Overview: Season four of How I Met Your Mother was extremely funny and just heartfelt enough from start to finish, really the series at its best. It also set up at least one plotline with extremely interesting potential for season five. Sadly, season five blew that story and was not extremely funny or heartfelt enough for most of its run. Instead, things just happened. For the first time in its run, the series felt like a traditional sitcom, full of weak set-ups, stupid retcons and clichéd emotion.
Pros: In terms of the whole season arcs, there isn’t nothing to celebrate here. Marshall and Lily decided to have a baby and that’s hopefully going to be an interesting development in the future, but it wasn’t handed that well here so I can’t say I’m shaking with excitement. There were obviously some individual moments that stood out amid the puke — Marshall’s “drunk or kid,” his letter from 15-year old self, etc. — but nothing that built up to or from anything else.
Cons: This season was supposed to be all about Barney’s humanizing through his relationship with Robin. They seemed like a perfect couple for one another, the writing for them was sharp and almost all the fans were behind it. So it makes perfect sense that it would only last seven episodes. Wait, what? Surely, executive producers Carter Bays and Craig Thomas just felt like Barney in a relationship wasn’t the real, disgustingly hilarious Barney anymore and they were right. The problem was they obviously didn’t really want him to change and we did. It’s surely something they’ll come back to in another season, but what a misfire here.
Moreover, Ted had absolutely nothing to do all season except be a complete pretentious douche. It seems as if Bays and Thomas took fans’ frustration with the Mother arc and instead of working hard to improve those sentiments, they just removed it from the season’s plan all together. And as schmaltzy as Mother-searching Ted can be, without that narrative drive this season he was sometimes insufferable to watch. Perhaps that’s the point in the sense that we’re supposed to see how Ted is without his search for love, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. And they tried to tempt us into thinking we’d see big things about the Mother in episode 100 and the clues and almost connections were there, but at this point, I’m not sure anyone actually cares, or even watches the series for that reason. Why can’t Ted just meet the Mother and then we spend a lot of time with her? Why does it seemingly have to be the end of the series before they get together? That’s stupid.
Again, this season lacked narrative drive whatsoever. Even at the end of the season, nothing really happened. Ted’s speech to Robin about being dopplegangers of their former selves was hackneyed and a way to put a cap on the season as some sort of transition period, but just like Ted’s story, just because I know the point of it doesn’t mean it actually works.
It also felt like at times the writers were being too cutesy with their premise just because they could, especially in “Last Cigarette Ever.” I understand the ability to mess with the whole “false narrator” gag, but I don’t know how I felt about that as a whole episode, if only for what it could mean in the future. Do people really want to be jerked around so much about a sitcom?
Best storyline: Robin and Barney’s relationship — before it was murdered.
Worst storyline: Ted’s aimlessness, the execution of Marshall and Lily deciding to have a baby.
Best performer: Jason Segel — NPH is the bomb, but I found myself eye rolling at some of his shtick this season, while a number of small moments from Marshall had me rolling on the floor.
Best single moment: The tension and subsequent release of the fourth slap of Barney in “Slapsgiving 2: Return of the Slap.”
Three best episodes: “Robin 101,” “Slapsgiving 2: Return of the Slap,” “Robots Vs. Wrestlers”
Worst episode: “Last Cigarette Ever”
Where does it fit in the context of the whole series: Much like The Office, this is the worst season of the series, but I have more faith that the HIMYM crew can turn it around, if only because there were so many solid individual moments here that they can surely figure out how to bring it all together with some narrative consistency in the future seasons. Hopefully season five does exist as an awkward transition period that proves why Ted needs some relationship drive or why Barney needs to grow up.
Final grade: C-
Past days of the wrap