A review of tonight’s “How I Met Your Mother” coming up just as soon as my face turns vermillion…
Early in “Now We’re Even,” Future Ted tells his kids that the security guard did get famous, and will get to that later – then pauses, admits that he likely won’t ever get to that later, and lays out the guy’s story in a couple of perfunctory sentences. It was a self-aware gag about how many similar teases Future Ted has dropped in the past, and about how often the show has struggled to pay them off properly.
It’s a struggle that the meta joke couldn’t really obscure, as a good chunk of “Now We’re Even” was devoted to contriving a way to explain the flash-forward of Ted in a green dress from last season’s “The Mermaid Theory.” When Bays and Thomas did their group interview at press tour, they acknowledged that sometimes they set up teases knowing exactly how they’ll pay off, and other times as a way to challenge themselves. That day, and in other interviews, Craig Thomas acknowledged that the green dress fit into the latter category, and that they were still trying to figure out a solution.
And it’s not that the solution they came up with was terrible. It just felt perfunctory, in the same way that, say, the goat payoff did back in the day. It was the writers being in a place where they had to put up or shut up, and they put up the bare minimum: Ted puts on the dress to win a bet of sorts, but really to help cheer up Barney as he grapples with the anxiety that comes with being madly in love with a stripper. It’s fine, and it fits what we know of Ted and Barney and Quinn, but it’s just… there.
And while I’m sure many of you will provide good counter-examples in the comments, I’m struggling to think of an instance where Future Ted gave us one of his “but we’ll get to that” hints and the time-delayed explanation lived up to the speculation. They’re not usually aggravating, but they’re also not usually worth the fuss or the wait. And given that the entire series is built around the biggest “but we’ll get to that” of all in Ted’s life, I can almost see why we might be waiting until the final episode of the series – maybe even the final moments of the series – before The Mother turns up.
It’s like what Lindelof and Cuse used to talk about with “Lost,” where fans spent so much time speculating on answers to everything that the real answers were inevitably going to be disappointing.(*) After all this hype, all these hints and all our speculation, how could The Mother in the flesh not turn out to be a disappointment? I think the show’s better off just bringing her on-stage already, making her a character and throwing out all these temporal games once and for all, but I at least understand the concern. If we only have to spend an episode with The Mother – or if we only meet her for, say, 15 seconds as Ted looks at her in awe and Bob Saget says, “And that, kids, is how I met your mother!” – then there’s no time to be disappointed.
(*) Which doesn’t necessarily excuse some of those answers (you know the one in particular I’m referring to), but even some of the less esoteric ones seemed anti-climactic by the time we got there.
And if I’ve spent so much time on the green dress, the security guard gag, and the whole Future Ted foreshadowing issue, it’s because the rest of “Now We’re Even” was pretty forgettable. Not bad, but tired. I liked the city holding its breath as Robin had to land the chopper, and Barney’s confession about how Quinn’s job really makes him feel was yet another chance for Neil Patrick Harris to show off his dramatic chops, but I don’t imagine this one is going to require revisiting anytime soon.
What did everybody else think? Were you satisfied with how and why Ted wound up in drag? On the whole, would you rather the show cool it with the hints about the future, or is that too much part of the foundation? And can you think of a good example of something teased long ago by Future Ted that pleased you with how it paid off?