The main storyline on How I Met Your Mother thus far this season has revolved around Ted getting married to Stella and the question of whether Stella is in fact the titular mother. It was revealed two weeks ago (and thus I'm not calling it a spoiler here) that Stella is not the mother of Ted's children, that she broke off the relationship immediately prior to the wedding to go be with her ex. Last night left the show, and Ted, trying to move on from that emotional (for him anyway) event.
For me, it brought up an interesting question about how shows make such transitions. A lot of people, not the least of whom was the jilted groom, were emotionally invested in the relationship and the end of it necessarily produced feelings of upset and distress. However, How I Met Your Mother is, first and foremost, a comedy, and must figure out a way to still be funny while not marginalizing a serious topic.
Consequently, while last night's episode did have many a joke, it was, perhaps, slightly more serious than usual. Ted spent his evening trying to get over Stella, which he actually claimed at the outset to have already done (a clearly false statement). By the end of the half-hour, Ted had realized that Stella was in the best place for her that she could possibly be, even if that meant that it wasn't with Ted. Upon recognizing that and truly wanting the best for his ex, Ted finally was able to move on. How sweet.
Actually, Ted's acknowledgment of Stella's happiness bolstered how we, as an audience, see the main character on the show. Ted is, as was pointed out to him by Robin in the wedding episode, the ultimate romantic. Last night really reinforced that notion. Ted wanted Stella's romance to be the right one, even if that meant it wasn't with him. Good for Ted.
And, good for the show, because they were still able to find the funny in the episode. There was a good portion of the show where Ted was unable or unwilling to confront Stella and that led him and his friends to wind up under a table in a restaurant so as to not be spotted by her. There, hidden from view, Ted pushed his friends to recognize that they too might have people from their past whom they would rather not confront given the chance.
The telling of the stories from Robin, Barney, and Lily's past allowed the show to do one of the things that it does best – flashbacks. Some of the most humorous moments in the series have come upon recalling stories from the past, and by going to the past last night, the show was able to put some distance between potentially serious things and the present, and it's the distance that allows for jokes to be made. Smart move on the writers' part, not only did they use a common format for the episode, they were able to tell semi-serious stories in a funny manner (okay, the stories weren't hugely serious, except for Robin and her father's wanting a boy).
It's just nice to see a show play to its strengths and figure out a good way to move towards the future all at the same time, isn't it?