I Am Ted Mosby (or) Why How I Met Your Mother needed a ninth season

HIMYM9“You’re not a Ted,” my fiance, Erin, told me Monday night. “You’re more of a Marshall, with a little Barney mixed in.”

She means this as a compliment, of course, and I take it as such, but that doesn’t mean I necessarily agree. She goes on to explain that, over the course of the eight years we’ve known him, How I Met Your Mother‘s Ted Mosby has been a jerk several times — spending years pining over a girl that has made it clear she does not feel the same way, making a complete ass of himself in the pursuit of others, often neglecting his friends or even turning on them in the process, and most noticeably, whining, whining, whining… Oh sure, as HIMYM viewers we’re still rooting for him, but like a lot of shows, the ostensible protagonist of How I Met Your Mother is often the least interesting character.

And she’s right, she’s right about all of this. But even though Erin knows me better than anyone in the world, the truth is, she has only ever known me as part of a couple. She knows the Blake that is complete because of her presence, not the one who spent years feeling empty for the lack thereof. Like Ted, I often deluded myself about the chances of success with whoever I was infatuated with at the time. Like Ted I could be whiny, even obnoxious. Fortunately for me, like Ted, I have a group of heroically loyal and supportive friends who never abandoned me no matter how bad I got. (Thanks guys… sorry about that.)

Erin says I’m a Marshall, and that may well be true… now. But what she has never seen is that Blake minus Erin equals Ted.

And it is because of this, I think, that I remain steadfast in my enthusiasm to finally see Ted Mosby find the Mother of his children.

Last night began the ninth and final season of How I Met Your Mother, and from the outset it is clear this will be very different from the previous eight. First of all, the entire season is going to be set during the three days of Robin and Barney’s wedding weekend… the “present day” timeframe, at any rate. The show has always played fast and loose with time, allowing for flashbacks and flashforwards at will to let us glimpse the lives of our heroes as a puzzle being put together one piece at a time. Still, by condensing the entire “present” into a 56-hour period, the show has a sense of urgency that’s rare in a sitcom.

Of greater importance, though, is the fact that the series, for the first time since its inception, has made an addition to the regular cast: Cristin Milioti as the still-unnamed Mother. We glimpsed her for the first time in the closing moments of season eight, and she’s signed as a series regular for season nine. This is vital to the new show we have this year. While the first eight seasons were ultimately about Ted, season nine must be about Her.

When it was announced that HIMYM would get a ninth season, halfway through an eighth most people (myself included) assumed would be the final lap, the question arose: why are they making a ninth season  at all? Season eight brought us right to the brink of Ted meeting the mother. Why not just work it into a massive wedding finale and be done with it? What is season nine going to give us that we couldn’t have had otherwise?

Last night, we got our answer. The first half of the episode showed the Mother’s initial encounter with one of Ted’s group when she bonded with Lily on their train ride to Farhampton. We saw the chemistry she had with someone we already loved and learned a few things about her that start to paint the picture of a woman tailor-made for Ted Mosby. In the second half, a show that is already famous for how it plays with time found a new way to do it, overlaying a scene of a solitary “present-day” Ted with a flashforward of him with the Mother one year into the future. The contrast is striking — a quiet, lonely man trying to convince himself he’s not any of those particular adjectives, compared to the same man just one year later, complete, joyful, and whole perhaps for the first time in the show’s history.

The experience of watching it, I imagine, is not unlike that of one of my friends who saw me before and after I met Erin.

When you start dating someone, there is always a process of “selling” them to your friends and family. With Erin it was an easy sell, because she’s awesome and my friends are not stupid, but the process is there nonetheless. You show how great the person is, how lucky you feel and — most satisfying to those who care about you — how happy you are together. That’s the prize for those friends who stood with you through the lonely years: the joy on your face when those years are over. But how do you do that when the implied ending of the show, from the outset, is meeting Her, before we actually get to the payoff?

And that, my friends, is what we need the ninth season for. It’s to sell us on Her. The show will almost certainly end with Ted meeting Her at that fateful train station, but we need to somehow see the aftermath, the scenes of a broken man finally put back together, that happiness that we’ve waited on for such a long time. Through a mixture of Her interaction with the rest of the cast and glimpses and allusions to the future Ted and the Mother will have together, the ninth season is here to prove to us that She has been worth the wait.

And judging just from the few scenes we’ve glimpsed of the Mother so far (Cristin Miglioti is flawlessly charming, sweet, and as dorky as Ted in all the right ways), I feel like we’re going to be sold pretty easily.

In a way, I’m upset to see it end. This is without a doubt the most heartfelt, emotionally sincere television comedy on the air, and while there are other shows I like, there is nothing else on right now that makes me feel for, care about, and root for the characters the way How I Met Your Mother has done for so long. After the final scenes, the final flashforward, the final lonesome moment of Ted Mosby’s life has come and gone, there will be a gaping hole in the television landscape. Something will eventually come along to fill the gap, something always does, but to take the place of this show is going to take something… well, there’s only one word for it… legendary.

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September 2013

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