Faith, Trust, and Pixie Dust: Goon Reviews Once Upon a Time

After nearly 4 very very long months, Once Upon a Time has returned.  And I could not be more thrilled.  I have loved this show since the beginning, while there has been a couple of ups and downs in these past two seasons, never once have I stopped.

In my ever so humble opinion, season 3 has opened strong.  I love that heroes and villains of the story have teamed up to rescue Henry from his captors, each with their own reasons for doing so, but ultimately all boiling down to family, except for Hook.  His motivation is more out of a sense of personal honor to save the son of Baelfire/Neil, a person who was of great importance to him and whose memory he wishes to honor.  The majority of this episode focused on the characters actual journey to Neverland, which served to show that the characters, while willing to work together for their common goal, are still at odds with one an another.  This culminated in the the storm summoned by the captured mermaid.  I believe this scene to be one of the best parts of the episode simply because the fight between Regina and Snow.  A full on brawl between these two has been building from the start, and a high stress time like the loss of a family member and their possible death in the storm, that ever burning hatred between them was bound to explode.  Though why Regina didn’t just lob a fireball down Snow’s throat eludes me,  lord knows she loves tossing the fireballs around.  The fight between Charming and Hook wasn’t as great.  While there is no love lost between these two, there isn’t that same hatred that Snow and Regina have that made their scuffle so great.  Emma being the one to figure out the fighting was causing the storm made sense.  Rumpelstiltskin commented to her earlier that she was a person that can only accept whats in front of her, so it would make sense that she would be the one to notice that the anger was causing the storm, and be the one to put a stop to it, which was also wonderfully done.

Her diving off the boat showed just how her relationships with the others had progressed.  Of course Snow and Charming would rush to her aid, they are her parents after all.  But that’s different with Hook and Regina.  We can see here that Regina actually does seem to care about Emma’s well being, even if it is only because of Henry, and I hope that is something that will be developed between them as the season progresses.  I would love to see them actually become friends of some sort.  With Hook, even after everything that has happened, he genuinely likes Emma, even has some respect for her.  I can see a future love triangle building up between those two and Neil.  Which trust me, I will hate.  Stupid love triangles.

The final scene with them did a good job of trying together the team feeling and was a major step forward for Emma.  Until this time she hasn’t done much to embrace, or even really accept, her role as the Savior.  I feel her stepping up and taking on the role of leadership may be her first step towards truly becoming the Savior she was prophesied to be, Regina even calling her by the title helps to enforce that.

Lets say we jump from the adventure to get to the island to the adventure on the island.  Henry once again shows that he was by far one of  the best characters on the show.  Seriously, he is an eleven year old that has been ripped away from his family and thrown into this new world full of evil and dangers, and not only does he keep it together, she shows defiance to his captors, escapes, and never once loses faith that his family will come.  He even tries to install that strength in his new ally, later revealed to be Peter Pan (totally called that), and with that faith and strength he is able to fly.  Sadly this ultimately leads to proving to Pan that Henry is the one he is after for whatever nefarious purposes he has, it is still a fantastic moment for his character.  I can not wait to see what else Henry will be capable of when separated from his family.

The bits with Rumpelstiltskin on the Island didn’t add much, apart from showing just how big of a threat Pan really is.  Admittedly I am intrigued as to his history with Pan, these scenes didn’t do much more than show off Rumpelstiltskin’s darker side, his killing of Tamara, and his willingness to do whatever it takes to save his family, even sacrificing his own life in the process.  The bit with the doll was an interesting twist, reducing the, arguably, most evil character in the show to tears.

I don’t think the scenes in the Enchanted Forest did much to add to the episode.  They were far from bad, but apart from showing Neil survived his injury and bringing back Mulan, Aurora, and Phillip (who I long ago lovingly named Prince Wraithbait) was nice, as I did love those characters and it was nice to see Aurora make use of her ability to travel the dream world, but I feel for them, more would have been better.  Admittedly Neil telling Mulan about the movie was funny to watch.  Their talk about Neil’s relationship with Emma on the way to Rumpelstiltskin’s castle wasn’t bad and served to help the two bond a bit over their mutual bad luck in love, it does raise the question, does Mulan like Wraithbait, or Aurora more?  That may be fun to play out.  The inclusion of Robin Hood at the end was unexpected, and not overly great, there was some good dialogue about the importance of family, a recurring theme in the show, but raises the question, where is Marion?

