After last week’s recycled zaniness, it was a relief to see HIMYM return to topically sound territory. It’s been a while since the writers have come up with such a resonant, plausible, amusing story arc, but “Who Wants to Be a Godparent?” struck a chord. Last season, new parents Marshall and Lily said that their friends’ drama needed to rate as an eight or higher in order to command their attention. That seemed fair, at least for the duration of Marvin’s infancy. Newborns are trying, and Barney’s schemes to sleep with women have tried us all. But babies are also challenging for those around them as friendships are neglected in favor of these tiny, unreasonable, pre-verbal humans.
After five months, Marshall and Lily finally have their first night out together. (If Chris Elliott’s new role as nanny allows for more Marshall and Lily, we’ll tolerate him. Also? Chris Elliott was mercifully absent from the episode.) In a callback to the Eriksen-Aldrin edict of the finale, the gang doesn’t have that much to share — or they do, but they’re worried about where their stories rank. Ted might have to pay Victoria’s dad back for the wedding (which is ridiculous, since Klaus was going to leave her at the altar anyway). Robin discovered that Nick’s motorcycle was an ecofriendly “lady-bone killer.” Barney slept with a girl who wasn’t an eight. Marshall and Lily bail soon after their arrival, saying they need alone time. Side note: Does anyone notice how much day-drinking this gang does? Just last season, Ted called Victoria to McLaren’s long before the sunset.
Anyway, Marshall and Lily find themselves worrying about their own mortality and wondering to whom they would entrust little Marvin in the event of their untimely death, and thus a game of “Who Wants to Be a Godparent” commenced. (For reasons that were not entirely believable, the grandparents were dismissed, in which case, Ted was obviously the only realistic candidate. The three of them go back the longest, and he’s the only one who’s really interested in the responsibility.) But the game leads to a rather poignant moment for everyone, as Robin, Ted, and Barney admit that they feel slighted by Marshall and Lily’s new priorities. It was a fight on the verge of happening among any friends in this situation, as each side accuses the other of being selfish. Marshall and Lily are a little derisive toward the nonparents in the room, with Lily adding “the days of closing down McLaren’s are over.” Ted: “So, that’s it, the end of an era, just like that?” Yeah, it got pretty real, and the gang’s disappointment was relatable. If they don’t close down McLaren’s anymore, what are we doing here?
What we liked:
- Marshall and Lily’s fast-forwarded fight. It wasn’t as good as the time Lily mutated and multiplied (a lot of reminders of “Bagpipes” this season), but if you hit pause, some of Marshall’s gestures were pretty telling, particularly his miming of Lily’s mother’s drinking.
- Marshall’s game-show host. It’s no surprise that his game-playing prowess has led him here, and “Who Wants to Be a Godparent?” was much easier to understand than Marshgammon. His cadence had just the right mix of corny condescension.
- The rather serious exchange between Marshall and Barney when Marshall says that none of his friends knows what it means to be a parent. Barney’s response: “Obviously, neither of you know what it means to be a friend anymore.” Neil Patrick Harris is so talented, but his dramatic muscles are so rarely exercised. He delivered that line with the perfect amount of disgust.
- Lily’s sadness at her own death. If you think about it, it is depressing to wonder who will get your mail.
- Yet another reference to Jason Segel’s ample manhood. (Robin: “Lily got a little braggy at a cucumber stand once.”) This must be in this guy’s contract by now.
- Barney’s riposte to Ted’s insistence that Cleveland sports still matter without LeBron: “Neither you nor Cleveland knows how to get over someone leaving them.”
- Teenage Marvin’s enthusiasm for Ted’s rapping.
- Robin’s leather ensemble. Maybe after The Avengers, Cobie Smulders made some demands. (This is a superficial complaint, but in earlier seasons, Robin and Lily rocked some very stylish outfits. The costume department is really out to lunch lately. What happened?)
What we didn’t like:
- Professor Infosaurus. Sometimes, Ted is embellished with irritable quirks that make perfect sense. In “Spoiler Alert,” another hall of fame episode, we discovered that he has a tendency to pretentiously correct people. But would Ted use an obnoxious puppet to talk to children? We don’t think so, and it stands in contrast to the way he talks to his own kids, which is, you know, the premise of the entire series. But speaking of, did Future Ted’s kids appear to be reacting to the puppet, or do you think that was stock footage? Looked a little like the latter.
- In general, Robin was pretty slick this episode — possibly a little too slick. She was practically spitting tobacco when delivering the “double hommie on your block” line. Also, this was a little on the nose: “As the only one of us here packing a vag, I’ve got a natural instinct for nurturing and crap like that.”
- Barney’s perverse nursery rhymes, “Bro MacDonald,” “Bro, Bro, Bro Your Boat,” and “The Boobs on the Bus.”
- Lily granting custody to all three of her friends. That’s impractical, and Ted really did deserve it. But overall, the ending, with Robin and Ted pitching in to help with Marvin’s early rising, was classic HIMYM. The show’s been low on bonding moments, and this one was truly pretty touching.