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TV That Matters 10/6: How I Met Your Mother, Happy Endings and Dexter

By Matt Ern, Columnist

How I Met Your Mother- "The Stinson Missile Crisis"

 Grade: B

"How I Met Your Mother" has been having a stellar season so far.  After seasons of wheel spinning where nothing really happened, they have jumped back into the running narrative and mythology that made the show's early seasons so popular.

 In just four episodes the plot has advanced in leaps and bounds: Robin loves Barney although he is now interested in Nora, Lily and Marshal are having a baby, and Ted is actually starting to grow as a character (if only just a little).

That said this episode was the season's first stumbling block.  It wasn't bad at all, but coming after last week's excellent episode and a strong premiere the week before, there was a lot to live up to.

"The Stinson Missile Crisis" begins with Robin in court ordered therapy for assaulting a woman (presumably Nora).  The rest of the episode is told in flashbacks as Robin explains the events leading up to the assault. 

Robin sees an opportunity to get closer to Barney when Nora has to go out of town.  Barney is determined to stay faithful to Nora, but has set in motion a variety of ongoing ploys to convince women to sleep with him.  So Robin volunteers to help him dismantle them. 

Despite Robin's efforts to win Barney back, he only sees her as another "bro," so when Nora comes back from her trip early Robin sends a woman after Barney to sabotage him.  After learning a lesson from Ted (who's been busy in the B plot taking a birthing class with Marshal) Robin saves Barney and Nora's date by assaulting the woman outside a café.    

The episode was certainly funny, but it paled in comparison to last week's "Ducky Tie" which featured a heartbreaking scene at the end where Ted is forced to come to terms with losing Victoria again and wondering what their life might have been like together. 

Every once in a while "How I Met Your Mother" is able to pull off a great emotional scene like that, but I worry that they won't be able to make me care as I did the Ted/Victoria story line last week.

 

Happy Endings- "Blax, Snake, Home"

Grade: B

Happy Endings is a weird, delightful little show that had few viewers last year.  When I first saw promos for it I thought it looked terrible, but then I caught the season finale.  I was surprised with how witty and sweet it was. 

So I went back and watched the whole season and discovered that it was actually pretty decent.  It took them a few episodes to get the ball rolling, but at its high points it's a great little gem of a show.  So where does this season's premiere fit in?  I'm not sure exactly. 

The cold open was amazing, and actually had me laughing out loud, which I usually don't do when watching something alone no matter how funny I find it.  If the whole episode had maintained that level of insanity, I would have given it a much higher grade.  But what played out was only an OK episode for the series.  

Jane convinces Dave and Alex to stop telling white lies to each other now that they are broken up.  That only resulted in Alex almost burning her apartment down to prove a point that she could work her fireplace, and Dave recording an awful song called "Love to the Power of Love."  Penny buys a condo as part of her "year of Penny" but quickly worries that it's the first step to becoming a spinster.  And then there was some bizarre storyline where Max is jealous Brad is hanging out with his black friends. 

The Penny storyline was my favorite.  She keeps coming home to find her apartment full of cats and her DVR full of The Good Wife and The View, and thus freaking her out that her condo is cursed.  I wish the Max storyline were better because he is usually my favorite character in any given episode. 

It was a perfectly fine half hour of TV to just relax and watch, but it wasn't up to the level I'd come to expect from the show.

Dexter- "Those Kinds of Things"

Grade: A-

My biggest problem with Dexter as a show is that every season resolves itself nicely, the guest starts are (sometimes clumsily) written off, and the status quo is restored. With the exception of the season 4 finale, nothing ever happened to effect the show's overall narrative.  So with each new season I just hope that I'll get a compelling ride for twelve weeks before being disappointed in the finale. 

And based off of this premiere, it's going to be a good ride this season.  "Those Kinds of Things" had everything I look for in my favorite episodes of Dexter: interesting new villains, gruesome crime scenes, Masuka, effective use of Harry, and not having LaGuerta and Batista's relationship crammed down my throat.  Hell, we were even treated to Dexter awkwardly dancing to "U Can't Touch This."

This early in the season we didn't get a feel for many of the guest stars, other than Collin Hanks who spent his screen time fishing for snakes and then filling a disemboweled body with them.  Yeah, as if the killers on Dexter hadn't been weird and gross enough before, we now have dead bodies full of snakes. 

Most of the action in the episode revolved around Dexter's high school reunion.  Dex is only going so he can confirm the guilt of one of his classmates, but his plans are complicated by the fact that he is now popular due to his interesting job and increased good looks.  I really enjoyed this storyline a lot for a variety of reasons, the main one being that I like any time Dexter gets to have a normal life.  He spends so much time covering his tracks and killing people it's nice to see him just hanging out for a change.        

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