Spoilers for last night’s How I Met Your Mother coming up after the jump:
I get the feeling that that was meant to be an applause line. At least that’s how I read it from the laughter at the end of the episode, as a re-suited-up, re-slimmed, re-single Barney walked into the bar. Crisis over! We got our Barney back, the old Barney, the guy with the catchphrases and the suits and the homemade sex videos! Go Barney! Go do some more of that funny Barney stuff!
But to me the moment seemed weirdly sad. It reminded me of the end of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, in which Neil Patrick Harris’s Doctor finally gains admission to the Evil League of Evil, but at the cost of the woman he loved. He’s become what he wanted to be, but it’s meaningless now.
Maybe that’s just me.* But if last night’s HIMYM was the producers deciding that the Barney-Robin relationship was a mistake and hitting the reset button as fast as possible, I’ll be disappointed. Because as a way to end a relationship between two major characters, the breakup seemed way too cheap and easy. After testing the possibilities of having two strong-willed characters hook up with each other, to break them up for fairly lame reasons—they suddenly get fat and boring—would seem like giving up.
[*At times like this, we must remember the Poniewozik Caveat: It is possible I reacted this way because I am just not basically a fun person. See also my inability to appreciate light dramas on USA, etc.]
I know HIMYM is a comedy, and Barney has license to be the most outrageous character on it, but one reason HIMYM is a top-tier comedy is that its grounded in a certain level of emotional realism. Within which sphere of expectations, “too much awesome” just doesn’t cut it as a breakup rationale.
Of course, it may be that HIMYM is not taking the easy way out at all—that it’s going to deal with the aftermath of the relationship, that the breakup will after all turn out to have been too easy, and that Barney and Robin will find that they can’t just go back and pretend like nothing ever happened. So I’m suspending judgment, because HIMYM usually doesn’t let me down like that.
Beyond that, “The Rough Patch” was pretty amusing—more, actually, for the Marshall-Lily-Ted material than for Fat Robin and Fat Barney. (By the way, old-and-haggard Robin is actually still pretty hot. Whereas Fat Barney could be Andy Richter’s brother. No offense, Andy.) From the porn-video pizza scenario to Marshall’s stakeout van obsession to the implied creative spelling of “Buckminster Fuller” to “They’re both—what’s the nice word for selfish?” “Independent”—the episode was pretty nicely paced, and stormtrooper jokes rarely miss on HIMYM.
At it’s best, though, HIMYM makes the funny and the emotional work together, so I hope the show was not just quickly waving the white flag on Barney and Robin to get the funny back. But you tell me: are you just happy to have Daddy home?
Update: A small additional hail of bullets:
* Although the Barney-Robin-in-decline storyline made them so stereotypically lame it seemed like it was written by Barney, it did give us some good lines: “It was Legen—wait for it—ds of the Fall.”
* So when are we going to see that failed Canadian variety show?