How I Met Your Mother, “Bad News” (6.13)

“This is like a black cat walked through my uterus!” –  Lily Aldrin

Sandy Rivers' favourite things...

A review of the first episode after the midseason break, written by Jennifer Hendriks and directed by Pamela Fryman, after the jump…

I could open by talking about the laser tag, or Barney’s doppelganger, or the return of Sandy Rivers, or any number of things. I could talk about how the episode was the most like seasons one and two the show has been in years, with strong comedy with its roots in strong continuity, as well as great character work. I could talk about any of these things, and normally they would all be worthy of the most attention.

But this week, the producers included a countdown from 50 to 1, leading to some Very Bad News. Marshall’s father, the invulnerable ox of a man who was his son’s best friend and confidant, dies of a heart attack while Marshall celebrates his strong sperm. And the moment Jason Segel‘s been waiting for, to play more than goofy Marshall forgetting his pants, arrived. And he brought it.

You can see it all in his face: the waves of confusion, the inescapable moment of it not being a joke. And for a show that spent an entire episode premised around a man being mugged by a monkey last year, it became the episode that reminds us that How I Met Your Mother is still the show we fell in love with. The one that makes you feel real emotions, that is telling the story of these characters’ lives and not just their varied hijinks.

Because even though, at times, Marshall is a loveable man-child, he’s a man. A man who is characterized by his joy and innocence, even while working for an evil law firm and struggling with fertility issues. And seeing the house cave down on a man who’s earned such love from us over the years is a powerful moment, done well. A moment I wasn’t sure the show could nail again, after the wreckage that was season five.

This is my show.

The Robin plot also felt like my show was back. It was funny, it relied on memory while getting new laughs out of old jokes (and the set-up of this makes me think this was at least considered in the cards for a while now). The ‘Robin humiliation montage’ had clips from throughout the series, ranging all the way back to “Return of the Shirt” (1.04), where Robin said risque things on the news to a complete lack of an audience. Choosing to centre the plot around Sandy Rivers, whose courtship of Robin was another black mark against her.

And seeing Robin finally accept her past, whether Sparkles or Scherpoopsky, is also a warm moment. She’s fought it for a long time, so this does feel like a really strong episode for her development.

And I laughed a lot more than I have in a while. Barney’s doppelganger here was inexplicably funnier than all the others combined, as well as Ted being a ‘kicker’, Marshall in the bathroom, Sandy’s nightly adventures… This was a really fun, and smartly fun, episode. And it called back to the idea of destiny; Lily’s deal with the universe (not to try to conceive until they’ve found Barney’s doppelganger) actually seems to have been respected, and their fertility issues make sense in the light of how fate’s intervened in the past.

Strong episode. Can’t wait to see what’s next.

Craig Gerard & Matthew Zinman

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