CBS’s How I Met Your Mother returns with two all new episodes. In the first, “The Best Man,” the gang heads to Punchy’s (Chris Romano) wedding. Marshall (Jason Segel) drinks for both he and Lily (Alyson Hannigan) so that no one will know that she is pregnant. But seeing all of the babies at the event spurs them to reveal their good news, even though it’s still very early in the term. Also, Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) tries to gather the courage to ask Nora (Nazanin Boniadi) out again. That’s too bad for Robin (Cobie Smulders), who would really like Barney back.
The second episode, “The Naked Truth,” finds Marshall begging an old friend (Jimmi Simpson, Breakout King) to remove some embarrassing videos of him from the internet so that he can land a job that he wants. But Marshall comes to realize that he may be forgetting a part of himself, and his dream boss, Garrison Cootes (Martin Short, Damages), hires him anyway, so it’s all good. Barney waits all night in a diner to prove his commitment to Nora, reminding Ted (Josh Radnor) of the feeling that he is looking for sharing with a woman. Then Ted spies former flame, Victoria (Ashley Williams, Warehouse 13).
Both of these episodes focus on a theme that has become prevalent on How I Met Your Mother as of late – growing into the adults these friends will be. Marshall really suffers a crisis of faith, not sure he is ready to leave his past behind to become a father. Part of this may be from the lingering grief over his own father’s death last year. Being gone, Marshall begins to immortalize his father, holding him up as a gold standard. It’s hard to live up to a memory. But Lily realizes that Marshall doesn’t have to give up who he is to move on. He can merely reconcile the two identities. Parenthood doesn’t erase everything that comes before it.
Barney’s quest for love after years of endless, meaningless sex is a breath of fresh air. It doesn’t at all ruin the character that he seeks to better himself. The framing story for “The Best Man” continues last year’s glimpses of Barney’s wedding, though the bride’s identity is still a mystery. Is it Nora? Is it Robin? It’s hard to say, but one thing is certain: Barney’s friends seem completely at ease with his decision, and they would not be if he were making a mistake. This means that whoever Barney’s mystery wife is, which will not be revealed for some time to come yet, his happy ending is in sight. Thank goodness!
Because Robin is still mooning over Barney, it is very possible that she will be the bride, despite being just as commitment-phobic as Barney, once upon a time. Yet, Robin has matured, too, in that she knows what she wants now. For the moment, that’s Barney, but she cares enough about him that she will not stand in the way of his happiness, even if that’s with another woman. Their dance number together in “The Best Man” is teeming with chemistry, so that might bode well for Robin. Whether Barney will eventually wake up and see what’s right in front of him, or Robin will get over her former beau and move on, is up in the air. Either way could be great, if handled correctly.
For the first few seasons of How I Met Your Mother, in fact, the entire original premise of the show, concerns Ted’s quest for the love of his life. Somewhere along the way, gradually, he has given up on that dream. He has become cynical and no longer thinks he can have that perfect future. For awhile, this makes his character less sympathetic. But the framework of the series establishes from the first episode that Ted does get everything that he wants, and his reawakening in “The Naked Truth” to his quest reinvigorates the character in a way that is needed, but forgotten about until now.
Might Victoria be a stepping stone to Ted’s destiny? She isn’t the mother, as far as we know, but of all the relationships Ted has over the years, she is the one he shows the purest joy being with. She comes at a time when he is really into his quest to find the right woman, and they share something very, very special. Only her career drives them apart. Well, that, and Ted not being able to resist Robin while Victoria is in Germany. So Ted has some making up to do with Victoria. But whether they date again or not, now that she is re-entering his life, they surely have a lasting connection, and maybe she will help Ted find the thing that he lost.
Of all the things that could stand in Ted and Victoria’s way for a rekindling, Robin is no longer one of them. Ted loves Robin dearly, and pursues her for a long period. They spend a significant amount of time being a couple, but that has cooled. They are just friends and roommates now. This is beautifully illustrated in a balcony scene between the two of them in “The Best Man.” Robin wants to help Ted with his problems, but there is no spark coming from either side. While timing may admittedly be the factor that is needed to flip things back again, it seems their time has already passed. Which is kind of nice, since Robin and Barney’s chemistry is so strong, and there doesn’t need to be another fight between Ted and Barney.
After a couple of floundering seasons, How I Met Your Mother is growing into something really special once more. It mixes humor and real emotional maturation to find the right combination to keep it going, now that it has moved past it’s original concept. It’s a very welcome development.
Watch How I Met Your Mother Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on CBS.