finally gets to meet his father Jerry, played by sitcom vet and all around awesome actor John Lithgow, who was last seen scaring the shit out of us as Trinity on Dexter. What Barney is looking for when he meets his dad is validation; what he gets is something different but quite possibly something much more meaningful. Barney hopes that his dad will drink his whiskey neat, high five his son, scam girls in bars and be a successful tour promoter after his stint as a roadie in Barney's youth. Instead, Barney is confronted with a quiet older man who drinks skim milk, teaches driving in White Plains, and has a family of his own (one that doesn't include Barney). The emotional subtext to the episode (until it is made text with such a forceful performance by NPH that the lack of subtlety didn't bother me for a second) is that Barney discovers his dad left him to become nothing more than a better dad to another family.

The scene in which Barney tries to tear J.J.'s basketball hoop fro mthe garage while his father tries his best to apologize for the ways he has failed him is nothing short of phenomenally executed, with brilliant performances by both Lithgow and NPH (who damn better get his Emmy this year). Jerry has regretted abandoning his first son for 30 years and wants desperately to make up for his greatest mistake. Yet allowing Jerry to do this will force Barney to come up against all of the ways he has fallen short because of his daddy issues. Sure, he has that gap in his knowledge that makes him ignorant of how to use tools (and there's a great gag when Jerry symbolically hands Barney the screwdriver he was missing earlier in the episode and Barney just bangs it against the backboard futilely), but he is also desperate for paternal attention and validation, a pathological womanizer who has serious intimacy issues stemming from his abandonment by his father (along with the disintegration of his first real relationship). Barney is the show's break out comedic character, to be sure, but the writers have always backed that up with a realistic and believable emotional core, and this episode lets us see again just how wounded our Mr. Stinson is inside.

The B-plot has the gang confronting each other on their gaps in knowledge and Marshall getting everyone around him to stop treating him with care after the death of his father. There isn't much here, but when the show is on its game like it was this week, there doesn't need to be. Many of the best plots the show has ever done come from letting the gang just rip on each other, and the comedy involved in all of their ridiculous "gaps" is a nice counterpoint to the often uncomfortably real drama going on in the A-plot. And, for symmetry points, Marshall makes a real step towards making peace with the loss of his father at the same time that Barney is making a real step towards accepting his dad back into his life. Nicely done, HIMYM.

The episode ends with Barney walking away from his father carrying his half brother's basketball hoop, which he feels entitled to since JJ gets the suburban upbringing with the perfect family. Things do not get a tidy conclusion this week, nor should they. The issues Barney has with his father cannot be cleaned up in a "very special episode" and I imagine we'll revisit them often in the years to come, especially now that How I Met Your Mother has been renewed for two more seasons (a fact that I have mixed feelings about). When Barney brings the basketball hoop to Ted's dream house to set it up in the back yard, he is acknowledging that Ted's children will have what he always wanted and truly needed to avoid becoming who he is today. "A kid needs a hoop," he says, and like all of the best ending lines, he speaks volumes about where he is currently as a character. "Legendaddy" is not a perfect episode of How I Met Your Mother, but it does come pretty close, and it gives me as much hope for Barney's character arc as "Oh Honey" gave me for Ted's romantic conclusion. Which is really saying something.

Grade: A-

Notes:

-"Here's the thing about me and tools. The only one I know how to use is attached to me. And I'm not going to stick that in the TV...again."

-A list of the character's gaps that we learn about this evening: Barney can't use tools, Ted mispronounces chameleon, Robin thinks the North Pole is fictional, Lily has terrible aim, and Marshall (once he gets the gang going) can't wink or swallow pills, adds too much milk to oatmeal and is too old to ask to see the cockpit.

-"I still think about him in the shower."

-"I've published two nonfiction books about asparagus. And one fiction."

-"I guess you could call me the LeBron James of drapes."

-Did I hear that wrong, or did they accidentally reverse the reverse punchline on the Vietnamese shame wheel? In the first scene, which takes place after Barney has met his dad, at Ted's house, barney tells the gang they aren't ready to hear about a Vietnamese Shamewheel. And unless I heard wrong, he tells them they still aren't ready to hear about it when referencing a travel sized version as he lies to them about his meeting with his dad, which occurred before they went to Ted's house...There's a chance I've put too much thought into this.

-"You've been treating me with kid's gloves since my dad died." "That's not true!" "Robin, don't disagree with Marshall!"

-"You think John and Jack Kennedy are the same person!...What?"
Tags: How I Met Your Mother
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