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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

How I Met Your Mother 9x19: Vesuvius

WTF?!?

Seriously.

W...T....F. 

If we are to take the implication of the final scene of this episode at face value, it seems that at some point between that scene, set in 2024, and 2030 (the year of SagetTed's narration), the Mother is going to die (presumably of a terminal illness, since they seem aware of her impending death in this episode). Now, the idea that the Mother's death is what prompts SagetTed to tell his kids this ridiculously long story has long been a theory proposed by some fans (along with a corollary that this would allow him to be with Robin in the future, hence explaining the show's seemingly odd fascination with that relationship in spite of its titular premise), but I've always assumed that was just a whacky fan theory (akin to how fans theorized that all the plot threads on Lost would eventually pay off).

But unless this episode is just one HUGE misdirect, it seems that is the road Bays and Thomas are going down, and that's just...wrong. There's no better word for it. It betrays the spirit of the show, and there's simply not enough time left in the remaining episode to properly handle a situation of this magnitude, which means that, in the end, the Mother as a character is going to be even more marginalized than she already is. Not only that, but it guarantees the series is going to end on a huge downer, juxtaposing what is supposed to be a happy day (Robin and Barney's wedding, Ted meeting The One) with tragedy, which is pretty much the opposite of how a comedy, especially one as generally genial and effusive as this one, should end. It's just wrong, and I can't believe professional writers could possibly think otherwise.

I hope me and the rest of the internet are wrong about this, that this all just a big misdirection and the Mother is going to have recovered between 2024 and 2030 (which would just make Bays and Thomas dicks for messing around with us like this) or something, but I have a feeling I'm not. This entire season has been built on a number of questionable-to-bad ideas, after all (setting it entirely over the wedding weekend, featuring the Mother so sparingly): how better to end, then on the worst idea of them all? 

Other Thoughts
How was the rest of the episode? Fine, I guess. Not terribly funny, and a little more clip show-y in its callbacks than other episodes this season, but (precursor of the wrongheaded direction of the rest of the series aside) it wasn't bad. The plot at least addressed one of my primary concerns brought on by the teaser of the episode last week (why wouldn't Barney, of all people, already have a suit ready for his wedding day? Turns out he did, he just didn't like it, which was fine).

That said, it was a little odd that they went with a "Barney's inability to pick a suit mirrors his anxieties over getting married" storyline, considering we already saw that plot in relation to his ties in a flashforward last season. I hope we at least circle back to that tie scene at some point.

The visual trick of the suit not fitting well on Barney until he accepts it, at which point the camera pulls back and it fits perfectly, was neat. 

Tracey Ullman as Robin's mom? Sure, why not. 

Also, kudos on bringing back Lucy Hale as Robin's sister (and remembering she had a sister), but what are the odds this is the last we'll see of her? 

Are we meant to assume that the present day stuff in this episode was what 2024 Ted was telling the Mother, or was this SagetTed telling his kids about the time he told their mother about the time that Robin broke a lamp on her wedding day? Does it even matter?

At first, I took 2024 Ted's sadness to mean his mom died and didn't make it to his wedding, but then realized the Mother specifically said "what mother wouldn't make it to her daughter's wedding" and realized 2024 Ted was sad because the Mother wouldn't be at her daughter's wedding. 

The Mother's worry that Ted will get lost in his stories could also be read as a further indication of her impending death (ie she's worried he won't move on after she's gone). 

If they really are going to kill off the Mother, why the hell wasn't she introduced sooner, so we could get to know her and not feel like her death is a major copout? How in the hell was this going to work if the creators had stuck to her original plan and not shown her until the literal moment Ted met her? "And that's how I met your mother, kids. Also, as you know, she's dead now. The end."

I also find it hard to believe that Ted's kids would have been as flippant about this story (as they often were in the early seasons) if it was being told about their dead mother.

10 comments:

  1. Harshest. Review. Ever.

    Seriously, I'm not sure that I've ever seen you so worked up, Teebore. (Though I'm really glad that I didn't bother to watch this season.)

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  2. Could be worse. I thought it was going to be revealed that there was no mother, and the kids he was talking to were just a part of a delusion. (or the dream of some kid with Autism - what a twist....30 years ago!)

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  3. At first I was annoyed with Lily this episode. More specifically her meddling and insistence that everybody must act according to her rules. A wedding is a big moment and that means Robin MUST get emotional and freak out and that there's something wrong with being laid back on your wedding day. It is possible, despite what sitcoms say, to have a calm wedding day.

    At the same time, what the hell is Robin doing lounging in the room when the wedding is just hours away? Screw being laid back, there's only so much time in the day! You need be getting in the wedding dress (which she probably should have prepared for for the pictures anyway) and getting your hair and makeup done!

    And, of course, the fact that Barney doesn't have a suit already picked out is ridiculous. Seriously, this is the worst planned out wedding I've ever heard of. The bride is unaware of whose in the wedding party!

    Anyway....

