Recurring Cast: Josh Radnor, Jason Segel, Cobie Smulders, Cristin Miloti with Neil Patrick Harris and Alyson Hannigan
This is it. The end of one of the most successful, long-running comedies since Friends. Despite me taking ages to be won over by the antics of this group eventually I fell in love with them. I fell in love with them hard. I was swept up on the emotional journey of these guys lives and begun to see connections with their stories and my own. This is the final season and it had such a high bar to reach.
After a few seasons dancing around the subject, we have finally reached Barney and Robin’s wedding. This season is a different animal from the other seasons, which featured over a long period of time, usually a year. This season actually takes place over three days and each episode is meant to symbolise a hour. There are of course exceptions to the rule, as a flashback needs to be covered or we need to recap on Cristin Miloti, who last season was revealed as the eponymous mother. But for the majority of this season, we are confined to this tiny period of time. While some got frustrated with the idea the writers were stretched out a three episode plot point into an entire season, I felt that this was a good move. It slowed down the story, so we focus on every point of the evening. Weddings are a strong staple of the comedy genre and unless you go full on Game of Thrones with the idea, then you aren’t going to break any new ground. I always hated those episodes, because the Friends writers never really knew what to do with them and they had so many that they got tiring. The wedding here feels like a breath of fresh air, because that natural observational comedy of How I Met Your Mother comes into play and keeps everything fresh. And on a much more simpler level, this season just feels different, setting it apart from the pack. This season needed to be special and the setting makes it feel like something we haven’t seen before. The format got two thumbs up from me.
The characters and acting is tremendous. They have always been excellent at their jobs to the point where it was impossible to pick a favourite. Everyone brings something to the table and their good nature is never anything less than infectious. Usually there is a dull one in the comedy group that someone cannot relate to, but How I Met Your Mother has never fallen into that pitfall. The show tackles some tough themes and while we have been over a few of them more (one major flaw of the season was the fact that some storylines felt a little copied and pasted), the actors worked wonders with them. Alyson Hannigan in particular will say the right thing at the right time to make your throat go a little raw with emotion, a good skill to have in a show like this, as we are meant to be laughing mere seconds before. There isn’t really one actor who does better than the others, making it hard to comment on anyone in particular. They are best, when it is the five of them in a single setting, bouncing their lines off one another. The script is so natural and the jokes come so easily. They could very well be anyone’s group of friends and you feel like you are a part of their group. You love them as much as you love your closest friends.
Let’s discuss nostalgia. Nostalgia is a useful tool for a show like this, especially in a final season, when we want to spend a lot of it, remembering the jokes and episodes that came before. For example, showing us a blue French horn instantly reminds us of everything that Ted and Robin have been through, so we are brought back where the writers want us in a heartbeat. We also can get an easy laugh about being reminded about the Blitz and Swarley. However, nostalgia was used so much that Season Nine began to lose some steam. It began to get to the point where each episode brought up something from the past (The Captain, one of Ted’s exes), and based a story around that. The show felt that it was recycling jokes rather than coming up with new material. Sure, it could be seen as clever to use an old joke and twist it to suit their new situation. Sometimes, nostalgia was used perfectly and really had the audience invested in the story. Other times, it felt that the writers were running out of ideas. Why was the Naked Man needed? He was the perfect joke to be contained into a single episode. Bringing him back felt out of place and this was not the only time I felt that. It was the area that Season Nine tripped up on the most.
However, despite this near-crippling flaw, the show was funny until the end. I can criticise storylines that didn’t work and I can frown at certain directional styles that didn’t work, but at the end of the day, How I Met Your Mother is a comedy. Yes, over time, it has evolved into a moderate character piece, but the reason we are all here is to laugh and the cast, writers and directors successfully achieved that every step of the way. The closed setting meant that certain jokes like the Ringbear-er could be drip-fed to us, building up to the punch-line with such precision that we were all on our backs laughing, when the climax to the joke finally hit us. A lot of the time, the show would come up with the perfect joke that had your sides splitting. How I Met Your Mother is a genuinely funny show and that overrides a lot of the flaws a lot of people, including myself, found with it.
And now I am going to cheat a little. The finale was such a different species of episode that I am going to review it seperately tomorrow to best analyse the show. Stay tuned for that.
Final Verdict: The writers try something a little different and I can overlook certain stale sections, due to this risk-taking. A terrifically funny season with the emotional punch we have come to cheirsh.