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How I Met Your Mother Recap: How Did We Get Here?

"The Magician\'s Code Part One" -- The gang rallies around Lily (Alyson Hannigan) to look at her new born baby. (L-R) Marshall (Jason Segel), Ted (Josh Radnor), Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) and Robin (Cobie Smulders), on HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER, Monday, May 14 (8:00-8:30 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.  #BarneysBrideUnveiled  ©2012 Fox Television. All Rights Reserved.

This whole season of HIMYM ran to stand still. At the beginning, there was so much promise: This would be Robin’s season. (Finally!) It would revisit the Ted and Robin romance (a positive to some of us). And, based on the conclusion of “Ducky Tie,” in which Future Ted suggests that he, Robin, and Barney had no idea what was in store for them, it might actually be the season for Ted to reckon with the fact that the former girl of his dreams was the current girl for Barney. What’s surprising is that most of these plot developments were dispensed with almost immediately. It seems like there was a game of hot potato going on in the writers’ room, and whoever got stuck with the major events — Kevin’s proposal to Robin, Ted’s bid to win Robin back — freaked out and dropped the whole story line.

And, unfortunately, last night’s episode might have been the weakest of all. HIMYM is a dear show, and we want both more for and from it. Which is why it’s hard not to think back and get a little misty-eyed at the memory of season two’s finale, which was a three-episode arc that managed to address Barney’s father fantasies, Ted and Robin’s breakup, and Lily and Marshall’s marriage in a stealthy, clever, funny, and heartfelt way. By comparison, the birth of Marvin WaitForIt Eriksen was a joke. Other than being named after Marshall’s late father, nothing that happened before or after resonated emotionally.

To look on the bright side, it’s never totally unpleasant to see snippets of the gang’s as-of-yet-untold history. And yes, in times of need (or, Lily’s case, agony), it can be deeply comforting to just listen, even to a story that you already know. Like the one about the time Ted blamed his digestive troubles on Robin, or the time Robin spent a magical night with not–Neil Young, or the time Barney tried to pick up girls as the Terminator (worth its own episode!), or the time they tested to see whether banana peels were really slippery, or Marshall’s cursed pants, or Ted’s freakishly long arm hair that turned out to be a thread, or what the hell the fourth wall of the bar looks like (and was it a nod to a 1972 porno flick called Behind the Green Door?).

Then of course there was the old too-late-for-an-epidural plotline, because characters in television and movies dilate quickly and there can be no other kind of birth than a scream-y one. The cinematic nods — to Cocoon, The Breakfast Club, and any movie where a woman has given birth — felt like a halfhearted attempt to add some oomph to a pretty thin plot.

Now, in some ways, the second half of the finale was better than the first, even though it really sped up that game of hot potato: Robin and Ted are immediately all good, so good that she suggests he calls Victoria, and he does! She’s in a wedding dress! They’re running off together, yes, no, yes! It felt more than a little rushed to go from the birth of the baby to Ted’s rekindled romance and Barney’s wedding day.

But things like Marshall and Lily’s new rule that all shenanigans now have to rate as an eight or higher in order to demand their attention rang true, and then in order to keep Marshall and Lily (and Marv!) in the episode, there needed to be two 10s. Ted’s attitude was just as spot-on: The reaction to your friends having babies does often entail a memory of their shocking immaturity — in this case, Ted recalled a stoned Marshall stapling himself and Lily stealing beer by pretending to be pregnant. 

So on to the big stuff. This episode was called “The Magician’s Code,” and that could very well have applied to the writers’ trickery here. Quinn and Barney are off to Hawaii, where he was obviously going to propose, right? We knew what was in the box — or, granted, no one could have known it was a safe that turned into a flower pot that magically grew a flower with a ring, but we got the gist. We hadn’t actually wondered about the origins of Barney’s fondness for magic, but turns out that his mentor, Mr. Flanigan, was schtupping his mom.

If Robin can’t be Ted’s mate, and she can’t, then Ashley Williams’s Victoria is the next best thing — except, wait, she can’t be the mother either! So what to make of her hasty return (and her new hair color)? It was hard not to be salty about the fact that HIMYM was going back to that well at the last minute, and then even saltier when it looked like a total misdirect, and truly the saltiest by the time they decided to drive off together into the fakest-looking sunset ever.

But as for the biggest reveal of all: Robin is Barney’s bride! We’re not sure whether or not we saw it coming. We didn’t want to see it coming because their pairing, to us, has mostly been a mistake. But Quinn was obviously being escorted off the show and it wouldn’t have made sense to introduce a totally new character, so it had to be Robin. Regardless, we were just as curious as anyone to see who was in that dress.

And now what? Finding out the identity of both the groom and the bride — a mystery that began at the beginning of season six — comes as more of a relief than a talking point. These two do have chemistry together, but it seems strange to leave Ted out of the inter-gang pair-offs. (Is this where Barney’s sister comes in?) This season wasn’t what we’d hoped for, but there were a few strong episodes: “Trilogy Time,” “Symphony of Illumination,” “Mystery vs. History,” “Disaster Averted,” “The Ducky Tie.” And there was no Zoe (who didn’t enjoy Robin’s burn about her hats?).

The most shocking reveal of all might be this Vulture interview with co-creator Craig Thomas, who says that next season might not be the last! It just has to be. When you’re down to only four of five really good episodes per season versus what used to be close to 24 in earlier years, it is time to wrap it up. It’s not that there wouldn’t be sorrow in saying good-bye to these characters, but do we (do you?) really think HIMYM can entertain us for 48 more episodes?

Photo: Richard Cartwright/Fox Television