Finally, gotta say this, the lack of flashbacks in this episode was great.  While I freely admit its always nice to learn more about the fairy tale characters before the curse hit (I do love the Red/Ruby flashbacks, but that me because I am mildly in love with her) at times I feel they are overused.  I find myself caring less about what the characters did in the past and more about what they are going to do now.  The single, brief, one of Emma giving birth to Henry and proclaiming  that she can’t be mom was great to show her growth, and played well against her final line of being his mother.  A great example of less is more.

Overall, a solid way to start the new season.  There was great setup for what is to come and several questions I am just dying to have answered.

Goon, out.

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Goonish Musings

So, we are basically about 2 weeks into the Fall season.  Figure its about time to sit down and talk a bit about what we have seen so far, share thoughts, talk about whats working and what isn’t, all that stuff.  So, here is my thoughts on some of what we have seen so far.

Gonna start this off with the show I have been waiting eagerly for, the sixth season premier of Castle.  When we last we left our favorite crime fighting duo, Beckett was offered a job as a Federal Agent and Castle had just popped the question to Beckett and to my great joy, but not my surprise, she said yes.  We then jump two months into the future to see Beckett chasing a suspect down the street and into an alley, through a brief series of events showing Beckett’s already impressive skills at her job and a neat little gadget it is shown that the entire scene was a test that she failed for not taking into account the supposed hostage was actually an accomplice.  I really loved this scene and felt it was strong way to open the season.  We had a quick answer to the biggest question of the series, something they could have dragged out in a foolish attempt to build dramatic tension, but luckily were smart enough to not too, and then we immediately got to see Beckett in action, showing that she is indeed a strong and competent agent, but still training to learn the ropes of a new and difficult job.  The rest of episode preceded different than the usual Castle fair, instead of the two working together to solve the crime, Castle had to stay out of it, only briefly becoming part of it.

This was the most interesting, and not really the best, thing done with the episode.  For the entire series the show has been built up around Castle and Beckett working as team with Ryan and Esposito acting as support.  The two playing off each other is what made the show great, Beckett with the serious and logical approach and Castle bringing in the sense of wonder and whimsey to it, often times his out of the box outlook being the key to solving the crime of the week. Ryan and Esposito always acted as a good middle ground, they were the serious cops like Beckett were able to relate to Castle, the three quickly becoming friends allowing Ryan and Esposito to act as go between for Castle and Beckett when things got rough between them and while they appeared in the episode, it was brief and they didn’t do much apart from help Castle get himself into trouble and dole out a bit of advice to the troubled author.  To me this was the thing that hurt the episode the most, this show had a winning formula that has served it well over the past five seasons, and while I don’t think this change is horrible, it is going to be interesting to see how this new set up will work, and if it can hold up against the greatness that came before it.

Overall it was solid opening to the season, and ended with an unexpected cliffhanger that makes me eager for next week’s episode.

Few other thoughts on what else we have seen this season.

Sleepy Hollow, off to what I can best say is a shaky start after two episodes, but I think the show does have an interesting concept behind it, and the acting is solid.  Tim Mison does a great job of bringing the sense of wonder that would come with waking up 250 years in the future without it being over used to the point where it would get annoying.  The story however feels fairly rushed with major details just being dropped into the laps’ of the characters, does a pretty good job of killing off any growing  suspense that would come with them having to figure things out.  Still, the show is holding my attention, we’ll see how long that lasts.  For a more detailed look, head on over to my good friend Snooty’s review of the second episode, does a much better job summing things up.

