A lot of shows have relied on meta-references recently. Some sitcoms’ entire premise revolves around them while others slide jabs at itself subtly. How I Met Your Mother has really stepped up the game with writing dialogue about itself. It’s in such a microscopic manner that viewers would most likely think it’s just an interesting plot and that there is nothing more than perfectly timed jokes being delivered.
“Mystery vs. History” gives us an entire show that parallel’s the shows premise. Ted and the gang deal with the struggle of wanting to keep mystery alive in their lives — sort of like how Future Ted has kept the mystery about who the mother is for six whole seasons.
Future Ted begins telling his children how the “art of the bar” debate had gone by the wayside by the time smart phones came around, and that leads to him discussing that there is a wall between people you date because you can check out their profiles online.
When Ted meets a girl (obviously not the mother, so don’t worry), he decides not to research her even though Barney and Robin consistently have been his private investigators and helped him out of dating crazy people in the past. Seeing how awkward the date goes proves that the Internet is helpful for first dates because conversation can be steered in certain directions. Sure, the mystery is gone, but knowing some of a person’s history makes things just a little bit easier.
Perhaps the most Meta plot was Kevin’s, Robin’s former therapist and current boyfriend, as he began noticing disturbing behaviors of the group. Straight from an episode of Seinfeld the group appears more dysfunctional than ever; especially when Kevin points out all of their flaws. Each one is spot on. But it doesn’t really matter to us. We love that Marshall and Lily are co-dependent and that Barney is a narcissistic sex-addict. This episode solidified why HIMYM works so well: because the characters are real and relatable.
This all occurs while the gang is painting Marshall and Lily’s nursery yellow for their future child because they don’t want to know the sex of the baby. Neither seems satisfied, but each one professes their love for mysteries like Sasquatch and Nessie. It’s becoming clear that the expecting parents have been relegated to baby plotlines, which are funny, but something is missing from the craziness of Marshall. So far there have been splashes of classic plots involving him, but nothing on par with the rest of the series.
Marshall is one of the missing ingredients that would push this season from teetering on an A-/B+ to closer to perfection. Another is the lack of progression with Ted. The series has always struggled with balancing stand-alone episodes that connect to other episodes thanks to continuity (like “Mystery vs. History) and major plot-developing episodes that change the course of the series. Not every 22 minutes can be the latter, but those stand-alone episodes need to carry more weight to keep the viewers (and Future Ted’s children) invested in the story. The humor behind HIMYM is great, but the further we get into the story it seems the more I hear people exasperatedly claiming they just want to know who the mother is.
Patience is a great virtue to have and the writers have asked those who have stuck with the hilarious sitcom to have. We’ve been promised earth shattering revelations before and we’ve gotten them. This season is on its way to something big, we just have to sit through a few detours before then.