CBS’s How I Met Your Mother is riding a wave of creative resurgence, turning out better quality episodes these past couple of months than they have in the past couple of years. A large part of this success can be attributed to the fact that they’ve gotten more dramatic. While comedy has been the show’s strong suit, playing just for laughs doesn’t a great sitcom make. Pathos are needed to care for the characters and develop a stake in the going-ons. The series used to be really good at that, but waned in recent years. With Marshall’s dad’s (Bill Fagerbakke) death, and Barney’s (Neil Patrick Harris) search for a father and a real relationship, there has been plenty of emotion evoked, and done right this time.
As promised in interviews, though the death was back in early January, the feelings brought up by it have continued to permeate the series. In last night’s episode, each of the series regulars visits a doctor (comedian Suzy Nakamura, practically wasted here) to have their heart checked, concerned about an unexpected heart attack like the one that took out Marvin Eriksen Sr. Marshall (Jason Segel) even goes back a second time with a mustache, supposedly a disguise, in his opinion, though the doctor was no more fooled than the viewers. The appointments reminds us of the drama, while the mustache lets us laugh. It may sound a little corny, but the mustache joke really made this thing work.
Also, the episode brought back the gag of substituting ‘sandwich’ for marijuana, as they have done several times before. It works for both network censors AND the fact that the whole show is a story a father is telling his kids. I’m not complaining, as I find it incredibly humorous whenever any character mentions smoking a sandwich. Plus, eating a sandwich makes them hungry? Priceless!
The other really funny stuff this week involves Robin (Cobie Smulders) being denied a dog, so she dates a man who acts just like a dog. The actor playing her date is forgettable (did anyone else think this would be a good part for Taylor Lautner?), but the cast really sells the bit, and it leads to many good puns. Plus, the guy is called Scooby, and with the pot connection in the episode, it adds another layer referencing a certain cartoon often associated with drug use, in which sandwiches were also more subtley substituted.
Zoey (Jennifer Morrison), who is Ted’s (Josh Radnor) love interest this season does not appear in this episode. She is finally becoming likable, after months of just being annoying, but the show has confirmed on screen that she is not the mother referenced in the title. Was this always the intention, or did it come about because fans did not respond positively to her? Discuss.
The main arc in the episode was about Barney finding love. In flashbacks, we have seen that Barney was a sweet, sensitive soul until his heart was ripped to shreds by an unfaithful girlfriend. Previously, Barney pursued love with Robin, but for whatever reason, the show’s writers decided to drop that pairing, at least for now. Instead, Barney is now falling for a girl named Nora (Nazanin Boniadi, General Hospital).
Nora likes who Barney really is, assuming that the womanizing lecher he is seen as almost every week on the series is a facade. I think it is safe to assume that, though, both because of the long-ago scenes we have been shown, and the flashes of Barney that glimmer through when he thinks no one is looking. Nora enjoys laser tag and hanging out with our guy. Last night, she confesses wanting to get married and raise children. Barney readily agrees, before later claiming that he lied.
Did Barney actually lie about his wish for happy ever after? Lily (Alyson Hannigan) doesn’t think so, and dares him to man up and go back to her. Barney finds Nora, but only daydreams about confessing the truth to her before sadly walking away. IMDB lists Nora as scheduled for the next new episode, so hopefully Barney will get another chance.
I want Barney to find love. His character has seemed less and less authentic as time has ticked on in the series, and I do not attribute that to bad acting. On the contrary, I think Neil Patrick Harris has the true spirit of the character pinpointed. Barney created his persona because of hurt, but one can only live a lie for so long. I feel like Barney is getting tired of conquests himself, and so it may be time to take the character in a new direction. His upcoming arc where he will meet his father (John Lithgow, Dexter) will hopefully heal some of his past hurt enough to move forward with a new love.
The question remaining, though, is will Nora be able to get past Barney’s behavior? He hasn’t told her about the way he has been living yet. If they have any chance of working out, he has to. While I like Nora, and I wouldn’t mind seeing Barney date her for awhile, I don’t feel like she is the one Barney will marry. Instead, I want her to help him grow as a person so that he is ready for Robin.
Once Robin is ready for him, of course. While Robin has dabbled with long-term relationships, including a very serious one in the past year, she is still finding herself, too. With her career finally working out in a way she wants it to, her own transformation may be closer to an ending than a beginning. I don’t think that the series will get them together again until near the end of its run, if ever. But I’m not expecting that to be more than a year or two away, so perhaps a Barney and Robin reunion is in the cards sooner than you think.
I do not know when the next new episode of How I Met Your Mother will air, as many shows take some or all of March off from airing new episodes, but it still has some more stories before bowing for the season. The series airs Monday nights at 8 p.m. on CBS.