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TV That Matters: How I Met Your Mother

By John Thomas Columnist


An Ode to Friendship:

So you’re in elementary school and you just lost your favorite Yu-Gi-Oh deck yesterday, and yeah you’ve got other decks made out of nigh-unusable trash you’ve tossed aside from booster pack after booster pack that you spent every single dollar garnered from your allowance, birthday presents and cards from your grandparents that seem to come on even the most innocuous of holidays.

You stumble over to a couple of your friends playing a game of Yu-Gi-Oh, a game that you notice is being played, at least on one side, with seemingly the exact same deck that you misplaced just the day before.  You ask where he found those cards. He says he just found them. You tell him that the deck looks a whole lot like yours; it even has the zombie dragon card sleeves that are your personal trading card game aesthetic. He says, well, finder’s keepers.

You cry, go home; tell your mom what happened. She’s upset, but tells you that she’s not going to do anything because his parents just divorced, and he could probably use the cards more than you anyway.

You’re too young to counter that statement with the fact that your parents are also divorced, and you’re dad is dead to boot, but that doesn’t mean you’ve ever stolen anyone’s Yu-Gi-Oh cards, but looking back now some ten years later, you realize that it probably wouldn’t have mattered anyways.

You’re still crying. You know, you always seem to be crying, and that hasn’t really changed that much since then, but that isn’t really what this column is about.

Your mom gives you a hug and then for the first time in your life utters a phrase that will become an increasingly constant refrain as you stumble through middle school, then drunkenly stumble through high school, “You’ve got to know who your real friends are.”

What is a real friend? That is the question at the heart of Carter Bays’ and Craig Thomas’ “How I Met Your Mother”.  Time and time again, the gang is forced to ponder how far it’s willing to go to stay together as a unit.

From the end of its first season when Lily and Marshall separate for a time, and even before that with Robin and Barney’s inductions into the gang, this sitcom has put its characters’ relationships through their paces in a way that its often compared to forbearer “Friends” never really got close to. The first three seasons are the best of HIMYM because they are explicitly cognizant of this fact. The dramatic impetus for this show was never who the mother would be revealed to be, but rather whether or not these kooky white kids would end up together as a group.

After the third season finale, when Ted and Barney reconcile, the show settled into a comfortable, if not all that exciting, groove where the narrative conceit felt more like a scrapbook than a novel. That’s not to say the next five seasons were a load of crap. They were just as funny, and honestly it’s a testament to the writers that while the show had lost its initial edge, they understood the character’s so well that were still able to compose one of the most entertaining half hours on television week after week.

There’s been an unreasonable amount of cynicism, and at points outright disgust with this last season, especially with the series’ finale. In the last batch of episodes, HIMYM reclaimed that edge from the first few seasons by introducing Ted’s pending departure, which we knew wouldn’t actually happen, but in retrospect provided the thematic foreshadowing necessary for what happened in the finale. Ted does finally meet the mother, Robin and Barney divorce, the mother passes away, and in the last scene, Ted runs to Robin’s apartment, blue French Horn in hand, and reunites with the last love of his life.

Yes, the marriage that this entire season has revolved around is dissolved in mere minutes. We never do find out where that pineapple came from, and while snippets of the future are revealed, I really think people were expecting a deeper overview of what happened to these beloved characters in their later years. None of that is present in this episode because Bays and Thomas opted out of a final hour of fan service in favor of finishing the story they wanted to tell. We, as an audience, should respect that. I would’ve preferred that some of the finale’s storylines were given a bit more room to breath, sure, and I was disappointed with Barney’s degeneration, and subsequent just as sexist new identity as a chauvinistic, scolding father figure to New York’s female bar patrons. But I admire that the creators seem to have recognized that the heart of the show wasn’t about Ted finding mother, it was about the group realizing that they were all real friends.

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