I am in the rapidly decreasing community of How I Met Your Mother apologists. While many former fans began to turn away from the long running series during the previous seventh season, I found a somber charm in the new episodes. Last week’s Season 8 premiere even had its moments, though isn’t bound to stand out as anything particularly memorable. But this week’s installment, “Pre-Nup,” isn’t basically one big mistake.
The episode isn’t just lacking in the joke department (although the only laughs come from guest star Thomas Lennon, who doesn’t appear to be departing from the series anytime soon despite the complete sacrifice of any semblance of reality in having his character stick around). The episode is actually criminal to the characters of Barney, Ted, and Marshall. The former two have always been shown to have a selfish side, but this hikes it up to levels beyond caricature.
Egged on by a sketchy lawyer played by Bob Odenkirk (God, I miss Breaking Bad…), Barney creates a prenuptial agreement for Quinn to sign, which amounts to a monstrosity of idiotic demands on his part. Quinn is outraged, bringing this information to Lily and Robin (and really, doesn’t she have her own friends? Ditto for Victoria, who joins in on the lambasting of their respective mates), and Barney rushes off to Ted and Marshall for his own whine session (joining the lads is Robin’s beau, Nick… it’s Nick, right? Hard to remember, since he’s barely a person).
So, while Quinn, Lily, Robin, and Victoria lament their men, Barney wins over Ted, Marshall, and Nick, instituting fights in each of their relationships. And no, none of it makes any sense. First off, Marshall and Lily (fighting over the latter forbidding Marshall from bouncing their baby) would never plunge into the sort of idiotic disagreement featured on this episode, especially in the passive-aggressive means displayed. If they were prone to that sort of thing, their relationship would have fallen apart years ago. Secondly, the entire conflict surrounding Ted and Victoria is outlandish: Ted allows Victoria’s ex Klaus to move in with them, towing his ferrets and some unseen family members along with him — eventually, Ted grows to regret this choice, lashing out at Victoria over the whole ordeal. Finally, Robin and Nick: Robin likes to watch herself on report the news while she and Nick make love. But really, who cares? Who the hell is Nick, anyway?
The episode treats none of its characters like the people it has built and developed them to be. Instead of affording each of them individual perspectives on the issue of the pre-nup, it simply takes the old I Love Lucy route, splitting the argument by gender and engraining each character (the males particularly) in a rigidly narrow-minded mentality. Nobody is forgivable here. They’re all just a bunch of idiots, yelling (and not landing punchlines) about nonissues invented for this episode alone.
But the episode does have a point: to break up Barney and Quinn. After a surprisingly earnest speech about overcoming problems to recognize love, delivered by Odenkirk’s shyster lawyer, Lily and Marshall mend things, Robin and Nick fix their situation, and Ted and Victoria klaus the door on the issue (klaussic!). All the problems are whisked away conveniently, as if they never existed in the first place (damn you, television). But Barney and Quinn are left to realize that their problems remain: they don’t trust each other, and they don’t belong together.
Of course, it’s not a completely sad ending, because a “ways down the road” flash-forward at the end of the episode shows Barney enthusiastically celebrating his upcoming wedding to Robin, sure as shootin’ (and in no need of pre-nup) that she’s the one for him. Now, we’re not positive that this mentality maintains, but in the interest of the sweet ending afforded by this episode, many of us should hope so.
But sweet ending aside, the episode is largely a failure. It sacrifices character for jokes — bad jokes — and for the motion of an inevitable but hardly organic plot device. We knew Barney and Quinn would have to break up, but there must have been a more artful path towards this goal. Something organic, patient, satisfying… not a simple bout of hijinks that went particularly awry. But I shouldn’t be complaining. Whatever gets us to the meeting of the mother, I guess.
[Photo Credit: CBS]