Monday, November 4, 2013

How I Met Your Mother: Stuck in Neutral

Do you ever get the feeling like the television show you're watching is progressing, and yet at the same time, it's not moving at all? That's the sense I'm getting right now with the final season of How I Met Your Mother.

I feel like the show is stuck in neutral; the characters are struggling to gain some semblance of traction or character development as it builds up to the eventual "mother moment", but right now it's failing miserably.

Season 9 of How I Met Your Mother is very unique in the fact that viewers sort of already know how it ends. We know that Ted meets his mother, they get married, have kids and live happily ever after.

But what we don't know ... is how we get there.

In an attempt to progress the storyline towards its eventual crescendo, the show has actually been stagnant for a good 3-4 episodes now. As the season progresses and we're still leading up towards Robin and Barney's wedding, I just keep wishing I could fast forward towards the end.

Miraculously, the season is already eight (yes, eight) episodes deep and the plot and characters have barely progressed at all. The same tired backdrop of the Farhampton Inn has overstayed its welcome, and plot points which could have been touched on over the course of two to three episodes has now been stretched out over nearly half a season.

The lack of differentiating set pieces is one qualm I have in particular this season on HIMYM, but the other one and more importantly is the lack of character development. Namely, the fact that there have been hardly any redeeming qualities of the main characters in Season 9.

Ted has been neurotic and as depressing as ever. Lily used to have extremely endearing qualities about her character, but this season she's just coming off as an angry alcoholic. Barney and Robin still have yet to resemble a legitimate "couple". And lastly, Marshall has been sitting in a hummer for the better part of 6-7 episodes.

So basically, the qualities that made viewers develop a connection to these characters over the course of eight seasons have been completely abandoned in Season 9 in an effort to stretch the series for one last year.

There's no "Barney being Barney", no Ted being his typical hopeless and yet hopeful self, and Lily has almost transformed into Robin 2.0.

Not every episode and not even every season of a television show will be memorable. But in a network sitcom, there is at least some form of progression. Characters grow and evolve as seasons progress, and that's part of the reason why people are drawn in; because they come along for the journey with those characters.

Right now on How I Met Your Mother, there has been nearly no progression in Season 9. It feels like things are going nowhere, while at the same time you know there will be some sort of a conclusion by season's end.

The writers have sprinkled a few payoff moments here and there throughout the first eight episodes of the final season, but they have been few and far between. And they haven't been nearly poignant enough to make it worth sitting through everything else.

I have my own theory as to what the writers have planned for the end of the series, and I have no doubt that it will eventually be a satisfying end to what has otherwise been a great series with countless memorable moments.

But at this point, it feels like I'll take another nine seasons before we finally find out how Ted met his eventual wife.