Two-hundred episodes is a huge accomplishment for any show, even if you think it has been on the air for a few too many seasons. Think back to the early days of How I Met Your Mother, when it seemed to be on the verge of cancellation every six months; back then the idea of nine seasons would have seemed glorious. But now – in practice – the general consensus is that the show has fallen off, especially in this final year. I am personally of the opinion that season nine is more of the same, equal in quality to what we’ve come to expect the last few years (if not actually a little bit better). While it is disappointing that the show will seemingly never go back to the whip-fast, smart, even edgy comedy that it once was, I’m certainly not going to give up on it with the end so close.
Tonight’s 200th episode (seems crazy, but it’s true) shows us what the recently-introduced Mother (Cristin Milioti) has been up to during the last eight years, while Ted (Josh Radnor) has been wandering aimlessly, trying to find her. The episode even has it’s own stylized opening credits declaring the episode’s title: “How Your Mother Met Me.” Despite this, the titular event does not occur, but come one: at this point it’s pretty clear that these two crazy kids won’t meet until the series finale.
The viewer gets glimpses at various important moments in The Mother’s adulthood, often contextualized through recycled clips from earlier seasons of the show. Always wanted to know how Ted got that umbrella on St. Patrick’s Day? Check. What about that brief view of her leg in Rachel Bilson’s apartment? Got it. And was she really in the class Ted taught in error on his first day? All these answers and more are found in this episode.
You know, as I write about it the episode starts to feel more pandering than anything else. Coming out of the experience I was pretty high on it. I thought Milioti was great (which only makes it all the more upsetting that she can’t fully interact with characters that I already have an affinity for). She is certainly a good match for Ted, but her douchiness comes off as a little more endearing, presumably because we haven’t been watching her do it for eight and a half years.
That, however is one of the more stupefying aspects of the episode. We apparently received all of the relevant information about The Mother in a 22 minute episode. We’ve been following Ted around for eight. Fucking. Years! I can’t tell if this contradiction is an indicator of bloat around Ted’s story of an under-serving of The Mother’s (spoiler alert: it’s both), but either way it is jarring. And it is definitely not an intended effect, as HIMYM is exactly the type of show to comment on such a thing once it catches it.
Frustrations aside, this episode is actually the best of the season so far. As a tribute to the show’s history it is way more successful than this entire final season has been. And there is a lived-in quality to The Mother’s life that can be mostly attributed to Milioti. She shows surprising range, despite some wooden scene partners and real heavy-handed emotional beats from co-creators Carter Bays & Craig Thomas (kind of bums me out that she wasn’t a bigger presence in The Wolf of Wall Street).
The episode seems to function as a proof-of-concept for the proposed spin-off, How I Met Your Dad. The follow-up series would reportedly be unrelated to the current one (I’m sure Jason Segel is ecstatic about this), but this episode gives you a sense of what it could be like. Pretty much exactly the same, would be my assessment. The similarities work here because The Mother’s journey (I can imagine more than a couple college theses being written with the title “The Mother’s Journey” in the wake of the series) is being contrasted and compared with Ted’s. I don’t know if I could watch another go at the concept, especially if they current quality is any indication of what we should expect. Sorry, even if Up All Night’s Emily Spivey is involved. I am ready to meet the end of this experience already. I know I’m not the only one.