The eighth episode of How I Met Your Mother‘s seventh season, “Disaster Averted” aired Monday night, completing the first third of the season. As I watched “Disaster Averted” I found myself laughing as much as I have in the last few seasons, but, more importantly, I found myself feeling the joy that has been missing over the past two seasons. Seasons five and six had strong episodes for sure, but I can’t recall an arc, or string, of episodes that have been as strong both comedically and emotionally as this current run.
“Disaster Averted” was similar in many ways to an earlier episode from this season, “The Ducky Tie.” The two episodes played like two pieces of a whole. Both played with time and balanced multiple stories in ways that gave stakes and import to the current day situation in ways that added value to the season thus far and increased the expectations going forward. But, from my perspective, the season has done a splendid job of ensuring that each individual episode has been strong on its own then fitting it into the framework of the season at large. There are larger story arcs going on – the build to Barney’s wedding, Barney’s love triangle, Lily’s pregnancy – that are being handled well, largely because the individual episodes are working organically toward their resolution. Those steps are much different than how the show seemed to handle the arcs of the past two seasons.
Seasons five and six seemed to have a larger game in mind that simply utilized the episodes of the season as steps to that end. Of course every episode is a step toward an end, but the approach mostly undervalued the importance of the individual episodes within. HIMYM has always been a sitcom with a surprising amount of serialization (we still haven’t met the Mother from the show’s title, though the hints are a common thread found in each season). With the ending of Lost, creators Craig Thomas and Carter Bays began getting a lot of questions about mythology and closure to their series and possible end dates and scenarios. It seemed as though the writing took those things too heavily into consideration expecting that the viewers wanted big, drawn out arcs and missing that the success of the early seasons was to be found in the strength of the episodes and the characters we had grown to know (the same reason Lost was successful for its entire run).
The strength in seasons five and six were in the strong character moments (look at the arcs of Marshall and Barney from last season) and season seven is working in the wheelhouse of those strengths. Ted has lost the insufferable nature that has plagued his character. He’s not whining about not being in love or struggling with a weird relationship (the worst part of season six) and he’s coping with where he is in a way that an adult should. He’s letting things happen as they may, though I’m really interesting to see where the undercurrent of his friendship with Robin will go. Marshall and Lily are excited about their baby and Marshall is in an interesting place professionally. We haven’t spent a lot of time with him there and I’m kind of glad. I’m not the biggest Martin Short fan and he became too comical the last time we saw him. Robin and Barney are both in relationships that seem doomed to fail based upon how little time we’re spending with their significant others and it’s more clear after the ending to “Disaster Averted.”
I’m feeling optimistic about the show. It’s getting incredible ratings and looks to be in strong place creatively. I’m hoping that the strength will continue and that we may actually meet the eponymous Mother by season’s end. There is definitely one season remaining, contractually, and I would love to see the series end before overstaying its welcome. It has consistently been one of my favorite shows on television, even through the frustrating moments, because there has always been a sense of optimism that permeates through the series as well as its ability to transcend shows of similar design. My faith has been restored that the show can end well and I would love for it to happen in a way that finds closure as well as satisfying many of the mysteries laid out (a little different than Lost in that we have seen hints of these stories through flashforwards, though technically flashbacks). There are about 40 episodes left ( to the end of season 8 ) to do that and for HIMYM to end in a way that allows it to leave its mark on television. I’ll be happy to have a tremendous season seven continue to play out in the meantime.