    "(akin to how fans theorized that all the plot threads on Lost would eventually pay off)"

    What gullible fans would actually believe that....Teebore?

    "The visual trick of the suit not fitting well on Barney until he accepts it, at which point the camera pulls back and it fits perfectly, was neat."

    Is that what that was? I didn't pick up on that. I'm....not a smart man.

    "At first, I took 2024 Ted's sadness to mean his mom died and didn't make it to his wedding, but then realized the Mother specifically said "what mother wouldn't make it to her daughter's wedding" and realized 2024 Ted was sad because the Mother wouldn't be at her daughter's wedding."

    I actually thought this too but have been convinced they were, in fact, alluding to the Mother dying.

    But, regardless, let's take a look at the possibilities.

    1. Ted's mother dies.

    This would be a fine story to go with in a vacuum but, with only 5 episodes left, there's no time to give the story the time and weight it would need, especially with all the wedding shenanigans abound.

    2. 2024 Mother is seemingly ill, but through flash-forwards we'll find out that it was just a false alarm and she's A-OK in 2030.

    Ummmm...OK. That's a needless plot point that I guess could've worked but there's no time to give it the time and weight it would need. It would be superfluous.

    3. 2030 Ted is talking to the kids while the Mother is in hospital presumably on her death bed. However, the show ends with her surviving and getting a full bill of health.

    I guess that's a way to go. It'll give the show's ending another (if not completely unnecessary) feel good moment. At the same time, it's completely disingenuous because we've never gotten to know the Mother and, even if we did, we don't know she's sick so we don't even have time to be worried.

    What if, in the second to last episode, Ted suddenly thinks he has cancer. Then, in the final episode it turns out he doesn't. How silly and manipulative would that be? Now they'd be doing that with a character we barely know?

    4. The mother dies.

    I think you said all that's needed to be said about that. It betrays all expectations this show has set up. Lords knows, when I tuned into the series the one thing I was looking for was a serious dramatic look at mortality and how short our lives can be on this spinning hunk of rock.

    Oh, and since we don't even know the mother we're more said for Ted than the Mother. Really, this series would amount to Ted being mopey and down looking for "the one" and then, finally, against all odds he finds "the one" only to watch her die...I...I've got nothing else to say.

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  4. this would allow him to be with Robin in the future, hence explaining the show's seemingly odd fascination with that relationship in spite of its titular premise

    For ages I was convinced "the mother" wasn't actually going to be Ted's wife, and it was all a story about Ted and Robin adopted/used a surrogate; an idea that seemed vindicated when it was revealed Robin can't have kids. Which is, I humbly submit, about eighteen thousand times a better twist than having Ted's wide die.

    Either way, I submit this show should be renamed "How We Had Our Cake And Ate It".

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  5. No one has pointed out yet that if The Mother dies, this will be the second sitcom to feature Bob Saget as a widower raising his kids alone.

    And speaking of Saget, it cracks me up that somehow in the six years between 2024 and 2030, Ted's voice will somehow change from Josh Radnor's to Saget's.

    Anyway, I agree with you, Teebore and Co., on what a downer it would be to have the entire series turn out to have been Ted giving a eulogy to his kids about their mom. And it makes it even more effed up that he has told them about the dozens of women he hooked up with before he met her (which was questionable to begin with)!

    It's just a terrible creative decision all around.

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  6. @Michael: Seriously, I'm not sure that I've ever seen you so worked up, Teebore. (Though I'm really glad that I didn't bother to watch this season.)

    I don't think a development on a show has pissed me off this much since Lost ended, and even then, since I didn't mind the finale in and of itself, most of my ire grew well after I'd finished writing about it.

    Up to this point, I'd even have recommended you check out the season in some convenient manner, just on the strength of the Mother, but now? Don't bother.

    @FuryofFirestorm:Could be worse.

    This is true, though I'd really have preferred to not have to resort to that defense for this show. :)

    @Dr. Bitz:At the same time, what the hell is Robin doing lounging in the room when the wedding is just hours away? Screw being laid back, there's only so much time in the day!

    Thanks for bringing that up - I meant to, then forgot. Needless to say, yeah, I agree. Robin being lackadaisical about the whole thing, fine. But getting ready for a wedding is, like, an all day thing, even for the groom, let alone the bride. There's barely time to eat, let alone kick back with a movie, and we're already well into the afternoon at this point.

    What gullible fans would actually believe that.... Teebore?

    It's not our fault! We were lied to! LIED TO!

    Oh, and since we don't even know the mother we're more sad for Ted than the Mother.

    That's another thing that bugs me too, as it further robs the Mother as a character of what little agency they've given her.

    Your outline of the possibilities pretty much says it all. There's just no good way for this to end at this point.

    @Space Squid: Either way, I submit this show should be renamed "How We Had Our Cake And Ate It".

    Seriously.

    @Matt: No one has pointed out yet that if The Mother dies, this will be the second sitcom to feature Bob Saget as a widower raising his kids alone.