The two new sitcoms that Fox is rocking out on Tuesday nights, Dads and Brooklyn Nine Nine.  From what I have seen, humorous but nothing ground breaking.  I would have to say the biggest appeal of Dads is Seth Green in starring role.  The relationships between the two main characters and their father’s is well down, you can see that they all care about each other, even if they don’t like each other very much, and I find Brenda Strong solid in her supporting role.
Brooklyn Nine Nine, honestly at first glance I thought this was going to be a cop version of Scrubs (which honestly I don’t think would be to bad) but was pleasantly surprised to see it wasn’t.  Samberg was solid in his role as the brilliant detective Man-child which is fantastically offset Andre Braugher as the serious and straight lace police chief.  If done well I feel this should could be a fantastic show about how to drastically different characters can learn or grow from one another.
I’ll give more detailed reviews of this when I have a chance to see more than just the pilots.

And that about wraps things up for now.  There will be more coming when I actually have a day off and can get caught up on my shows.

The Goon

Snooty reviews Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Pilot

“Let’s make a television show starring the government agent who bugged Gwyneth Paltrow in Iron Man.”

Five years ago, that sentence would have made every studio and network in television laugh hard enough to blow the coke right off their desks. But 2008 was a different world. Today, Marvel comics wields the twin hammers of Disney’s economic might and an insanely successful shared movie universe. Today, background character Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) becomes the hero of his own TV series. And it’s pretty good.

Coulson, fresh from his comic book death in The Avengers, is ready for duty again. With the blessings of Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders), he recruits a team of agents who don’t play well with others: a top-shelf agent who would rather do paperwork (Ming-Na Wen), a hyper-masculine lone wolf (Brett Dalton), a hacker whose computer wizardry can only exist on television (Chloe Bennet), and a pair of scientists along to provide technobabble (Ian De Caestecker and Elizabeth Henstridge). Together, they’ll operate as an independent unit, taking on the missions that lesser S.H.I.E.L.D. agents can’t handle. I guess Galaga Guy had better things to do.

The first episode rebounds between familiar pilot beats and familiar Whedon beats: Hill explains the premise, Coulson meets the team, and together they stop the “gifted” of the week, all with a healthy dose of bouncy dialogue and humor. Characters are believable, even though they don’t quite talk like real humans do (“This is a disaster.” “No…it’s an origin story.”). Gregg’s Coulson is easily the most realized character thanks to previous continuity, but he’s still hard to read; his unflappability was an asset in the movies, but here we need to see exactly who Coulson is, and we haven’t. Not yet. Here’s hoping he gets to develop alongside his team in episodes to come. The other characters are established with broad tropes, the weakest of the bunch being Fitz-Simmons’ television nerd awkwardness. They’re geniuses, which means they speak their own language and have trouble communicating with “regular” people. They need to tone down their Big Bang Theory ridiculousness and become fully realized characters if they plan on sticking around.

The same continuity that allowed The Avengers to work as a movie allows Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to work as a show. References fly through the episode; the macguffin of the week is a combination of Erskine’s formula (Captain America), gamma research (The Incredible Hulk), Extremis (Iron Man 3), and Chitauri tech (The Avengers). There’s even an ad for Stark Industries on the side of a bus, reminding us that this show will remain a part of the movie’s universe even when its iconic characters aren’t always around. It also teases the promise of even more continuity to come. Save for characters licensed to other studios (Fox and the X-Men, Sony and Spider-Man), very little seems to be off-limits, and even casual Marvel fans know that there’s plenty more potential to mine from fifty years’ worth of comics. Coulson’s car (Lola) already recalls Nick Fury’s flying car from his James Bond-esque days. Perhaps we’ll see a resurgent Hydra, or one of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s super-criminal prisons reimagined à la Guantanamo Bay.

Coulson’s speech, serving as the episode’s climax, feels a little schmaltzy, but it also summarizes the show’s entire conceit: little people searching for their place in a world that keeps getting bigger. In Whedon’s shows, words always speak louder than actions, and a main character’s speech has the potential to change the world of the show as much as—if not more than—any villain could. It’s nice to see Clark Gregg join the ranks of Whedon’s other eloquent television heroes, but I’m hoping we get to see Coulson do more than talk in the season to come. There’s a reason he’s on a first-name basis with the Black Widow, and I can’t wait to find out what it is.

