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Monday, December 5, 2011

How I Met Your Mother: "Symphony of Illumination"

At this rate How I Met Your Mother is going to have to stop calling itself a comedy. I felt a wide range of emotions throughout “Symphony of Illumination” but joy, mirth, what have you were not among them.

There was excitement, when the episode opened with Robin telling a story to her kids. (And a brief laugh at her “cutting straight to the chase.”) And that they seemingly revealed the fact that Barney was their father. Also, Barney’s son wearing a suit was a nice touch.

There was anger, when the show abandoned Robin’s pregnancy within minutes. Admittedly, this would have been an extremely difficult plotline to pull off, but ditching it so soon calls its very existence into question. Really, there was no reason to make Robin pregnant, the show wasn’t headed into that direction at all and it wasn’t a natural outgrowth of recent events. Rather, the pregnancy was written in as a dramatic, out-of-nowhere surprise. The events of this episode render the last episode’s ending utterly meaningless. It makes the whole thing seem like a cheap ploy, which, considering how strong the ratings have been all season, is absolutely mystifying.

There was confusion, at the sudden turn to “Robin can’t have kids ever!!!” This felt like an unnecessary way to permanently fix a problem that didn’t really exist. Robin’s fierce independence was a defining character trait, and it always makes me uncomfortable when they tear her down.

There was boredom, mostly, at Marshall being stranded on the roof by generic evil suburban teen who apparently had an exceptionally detailed plan hinged on an unlikely series of occurrences. I guess Segel at least has the possible excuse of being busy promoting a movie.

Then, surprisingly, there was a palpable sense of sadness. Even though the plot was so ridiculously contrived, was such an unnecessary sidetrack, well, Robin crying in Ted’s arms got to me. I guess I’m just an easy touch after all. The preceding argument about whether it was Ted’s job to cheer Robin up felt real and poignant too.

Outside of the end, with its fine work by Smulders, this was a really uneven episode of How I Met Your Mother. A lot of the jokes felt a little off, like Robin’s pole-vaulting lie, or Marshall’s over-interest in Robin’s medical condition, or Lily’s overwrought crying. I enjoyed Barney’s inability to tell a joke under duress (“A priest walks into a bar carrying a duck. And he’s Polish. The priest, not the duck. Well, the duck could be Polish, it doesn’t matter. Yes it does. The duck’s not Polish”) and Robin’s LeBron joke (“I wouldn’t go to Cleveland for $125 million paid over 6 years.”)

Overall, I think “Symphony of Illumination” is irreparably harmed by the preceding episode’s huge, meaningless surprise. It cheapened the potentially resonant moments of tonight’s episode and made the whole thing seem a little too tacky. And I think they have to be careful of making Robin seem crazy for wanting what she wants.

Maybe next week they could shoot for some laughs, if that’s not too much to ask?

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