CBS’s How I Met Your Mother has suffered majorly from its peak. After last season’s particularly bad year, the creative team promised to give us a better one this year. They have sometimes, but not always, succeeded. As much as I love Jennifer Morrison from her days on House, as well as Kyle MacLachlan’s turn as Morrison’s character’s husband, the entire Zoey arc has been disappointing. The chemistry between Zoey and Ted (Josh Radnor) is just not there. While I have advocated in past reviews for the show to please just wrap things up while they have some dignity left, Zoey is not the note to go out on.
This week’s episode, “Bad News”, was a pleasant surprise. Not because of the humor, which was a little shaky. I think I was pleased that they found Barney’s (Neil Patrick Harris) doppelganger just so that story would be over. And did we really need Marshall’s (Jason Segel) parents talking to him through the bathroom door as he tried to provide a DNA sample to a cup? If you haven’t been watching the show, Marshall is not a pervert. He was just getting his man-stuff tested as part of his effort to conceive a baby with his wife. But the emotional punch at the end sold the episode as one of the most memorable in awhile.
For sharp-eyed viewers, there was an unexplained, unmentioned countdown throughout the episode. It started with the number ’50′ prominently displayed in the opening shot, and smaller numbers appeared sporadically, in descending order, as the episode played out. Taking the episode’s title into consideration, you may have thought that the fertility doctor telling Marshall that he was sterile was the bad news, but the countdown hadn’t completed yet, so of course it was Barney in disguise, not the real doctor. No, the numbers stopped when Lily (Alyson Hannigan) broke the news to her husband that his father (Bill Fagerbrakke: Coach, SpongeBob SquarePants) had just died of a heart attack.
I had wondered why Marshall’s father, who we had seen only a couple of times before, was being featured so often this season, including in this episode with his wife (Suzie Plakson), and now it had become clear. In an interview with TVLine, series co-creator Carter Bays stated that the death was just the beginning of a new arc for Marshall and Lily. Surely, Marshall’s father never getting to see his grandkids will be a blow. Marshall and his father were so close, and the death unexpected and too early, that the ramifications for the show’s best character will obviously be many. It was a hell of an ending, and of the quality that does the show proud.
Lest you think all of “Bad News” was depressing, I was pleasantly surprised at the return of Robin’s (Cobie Smulders) old co-anchor, Sandy Rivers (Alexis Denisof). Played by Hannigan’s real-life sweetie, Rivers is obnoxious, but he’s funny. And he dredged up all of Robin’s embarrassing past in front of her new co-workers at her first, real, serious job. It was delightful.
How I Met Your Mother airs Monday nights at 8 p.m. on CBS.