In the meantime, though, he and his team have a zero-eight-four to investigate. What does that mean? I’m looking forward to finding out.

  • It’s a Whedon show: if the dialogue wasn’t enough, we have Whedon alums J. August Richards and Ron Glass to remind us.
  • Rising Tide isn’t a terribly impressive name for a secret organization.
  • The transition between the team’s mobile command center taking off and capturing Skye is a neat piece of story compression. Having Coulson appear out of thin air, just as he does with Ward and May, subtly places her on the team before she ever decides to join.
  • “And yes, it did hurt a little bit. But I always try and mask my pain in front of beautiful women because I think it makes me seem more masculine—my God, this stuff works fast.”
  • “Tahiti. It’s a magical place.” What really happened to Coulson? Was he perhaps visited by a strange doctor?
  • It’s weird seeing Coulson’s team dressed in civvies at the end of the episode. I like it, but I want to see the whole team dressed in S.H.I.E.L.D. jumpsuits. In fact, why wasn’t there a promotional image of the team decked out in the black-and-white jumpsuits?
  • “Kids, have I ever told you about the time your Aunt Robin ran a spy agency?”

Snooty reviews Sleepy Hollow: “Blood Moon”

Sleepy Hollow is a cool, refreshing drink of stale water that likely won’t make you sick. It’s okay, but not good. It’s fun, but not breezy. It’s well-acted, but clumsily written. Sleepy Hollow is decent by the bare minimum definition of the word. So why does everyone but me seem to be in love with this show?

I considered going back and reviewing the pilot, but upon watching “Blood Moon,” I realized there was no need. The episode begins with a recap of the show’s premise: Ichabod Crane is an American Revolutionary War veteran tasked by General Washington to kill Death; he sleeps for two hundred and fifty years, then awakens to continue his battle alongside a police detective with yet-unexplained ties to the arcane. And if the recap didn’t make it clear, the show’s stars explain it at least two more times throughout the episode through clumsy expositional dialogue.

If I had to pick one thing about Sleepy Hollow to complain about (which, thankfully, I don’t have to), it would be the show’s utter lack of faith in its own audience. The supernatural elements and skeptic/believer leads recalls The X-Files, Fox’s early hit by which all of their subsequent shows have been measured. Yet Mulder and Scully were allowed to explore the show’s ever-expanding mythos at a leisurely pace; The X-Files spent nearly a decade unraveling its mysteries, and still left us with unanswered questions. Sleepy Hollow instead force-feeds its premise and its mysteries to its audience, explaining it all twice just to make certain no one is confused. It explains everything through premature exposition, as though it’s terrified of the thought of us being confused for even a moment.

Take “Blood Moon.” Ichabod’s ethereal wife returns in his dreams, telling him point-blank that the spirit of a dark witch is about to rise and take her revenge. Ichabod has only to visit a single crime scene to realize what’s happening and who has risen. Kudos to the show for not simply following the glut of police procedurals on television, but it’s gone too far in the opposite direction: rather than watching the characters solve a mystery, we see them handed packaged macguffins that solve the issue for them: Crane’s ghost wife, Sherriff Clancy Brown’s extensive occult files, and a series of secret tunnels pre-loaded with witch bones and the enormous gunpowder cache necessary for the episode’s climax. It’s impossible to see Tom Mison and Nicole Beharie as capable when the story does all the heavy lifting before they get there. The experience feels akin to a Dungeons & Dragons module: everything is just waiting for someone to plug any old characters into a pre-generated story.

That said, if we had to have any old characters, I’m glad for the ones we got. Mison and Beharie have excellent chemistry, and watching them stumble from plot point to plot point is a treat. Mison embodies the time traveler we all wish we could be: fascinated by the progress of two and a half centuries, but not overwhelmed. His struggles to reconcile his values with the future (like the outrageous ten-percent levy against baked goods) would make a great character arc if Sleepy Hollow can find time to step away from its own plot for a moment. Likewise Beharie embodies a more practical Scully, hesitant to accept the occult mysteries as they arrive, but not obdurate. Her rationalizations work will work well in the show’s early episodes, but hopefully they’ll be gone by midseason. That goes for Mison’s fish-out-of-water gags too; they’re cute right now, but unless Sleepy Hollow wants to actually delve into the ramifications of being catapulted 250 years into the future, they have an expiration date.

