How I Met Your Mother is a show that I was introduced to a few years back when I got curious enough to rent the first season over a long weekend. I have been hooked on the show's mixture of comedy, Neil Patrick Harris and the stories that Carter Bays and Craig Thomas tell with these characters that are tough not to get behind.
*Note: A bit spoilery beyond this point so you've been warned.*
It wasn't until this week's episode that I truly realized why I've been so drawn to this show. The episode involved a supposed pregnancy with scotch sipping Canadian, Robin. She has been, from the first season, very against the idea of having kids. She just doesn't want them. The narrator of the story, Ted, has in fact said as much within the very first couple of episodes. We open, for an interesting change, with Robin telling HER kids the story of how she met their father, Barney. Right away something didn't seem right and, honestly, I was ready for the ol' bait-and-switch.
She finds out that not only is she not pregnant but that she wouldn't be able to if she had wanted to. This was like a punch in the face. This leads to a heartbreaking scene in which she admits that it's okay that she can't have them and that the kids she's been telling the story to aren't real. The kids, the couch and house fade away into a shot of snowy Central Park. Robin is sitting alone on the park bench with a carton of egg nog. She tosses it out and walks back to the apartment.
Ted, thankfully, is there to give her some much needed cheer when she is, without a doubt, at her lowest. Ted's voiceover cuts in and we learn that she will go on to do many great things, including being a bullfighter, but one thing she was never ever alone.
So, the sappy ending aside, we had a bit of a bleak storyline that was in keeping with alot of what we see in the show. The bait-and-switch tactic is one the show has employed before, but it didn't really bother me all that much. It was a big reminder of why, ultimately, this is a sitcom that doesn't actually bore me because it's so predictable. There are, at times, meandering arcs and episodes that don't really contribute to the overall narrative sometimes but that doesn't matter.
It is a show that is not afraid to throw adverse conditions at their characters and, sometimes, they are utterly devastating. The breakup of Lily and Marshall in the first season as Ted and Robin are just starting their relationship was a great example of this. Marshall is sitting on the steps to his apartment with an engagement ring in his hand and, frankly, I can't remember a time when I've seen such sadness in what could very well have been a standard situational comedy. The push and pull of the characters and their lives is one of the best parts of the show.
The device of Ted telling the story of how he met their mother to his kids isn't really what it's all about anymore either. It is important, sure, but really the show isn't about that. Sadness and heartbreak are embraced because, in the end, everything will fit together. The bad will come, most assuredly, but that will give way to the good. Characters make left turns at times only to eventually end up at what they needed all along. Things work out and, yeah, the jaded television viewer knows that things will end up alright but the journey there has been one I've enjoyed thoroughly. The mix of the good and the bad is what resonates so well with viewers and for all the missteps that show has at times it manages to strike a great balance between the two.
Last night's episode was, of course, a narrative step for Robin as a character but also a reminder of something this show does so well. The awful things we endure have to be placed into context outside of themselves and we have to move on. Robin is devastated, no doubt, by it but she will move on and be the person she is meant to be. This slice of life that the show represents is very optimistic and that is why I love it.