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Monday, December 17, 2012

How I Met Your Mother: "The Final Page"

It's been an up-and-mostly-down season of How I Met Your Mother, and "The Final Page" had it's fair share of both. These last few seasons have seen the show constantly struggle to produce genuine laughs while usually having much less trouble provoking genuine emotion. At this point the show could essentially pass as a romantic drama with a penchant for indulging in cringe-worthy silliness.

So it was that in "The Final Page" the comedic bits largely fell flat, with the notable exception of Neil Patrick Harris's expert physical comedy in the first half-hour. The episode was nearly derailed by the shoe-horned appearance of Seth Green's character, a creepy hanger-on that Marshall and Lily lack the ability to tell off. Green's character was far too over-the-top to be credible, and his presence was an unwelcome distraction. Peter Gallagher was not much better as Ted's old college professor, but at least Ted's yearning for approval felt realistic and relatable.

The second half-hour largely bypassed humor and went straight about the business of wrapping up the loose ends the show has to get through before the end of the year. I think most fans of the show saw the Barney-Patrice relationship for exactly what it was, so it was more of a relief than a surprise to see Barney's proposal and Robin's acceptance of same. Had we not known well ahead of time that these two would be heading down the aisle, this scene might have packed more of a punch, but it also might have opened the character's behavior up to more scrutiny. As is, there's still something icky to me about the way the show treats Patrice as something less than a full-fledged human being. I hope that at some point the show will address this, even if it's just one of Ted's narrative asides: "Oh by the way, Patrice met a nice guy who liked her for her and is very happy." Something like that.

Much more poignant than the proposal was the scene leading up to it, which was an unforgettable display of dramatic acting prowess by both Josh Radnor and Cobie Smulders. Their argument in the limo, over whether Robin should go after Barney one last time, was overlaid with the long history between the two characters, all of which was imparted through implication and gesture instead of outright exposition. It was a masterful scene.

When the show comes back in the new year, with it's fate for a possible ninth season hanging in the balance, here's hoping we get more character moments like that limo scene, and maybe a few more laughs as well. After all, this is still supposed to be a comedy.

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