“Blood Moon” can perhaps be forgiven, as many series’ second episodes must be. The pilot was tasked with making us buy into the show’s unusual conceit. “Blood Moon” is tasked with creating the show’s status quo, which will evidently be a monster-of-the-week format. There are more hints of the show’s future: the suspiciously spacious and well-lit police records archive which will probably serve as a recurring resource for Crane and Mills; John Cho’s return to play the devil’s advocate (wakka-wakka) for future monsters; Mills’ sister, who does her best Linda Hamilton circa Terminator 2 impression; and Mrs. Crane and Sherriff Brown watching over it all, ready to dispense ghostly advice to our two leads.

Even with its quick-on-the-draw exposition, Sleepy Hollow still has a few mysteries left to solve. Why is Crane’s wife in purgatory? What’s her connection to this rise of the occult? Did Washington have other soldiers in the war against Death? I just hope it has the patience to let these mysteries simmer, and not simply tell us the answers.

  • “It has more?” Crane’s gun confusion is a funny joke, but it makes little sense for a man with an eidetic memory. Just last week he saw two police officers unload their pistols into an indifferent Headless Horseman.
  • Speaking of which, can scriptwriters stop using “eidetic memory” as a characterization crutch? I know it’s an easy way of making your character smart, impressive, and a source of exposition, but enough is enough.
  • Conversations that must have taken place during police station renovations:

“Hey, look at this secret door! I think it leads to some kind of tunnel.”

“Should we check it out? Maybe check with city hall to make sure we’re not blocking utility access? It looks pretty old. Maybe we should contact a historical society or something.”

“Nah. Just plaster over that shit.”

  • When Frank Sinatra’s “Witchcraft” came on the car radio, my eyes rolled so hard that I saw my own brain.
  • I neglected to mention Mills’ ex-boyfriend because I’m so completely uninterested in that storyline that I hope it quietly fades away.

Snooty reviews HIMYM: “The Locket” and “Coming Back”

And so the end begins. Marshall is on his way, Lily is trying to hold it together, Barney and Robin are desperately dodging landmines on their way to the altar, and Ted is single for the last time in his life. It’s going to be a busy weekend.

HIMYM starts Season 9 with a busy hour and, by the end, not much has happened and not a lot changes. And frankly, I like it. We’ve spent eight years getting to know these characters, and so to say farewell, we get to spend an entire weekend with them in real-time. As I mentioned in my previous post, that’s a bold choice for the show to make, and I hope it continues to work for them.

Ted’s Ted-ness was pushed to its absolute limit in the opening moments of the show. He’s the worst nightmare a car trip can have: a self-appointed tour guide. The binder and the “fun facts” and the driving gloves might have been cartoonish if not for the brilliant reveal that Ted had meant to drive Lily out of the car all along. Lily thinks it’s to give Ted a chance to give the locket to Robin, but this proves false when he gives Robin a picture instead. Why, then, did Ted want to be alone? Did he not want to discuss his upcoming move to Chicago, or was it a chance for him to steel his courage for an important conversation with Robin yet to come?

I’m not sure yet how to feel about Marshall’s isolation from the rest of the regular cast. Jason Segal’s best work on this show has always come from Marshall being pushed well outside his comfort zone, so there’s a lot of potential in his road trip with the confrontational Daphne (Sherri Shepherd). While I’m sure Marshall won’t be banished for the majority of the season to his new Monstrosity—actually a Monstrosity Sport (“It’s still freaking huge!”)—I hope we get a few episodes with Daphne pushing his Minnesota Nice to the limit.

Sans Marshall, Lily spends most of the episode playing comedic foil to Ted. I’m a sucker for Alyson Hannigan when she’s channeling her inner frat boy, and she was in fine form, recruiting Linus to keep her socially lubricated for the entire weekend (the “Kennedy Package,” all for the low price of one benjamin). Her panic attacks and cookie placebos on the train were easily the high points of the first half-hour.