    Ha! That *almosts* makes this twist worthwhile. :p

    And it makes it even more effed up that he has told them about the dozens of women he hooked up with before he met her (which was questionable to begin with)!

    Right? It was already odd when he was just like "here's a bunch of women I banged before I met your mother". It becomes creepy and insensitive when you add the word "dead" in front of "mother"...

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  7. @Teebore: "I don't think a development on a show has pissed me off this much since Lost ended."

    Heroes comes to mind. But that was a relatively slow descent rather than a singular, outrageous moment.

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  8. // I've always assumed that was just a whacky fan theory (akin to how fans theorized that all the plot threads on Lost would eventually pay off) //

    Ha! Nice.

    That said, I didn't take the implication that you did — I have to admit that it didn't even occur to me that the reference was to the Mother herself until I came across a piece about it online. I'm not arguing with you: When it comes to the question of whether everyone else is reading something into the material that isn't there or I am being thick, I have to assume the latter. I just didn't interpret it that way at all, to the point of wondering why the episode was ending on Ted crying about the memory of his mother not making it to his and the Mother's wedding. (As far as the pronoun goes, I would say that extrapolating from "daughter" to "child"/"son" is not a stretch, but point taken.)

    I should add that while the Mother having recently died or being on her deathbed as 2030 Ted relates this story to their kids is a bummer of a context, to say the absolute least, it doesn't compare to the morbidly manipulative grade-A schmuckery that would be Bays & Thomas knowing about the theory and throwing out a misdirect on it here. "She doesn't die! Psyche!" is just... I can't even.

    Your objection to the inappropriateness of this development isn't off base; I guess I've just been so confounded by the boundaries and digressions of the story that the whole series is telling that having a reason for it to begin with Ted meeting Robin would be appreciated. The fact that I'm not a heartless bastard is an indication of just how welcome a reason, any reason, would be. Or something?

    I yield, however, to Dr. Bitz's excellent point about how the show is about Ted's belief in and search for his one true love, whom he finally accepts is not Robin, only to have him find someone else at Robin's wedding, raise children with her, and watch her die after which he's reunited with Robin. That is a great big middle finger to expectations that the show itself insisted upon as the core of its premise worthy of Damon Lindelof.

    My own big WTF for this episode was it being another flashback to the present from a scene in which Ted and the Mother are just casually hanging out, the show returning to the well of using that as the framework when it never has before this season just because the Mother has now been cast, we have met her, and therefore she can be shown on screen. Hand-in-hand with this, in a smaller way but relevant to your wondering whether we'll see Robin's sister again, is the fact that she, at least, should have been in the imaginary wedding photos seen in the "Weekend at Barney's" fake-out — other characters, too, probably.

    I don't get how Barney didn't have a suit picked just because most wedding parties have the groomsmen in suits matching that of the groom. This could be a more laid-back affair, no tuxes with matching vests or cummerbunds, but I'm pretty sure I heard Lily mention that she'd be wearing that wedding gown in place of a bridesmaid's dress. Also, I really can't fathom how Robin is just hangin' out with the ceremony hours away.

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  9. @FuryOfFirestorm: // I thought it was going to be revealed that there was no mother, and the kids he was talking to were just a part of a delusion. //

    That was Robin. So even on this show it's already been done. I will, however, see your dream of a kid with autism and raise you waking up as your previous sitcom character.

    @DrBitz: // [W]hat the hell is Robin doing lounging in the room when the wedding is just hours away? //

    I'd maybe be willing to chalk it up to sitcom-world rules, even though they're almost aggressively flaunting how little these characters seem to have to do before the ceremony, if it weren't for the fact that after the night they've had they should not only want to but need to keep moving lest they faceplant into the land of Zzz.

    @SpaceSquid: // Either way, I submit this show should be renamed "How We Had Our Cake And Ate It". //

    Good one.

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  10. @Blam: That is a great big middle finger to expectations that the show itself insisted upon as the core of its premise worthy of Damon Lindelof.

    Well said. More and more, this episode has me thinking of Lost, and Lindelof in particular, and not in good ways.

    My own big WTF for this episode was it being another flashback to the present from a scene in which Ted and the Mother are just casually hanging out, the show returning to the well of using that as the framework when it never has before this season just because the Mother has now been cast

    There's part of me that hopes that the absence of SagetTed as narrator in this episode means something, in that, since he's not telling us/his kids this story, it's unreliable, but that could just be wishful thinking.

    And that's all unrelated to your point that yeah, it's frustrating when they do stuff like this now just because they can, when there were plenty of stories in the past that probably could have been framed by a Ted/Mother discussion in the future.

    Again, cake and eating it too.

    if it weren't for the fact that after the night they've had they should not only want to but need to keep moving lest they faceplant into the land of Zzz.

    I'd never even thought of that - put aside any discussion of what all needs to be done on a wedding day, but Robin got almost literally NO SLEEP the previous night - how the hell is she able to even stay awake to watch a movie? My head would be nodding in that chair...

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