Season 6, Episode 1: "Big Days"
No spoiler alert necessary for the season 6 premiere: Alas, but unsurprisingly, we did not meet the titular mother -- and it would be silly to expect her veil to be lifted before the very end of the entire series. As excellent as How I Met Your Mother is, in a by-the-books, Friends sort of way, it clearly has no life without its gimmick, which will forever paint the show into a corner. But first, much like the interruptive, flashback-heavy sequencing of HIMYM itself ...
... A rerecap: Last season ended with Marshall and Lily finally agreeing to have a baby; Robin breaking up with her onetime coanchor, Don, after he takes a job that she passed up in Chicago; Barney, well, being Barney; and Ted almost making out with Robin but ultimately moping on in his wife-lorn existence.
Enter the premiere, which kicked off with a potential bang, served up some solid laughs, and, per the series’ M.O., ended with a sitcom-style cliffhanger.
The episode opened with a decidedly non-Lost-style flashforward that saw Ted at what seemed to maybe, just maybe be his future wedding. He starts peeling off the label from his beer bottle, which Marshall confirms is his nervous tic. And then -- yeah, cut to the bar, present day, Ted still nervously peeling off his beer label while contemplating approaching a nearby girl. The usual MacLaren’s shenanigans -- Barney and Ted arguing about dibs on the girl, who it turns out is the girlfriend of Ted’s former one-night fling (returning guest star Rachel Bilson); Robin, still in physical disarray over her breakup, proves to Barney that she can quickly flip on her hotness switch; and Marshall and Lilly dance their usual fight/make up tango, again resolutely agreeing on conception (but hinting that she may have trouble giving birth) -- are punctuated by the continuation of the opening scene, which turns out not to be Ted’s wedding but the fateful wedding at which he will meet ... ‘Mother’!
All in all, the hint that ended the sixth-season premiere isn’t anything to get too excited about. Carter Bays and Craig Thomas have proven season after season that they can milk the tiniest little nugget of a hint for an entire season, if not multiple seasons. But this episode summed up what most, myself included, feel about How I Met Your Mother: While the near-eternal holdout on the big reveal is frustrating, annoying and even cheap, no one minds waiting when the meat of the series, traditional and sitcom-y though it may be, is this enjoyable. Still, here's hoping that Bays and Thomas make good on their promises of "game-changers" this season.