Separating the show’s married couple gives them each time to breathe as individual characters, but it also shifts the show’s couples focus entirely on Barney and Robin. Even longtime marriage advocate James has thrown in the towel thanks to the Stinson Curse of promiscuity. I never fully bought into the idea of “the curse” as a point of tension: James was married (with children) for many years. Barney knows by now that his marriage to Robin will fail or succeed on its own merits, not because of anyone else’s relationships, and the show making Robin believe he believes otherwise feels forced. Far more interesting is the wrinkle of their possibly being related: it’s a small, easily overlooked detail that could sink their wedding and, more importantly, it’s entirely out of their control. The great moments between these two will be how they resolve the things they can’t change—those last-minute disasters, no-shows, cancellations, and surprise confessions of love—not how they resolve their own feelings with each other.

But who cares about all of that? It’s time to talk about the real reason we tuned in: the Mother. For eight seasons, the mother has represented the finish line in the series. Now she’s a character in her own right, and more and more it seems to be the better choice. Christin Milioti comes out of the starting gate with a mountain of expectations to carry, and so far, she’s managing. Her scenes with Lily give her the chance to play into HIMYM’s classic patter, and while the timing and familiarity isn’t quite there, she at least manages to keep up with Hannigan’s manic delivery. Likewise, her chemistry with Radnor is still a little bit off; she looked vaguely uncomfortable in her final scene with Present Ted and Future Ted. But there’s a certain gawky charm to her as Ted confesses his promise to bring her back to Farhampton before he even met her. As she finds her rhythm with the rest of the cast, I think we can expect Milioti to feel like one of the gang well before Ted ever meets her.

 

  • “Lil and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” would have turned out more like “Lil and Ted’s Bogus Journey” in that one or both of them would probably have died.
  • “Hell, I’ve been going to Pilates, I could just hang onto the landing gear like this! I only signed up for Pilates, I haven’t started going yet. …I didn’t sign up.”
  • I would read “The Lonely Unicorn” to my child every night. Even after they begged me not to.
  • Ladies beware: if you give your man too much authority in the wedding planning process, you might not get the ring-bear(er) you expect.
  • JUST CLICK ON OPTIONS!
  • The Monstrosity Sport gets 0.6 MPG. That’s going to be one expensive car trip…
  • “Lady Tedwina Slowsby” needs to learn where the gas pedal is.
  • Barney’s wedding anniversary gift to James is exactly the kind of clumsy, sweet gesture you would expect from a lifelong single man with too much money and no boundaries.
  • Never showboat your crossword skills unless you’re confident enough to write your answers in pen, Mosby.

Snooty reviews HIMYM: The State of HIMYM

For eight years, Theodore Evelyn Mosby has held us captivated—and held his children hostage—with the story of how he met his wife. To the inattentive viewer, very little of that story has pertained to the actual circumstances of their meeting. But, just as Ted keeps insisting, it all ties together.

 

How I Met Your Mother stands out from other sitcoms thanks to the subtle nuances of its otherwise stock premise: it’s about a man and his four friends living in New York [banal, retreaded]; wait, no, it’s an ensemble show about how each of those characters’ lives impacts the others in increasingly wacky/dramatic ways [Seinfeld?]; no, actually, it’s a show about these characters telling each other stories about how their wacky dramatics have impacted each others lives in ways they hadn’t yet guessed, all within the framing device of a man telling his children a story decades later.

 

What sets HIMYM apart is its brilliant use of temporality. Few other sitcoms—few other television shows, period—take such great pains to call attention to the subtlest points of continuity. Flashbacks are a regular part of this show, calling back not only to events that take place before the show’s chronology began, but to any previous episode. All of the characters’ pasts and futures are free game, weaving together in each episode to tell a story in the present. The show is not shy of rewarding longtime viewers with callbacks. You can slap-bet on that.

