How I Met Your Mother: Season 8 - Review
Last week, sitcom-shaped anecdotal black hole How I Met Your Mother reached the end of its eighth and most penultimate season. They are back one last time in September, eventually renewed for a final ninth season after Jason Segal had a brief wobble about returning.
Although HIMYM was a fresh, interesting take on the Friends-esque banter sitcom, running for nearly a decade has unavoidably blunted its edge a little. Did this pentultimate season give them a new lease on life, or are they slumping to a painful climax?
How I Watched How I Met Your MotherI loved early seasons of HIMYM, but yes, it did suffer a midway meander. They did an admirable job of stretching out their premise for many years, but after season four and early five - most centrally: Ted's failed wedding and the Robin/Barney break-up - they seemed to embark on a substantial period of water treading - season six, in particular, seemed needless.
However, as season seven went on and it became increasingly clear we were much nearer the end of the series than the beginning, the writers finally started enacting their big plans - the pace has been glacial as ever, but there has been a lot of genuine emotion and progression, dealing with some interesting themes of maturity and, with that, the sense that it all really matters. Not to mention, at least it has been reliably funny.
Season eight, which could have been the last if Jason Segal had quit successfully, started with a few slow episodes, as How I Met Your Mother seemed unable to resist rolling out some dusty parent-of-new-baby sitcom clichés for Lily and Marshall. Friends competing to be a godparent? Again? Okay then. Can't imagine why Segal started to get itchy feet.
The Happy Almost-EndingThankfully, they got over that slow patch, compensating for Ted not being able to meet The Mother yet by focusing on Barney and Robin, the only main characters whose relationship status isn't locked down and predetermined. Barney, obviously, is the Big Comedy Character of the show, played with huge charisma by Neil Patrick Harris, but some of these characters don't hold up well when writers give them serious storylines. HIMYM has pulled it off, by making those very struggles, Barney's battle to become a rounded human adult without losing his appeal, the point of his entire arc.
Elsewhere, Ted watches the rest of his friends pair off, honestly having quite a quiet year himself, until he reaches the point of the finale, beaten down by loneliness and a guilty underlying jealousy at his friends not being lonely. And then we cliffhanger out into the big Robin/Barney wedding sequence - will he march up and ruin their big day? And how will he meet The Mother - now revealed as played by Cirstin Milioti.
Obviously it's a ballsy move to unveil this character at the end of the penultimate season, rather than dragging it out until the very last episode, but I admire the writers trying to defy expectations. And they aren't finished there - apparently the wedding weekend will span the entire last season. I expect some kind of twist or flashbacks, but still, good to see them taking yet more risks. Even if this doesn't pay off, I can respect How I Met Your Mother for usually striving to avoid or subvert the mainstream sitcom cliché.