Well that was a step down from Season 6. Not an outright disaster… just a bastion of mediocrity. Definitely a step down.
First, the good: As expected, giving Neil Patrick Harris some dramatic material to work with gives the show great moments. Both his relationships — with soft-hearted Nora or, more effectively, with silver-tongued stripper Quinn — gave him at least a few moments to actually act. They also prevented the show from leaning too heavily on the crutch that ruined Season 5, in my mind: overdoing the whole “playbook” gimmick.
But from there, things got weak pretty quickly. Everything this season tried to do felt tired. The show has hit all these beats before: Ted feels like the world has left him behind; Lily and Marshall adapt to grown up life; Barney confronts hedonistic lifestyle; and Robin weighs career versus personal life.
Only the last two of those — Barney and Robin each considering settling down — felt like anything more than a retread. It was a particularly plot-heavy season for those two, and a lot of it landed with a thud, but a few moments worked well, particularly the Barney ones. The dramatic stuff was mostly okay, never great, but enough to hold the show up.
The most disappointing aspect of the show is the comedy craft. It’s definitely regressed. Episodes like “The Burning Beekeeper” showed potential framework for funny, but failed to delivery any memorable jokes. The only two episodes I can think of that consistently made me smile (let alone laugh) were “Ducky Tie” — as Barney tried to con his way into seeing Lily boobs — and “Trilogy Time” — as the show goes through time having the characters imagine their future in ridiculous ways.
Along with Barney’s two girlfriends (Nazanin Boniadi as Nora and Becki Newton as Quinn), Kal Penn was the third character to play a major guest role –as Robin’s therapist/boyfriend, Kevin. And Penn showed his comedy acting chops, turning in one of the show’s better guest runs yet.
And here’s the part where I pass judgment on some of the big picture choices of the show: I never bought that Barney would end up with Nora or Quinn, nor Robin with Kevin. The show circled around “RoBarn” enough that I wasn’t even remotely surprised to see them as the bride and groom in the flash forwards. I would have been more surprised if it WASN’T them.
One pretty big problem is that the show has trouble writing women well (surprise, surprise). Robin and Lily are easily the least consistent of the main characters, often falling into troublesome stereotypes. The show tacitly approves Barney’s misogyny (with Ted and Marshall occasionally contributing). And, aside from a decent episode here or there, almost every story about a woman has to do with her acting irrationally or getting together with a guy. Blech… this has gotten worse as the show has gone on. It feels like Robin, once a very strong female character, now bounces from guy to guy like she’s in a pinball machine. Oh well.
Ted’s love life — ostensibly the title topic of the show — was pretty quiet this season, with two major hiccups. Curiously, they’re the same hiccups from Season 1: Robin and Victoria. Thus far, I’m completely okay with what the show has done with Ted and Robin. It effectively answered the nagging question: Now that Robin is open to settling down, why haven’t she and Ted thought about getting back together? Answer: Because, apparently, she doesn’t “love him,” and Ted needs to move on from her permanently, swallowing his “great love” for… another great love down the line, I guess?
We’ll see. I’m concerned Season 8 will beat this Ted-Robin thing into the ground, but I’m reserving judgment. So far, no major complaints.
And Victoria. I really loved her reappearance in “Ducky Tie,” easily the season’s best episode (featuring a funny plot and a good dramatic plot). But in the finale, running away with Ted on her wedding day? Assuming Victoria’s not the mom, it just pisses me off that they keep teasing us with Allison Williams and Josh Radnor’s excellent chemistry. Don’t ruin her life, Ted.
So, yeah. Not quite as good as Season 6. A bit more “blah”… just kind of there. But not enough to piss me off just yet.
I’m concerned where next season is going (at least two breakups are on the horizon, and that’s rarely fun), but we’re only two seasons away, so I hope it doesn’t blow it too bad.
Season rankings thus far: 2, 1, 4, 3, 6, 5, 7