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Sunday, January 30, 2011

How I Met Your Mother' Review: Is Tragedy a Good Thing?

It's always a delicate situation when comedies delve into tragedy. During its six seasons, How I Met Your Mother has never gone into genuine tragedy, but all that changed last night.

HIMYM has had plenty of sad moments, but they've all circled around romantic relationships, from Marshall and Lily's break-up to Stella leaving Ted. But in "Bad News," after a rather enjoyable episode, tragedy struck when Marshall learned that his father had died suddenly.

The tonal shift came out of nowhere despite a running countdown throughout the episode (numbers appeared on various props in descending order leading up to the revelation). I like it when sitcoms add emotional depth, but only if it makes sense within the context of the show. But after six seasons of light-hearted romantic comedy, I wasn't prepared for Marshall's dad to die out of the blue.

Still, I'm willing to hold off judgment. My first inclination is to be mortified that HIMYM would manipulate me into sadness with a random tragedy, but then I remembered what show I'm watching. Nothing happens by accident, so I can only assume that the death of Marshall's father will play a larger role in the show's mythology.

However, the episode wasn't all tragedy and it would be foolish to only review the last 30 seconds. There were also plenty of references to the show's deep mythology. Robin's old co-anchor Sandy Rivers (played by Alyson Hannigan's real-life husband Alexis Denisof) returned as did a montage of Robin's greatest hits, from "Let's Go to the Mall" to her falling into manure. But as entertaining as it was, I was painfully distracted by Robin's glasses which made her look like Tina Fey's identical cousin.

We also met the actual fifth doppelganger, a fertility specialist who looks exactly like Barney. His appearance was supposed to be a sign for Marshall and Lily to have a child, but instead it served as a portent of death. Much like the Slap Bet, the appearance of the doppelgangers has been a great addition toHIMYM and I hope they will come back at some point. I think we'd all like to know what Lesbian Robin is up to.

Overall, I'm still uneasy about this episode. I enjoyed everything up until Marshall's father died, but it's hard to see anything beyond that moment. Hopefully HIMYM will use this tragedy to get back on track.

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