Tuesday, December 06, 2011
How I Met Your Mother "Symphony of Illumination" Reaction
Through six-plus seasons, "How I Met Your Mother" has established a handful of recurring storytelling techniques, some with more success than others. The obvious one is the wrapper within the entire show takes place: "Future" Ted telling the story to his future kids via flashback. Last night's episode, "Symphony of Illumination", mocked that formula by having "Future" Robin narrate the events to her future kids, only that was a set-up for the show's new favorite recurring storytelling technique: the depressing twist ending.
The main story of the episode had Robin telling her future kids (who appeared to be sitting in Barney's apartment) the story of how she "met" their father, only in true Robin-mocking-Ted fashion, she skipped right ahead to the part where she told Barney she was pregnant. She obviously didn't want the pregnancy (to the horror of the "future" kids), and was happy when she found out from her OB/GYN that she wasn't actually pregnant. Only that led to the revelation that Robin is physically unable to have kids.
She tried to play that off like it didn't matter, but it obviously bothered her. That twist, in the middle of the episode, would have been super depressing, if not for the narrative device of Robin talking to her kids. It made me, as a viewer, prepare for the twist at the end where it would turn out that Robin could have kids, and this was all designed to make her realize she wanted them.
Only "How I Met Your Mother" isn't about uplifting happy twists anymore. No, the show's writers seem determined to impress one lesson upon its viewers: life always sucks and whatever the worst thing that can happen is, something worse than that will happen. So it turns out that Robin's "narration" to her "future kids" was actually her sitting in the park, drinking and talking to the kids she'd never have. And yes, I know there was a follow-up scene that was supposed to make things kind of uplifting, but all I could concentrate on was the fact that while Future Ted was listing off all the things Robin would become in her life, "mother" wasn't among them.
Holy crap, HIMYM, I watch this show to laugh and be entertained, not develop a drinking problem because of the crushing depression brought on by the troubles of the world. I've been watching this show since the beginning, and I remember when it made me laugh for 30 minutes every week, while the characters were still growing and learning lessons. But over the last few seasons, something's changed.
A few weeks back, I got lost in a spiral of TVTropes.org link clicking (trust me, you think you'll be on the site for four minutes, and somehow seven hours later you wonder where the day went) and I landed on a page called "Cerebus Syndrome", where something starts off very lighthearted, then experiences a significant shift in tone toward the dramatic. The page indicates that sometimes it works well and sometimes it doesn't (and seriously, unless you want to lose a day of your life, don't actually visit the page), and I think "HIMYM" is falling into the latter group.
This dramatic shift has been necessitated by the continual extension of a series that really came with a five-year lifespan, but is now in its seventh season (and has an eighth coming). Obviously the characters couldn't be weird, immature goofs forever, but those are the characters we loved. I miss Barney's "suit up" antics, Robin's weird relationship flaws, Marshall and Lily's honeymoon phase and Ted's... well, honestly I just never really liked Ted, but I still miss old Ted, and old "How I Met Your Mother".