 

That temporality doesn’t just apply to plot, though. HIMYM allows each of its characters to grow. Marshall, who has matured and become the legal professional he dreamed of being, who’s dealt with the pain of losing his father and the challenge of becoming a father himself, has learned which parts of his good-natured goofiness he needed to shed and, more importantly, which of those parts he’s needed to keep. Lily, who always put her dreams on hold for her relationship and her comfort, is standing on the precipice of what might be her last big chance to realize her place in the art world. Robin worked unceasingly to achieve her dream of journalistic stardom, and somewhere along the way allowed herself to learn how to fall in love. And Barney Stinson, dark horse that he is, is all but unrecognizable from his Season 1 self, and is about to take the plunge he swore he never would.

 

Erstwhile protagonist Ted Mosby has suffered somewhat in the rich development of the ensemble. Fewer and fewer stories as the series progresses are purely about Ted, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The Ted-centric stories that remain are sharper and deeper; we’ve watched him progress from a starry-eyed dreamer into something more down-to-earth, and in recent seasons a man who is beginning to lose hope in destiny. None of this is spur of the moment plot-convenience; we’ve watched his relationships with Robin, Victoria, Robin, Stella, Karen, Zoey, Jeannette, and Robin wear him down. And the most brilliant part is that we already know he wins. We’ve known from the end of the very first episode. Ted may be telling his kids a meet-cute story, but the real story, the one the audience sees, is that of Ted and his friends growing up to become the people they’re supposed to be.

 

The show is far from perfect. There have been rough patches where the premise has become worn and, in the case of Seasons 5 and 6, long stretches where the meta-plot of the series takes a backseat to more traditional sitcom fare. Elements like “Robots vs. Wrestlers” and “Doppelgangers” are good for a small chuckle, but they’re hard-pressed to carry an entire episode (or in the case of the latter, a whole season’s theme clumsily summated in Ted’s speech to Robin at the end of Season 5). Likewise the show has never really known what to do with Lily, who alternates between manic energy and traditional sitcom motherly nagging as the plot demands. Lily and Marshall entered an odd kind of stasis between getting married and deciding to have a child wherein the plot occasionally remembered them, but otherwise treated them as just along for the ride. Barney’s Playbook began as a charmingly ridiculous notion, but has since snowballed into being cartoonish, NPH’s charm notwithstanding. And Ted, however much the show wants us to root for him, is kind of a douche bag.

 

But all of these rough patches pale in comparison to the show’s heights, and when the show employs all of its gimmicks to full effect—most recently in “The Time Travelers,” where Ted imagines himself speaking with his future wife—it achieves levels of creativity and emotion that few sitcoms in the past have even approached. HIMYM is never afraid of putting its characters in a bad place and keeping them there, sometimes for seasons at a time. It makes the good moments, the sweet moments, that much more meaningful.

 

For its final season, HIMYM could have continued with its winning format and coasted across the finish line. Instead its decided to take a huge risk and push its chronology-twisting gimmick even harder, packing 20+ episodes into one relative weekend. Ultimately, that will be what makes this sitcom stand the test of time; it takes risks and embraces change. There’s no reset button, no retcon, just an ending that the show’s been building to for nine years. And just like Ted’s kids stuck on the couch, we can’t wait to see how it ends.

 

  • Future reviews will (hopefully) be less rambling as I tackle one episode at a time.
  • Favorite episode: Season 2’s “Showdown.” The flashbacks and flash-forwards, particularly the absence of the blue French horn in Robin’s apartment, make this episode a special treat in subsequent viewings. It also introduced one of the show’s best longest-running jokes—Barney’s famous “father.” And Alyson Hannigan crying around a mouthful of fudge cracks me up every time.
  • Least Favorite Episode: Season 5’s “Zoo or False.” Its core conceit and cop-out ending felt too much like a particularly bad episode of a different sitcom.
  • Favorite Doomed Relationship: Ted and Karen. Laura Prepon brings an arrogance to her role that makes consummate douche Ted appear banal by comparison, and the sheer loathing she elicits from Ted’s friends is delicious.
  • If you’re ever wondering where a particular flashback falls in the show’s chronology, just watch for Lily’s hair. It’s more prominent in the early seasons, but Alyson Hannigan’s haircut can usually tell you about when the flashback takes place.