[Spoilers Abound, although What’s Being Spoiled is Nothing]
Did Carter Bays and Craig Thomas really drop a Psyche bomb on us last night? Did they guide us all onto the red carpet only to pull it out from beneath us? It’s not that I care, at this point, who Ted’s future wife will be. Until there’s an announcement that “How I Met Your Mother’s” run is definitively ending, I don’t expect it. But last night’s episode, which had its sweet and funny moments — all thanks to Marshall and Lily — was both cruel and frustrating. Not only did it tease us with the potential identity of the mother of Ted’s parents, it created an entirely new mystery: “How Barney Met His Wife.”
But let’s back up, and examine the entire season. Per “HIMYM” tradition, season six was fitful, alternating between great and mediocre episodes, which was at least an improvement over season five, which alternated between mediocre and bad episodes. The best thing they did all season was to introduce Zooey. Not because Zooey was a great character, but because Zooey’s obnoxiousness steered focus away from Ted. For the first time in at least two seasons, I cared about Ted again. Ted had an arc. He wasn’t just jumping in and out of relationships or in and out of bed with Robin. He had an antagonist, even if that antogonist was his girlfriend. And pressing that button to knock down the Arcadian was the culmination of Ted’s growing maturity, if not in relationships, at least in his career. He put aside youthful idealism and accomplished something practical. He also extricated himself from a relationship doomed from the beginning.
But that “Pysche” moment, well, that was just uncalled for. It added nothing to the story, and it burned a lot of long-time “HIMYM” fans in an episode — the season finale — when Carter Bays and Craig Thomas should be building goodwill toward next season instead of taking a dump on our chests. Uncool.
Marshall and Lily, on the other hand, provided the best reason to watch “HIMYM,” as they always seem to do. Everything about their arc was handled perfectly — as though there were separate writers responsible for their storyline. They consistently blended the show’s funniest side-plot with heaping doses of sweetness and, at one point, one of the saddest episodes of a sitcom in the history of television, the episode that elicited a million ugly cry faces (I choose to forget the cruelty of the Countdown Clock in that episode, which was almost as carelessly flip as the “Psyche” moment in last night’s finale). And in the season finale, Marshall and Lily once again captured the whiplash poignancy that’s made their arc such a wonder to watch: After 20 minutes of diversionary velociraptor yacking (it worked as a good smokescreen for 10 of those minutes), they hit us with Lily’s pregnancy, another in a long line of sweet moments between Lily and Marshall.
But what about Barney? Barney actually did display a great deal of emotional growth this season, particularly after meeting his father and realizing that he no longer enjoys being himself. The episode when Barney couldn’t bring himself to go inside and meet Nora’s parents was the second best of the season, and they brought it full circle last night when Barney made an overture toward Nora again. But not before seemingly rekindling those feelings for Robin again. (Poor Courtney, tortured once again, when Robin said to Barney, “The future is scary, but you can’t run back to the past just because it’s familiar.” (My imagined Courtney reaction: Yesyoucanyesyoucanyesyoucanmawfuckersyesyoucan followed by 20 minutes of literal hair pulling and subsequent realization that the bald spots won’t fill in before her own wedding).
And what was the big reveal? That the wedding where Ted serves as best man, and where he will meet his wife, is that of Barney’s. Who is he marrying? Robin? Nora? A guy? Someone else completely? That’s now the second mystery that Carter Bays and Craig Thomas have layered onto the premise, another mystery that will undoubtedly carry us through the next two seasons. I expect that next year’s finale will reveal the identity of Barney’s bride-to-be, and the final season will take us through their courtship, leading into the final reveal.
It’d best be damn good.