Review: ‘How I Met Your Mother’ – ‘The Final Page’

Senior Television Writer
12.18.12 107 Comments

A review of last night’s “How I Met Your Mother” coming up just as soon as I have dance-based revenge fantasies…

I don’t know that Carter Bays and Craig Thomas had meta on their mind when they wrote the proposal scene of “The Final Page” two-parter(*), but Robin’s acceptance of “The Robin” and Barney’s ring sure felt like a defense of “HIMYM” even as it was also a climax to a long-running romance arc.

(*) Yes, it was presented as a single episode, without separate credit sequences, and several of the stories continued from one half-hour to the next. But Marshall and Lily had two very separate plots, for instance, and the level of serialization wasn’t that much greater overall than if the two half-hours had aired a week apart. Semantics, maybe, and if you want to consider it all one episode, feel free.

Barney goes to elaborate lengths to trick Robin, to stall what he believes to be inevitable, all because he’s decided that their eventual union will feel so much stronger because he’s played all these games along the way. Robin protests, and asks why any sane person would want to have a relationship with someone who manipulates them in so many unnecessary ways, but the moment she sees the ring, her objections disappear and she wants her some happily ever after.

If that’s not a metaphor for the experience of watching eight seasons of “How I Met Your Mother” – and for how the creators ultimately want us to feel about it – I don’t know what is.

And I’m not even necessarily complaining about the proposal scene. I thought Cobie Smulders played Robin’s reactions to the whole thing as well as she’s played any scene in the show’s history. The revelation of what was really happening with Patrice – which several of you were predicting over the last few weeks – was, like certain truths in the “Homeland” finale (I won’t specify for those who haven’t seen) retroactively improved a lot of what was problematic in the last few episodes, even though Patrice remains a complete non-character, and even though Robin’s shrieking hatred of her always makes me like Robin less. (Emily Nussbaum compared it to late-period Ross on “Friends.”) And it was another great “HIMYM” music choice (“Let Your Heart Hold Fast” by Fort Atlantic).

Ultimately, much as you have to accept a certain minimum of shenanigans in order to love “HIMYM,” (**) you have to accept a mindgame or three – especially if it’s supposed to be the final one – if you’re going to love Barney Stinson. He’s a creep, but he’s Robin’s creep.

(**) One thing undercutting the emotions of the proposal is that we’ve already seen that Robin will get severe cold feet on the day of the wedding.

And though there were a number of bumps along the way, the two parts of “The Final Page” were the strongest “HIMYM” has been in a while.

In particular, I thought the Ted/Robin sequence in Ranjit’s limo was even stronger than the rooftop proposal. That is the Theodore Evelyn Mosby whose happiness we’re meant to root for, and it made up for the irritating earlier scenes where it seemed like Marshall and the writers were pushing for yet another doomed iteration of Ted & Robin. (I also liked that part of Barney’s plan was to be sure Ted would no longer feel jealous if he ended up with Robin.) It’s the most I’ve liked Ted since… I honestly can’t remember the last time I found him even remotely this likable.

This was also the first episode in a while where I found myself enjoying the comedy more often than I didn’t. It’s still broader than I would like (Patrice, the creepiness of Daryl being completely at odds with what he reveals once he brings down the big check), but I really enjoyed the jinx subplot of the first half (even if it was a rehash of similar Barney torture in “Swarley,” the specific gags were creative and well-deployed) and even warmed to Ted’s obsession with Professor Vinick once he went back to the classroom and was reminded of how much he loved the guy’s lectures.

I wouldn’t call these great episodes, but there were enough echoes of “HIMYM” from when it was great to remind me of why I’m still watching and writing about this show every week.

What did everybody else think? For the “Buffy” fans, did the Willow/Oz reunion (in an episode featuring Wesley in another subplot) live up to your hopes for it? Are you happy with how Robin and Barney got engaged, or did you find “The Robin” kind of gross? And for the architecture afficianadoes out there, what do you think of Ted’s building?

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