'How I Met Your Mother' Recap: 'The Broken Code'
I think How I Met Your Mother retired the bro-code conceit. Neil Patrick Harris' charm made Barney a more lovable character than Barney should've been in the early seasons of the show. The incessant bro-code, stories, and gimmicks made Barney a typical sitcom sidekick character. Carter Bays and Craig Thomas have layered the character in recent seasons while trying to retain what made the character distinctive and memorable in the show's infancy.
"The Broken Code" seems like the first departure from the bro-code, but last season had an episode in which Barney resolved to win Robin's heart the old-fashioned way. Unfortunately, that was a long con by the writers. Barney hadn't changed. Episode 4 of the final season deals with the dreadful triangle. The framing device has been a problem so far. It's an unnecessarily long wedding weekend. Barney's mad at Ted for holding Robin's hand a week earlier at the carousel, but he doesn't tell Ted he's mad. Instead, he passive-aggressively assigns Ted best man tasks that should take more time to complete than it does. Barney's motivations are clear. Ted figures out Barney's motivated by being mad at him, and then the never-ending second act begins.
The triangle's a well-tread story for the show and for me the blogger blogging about How I Met Your Mother. I recall Barney and Ted facing this truth about Ted's feelings for Robin in past episodes. Anyway, the difference this time is Barney's feelings about the matter. Barney feels mad at himself for leaving Robin in the rain alone to look for the locket because he wanted to beat 12 year olds in a paintball game. I guess Barney wants to figure out a way to be there for Barney while retaining what makes him Barney--that's a stretch, though. The dialogue doesn't suggest Barney's wrestling with that, nor does Neil Patrick Harris' acting. The story's more or less filler.
Ted's characterization isn't any different from any other episode of the show. Josh Radnor's often very good as Ted Mosby. Other times he seems like he's trying to get the lead or second lead on a WB drama. HIMYM's conception of romance is the stuff of fairy tales and romantic comedies. HIMYM's idea of love is the stuff that's doomed marriages and relationships. It's the kind of love without choice, which is problematic since every aspect of life is lined with choice. Ted speaks as if his feelings for Robin dictate him rather than him dictating his feelings. Barney's right in telling him to stop, but the point of Barney's line isn't to be right. Barney's question about Ted having the choice to switch off his feelings serves to show how much Ted can't turn it off. HIMYM's the most drawn out romantic-comedy ever.
The boys reach a predictable conclusion. Barney accepts Ted may feel weird about his marriage to Robin the way Barney accepts he'll feel weird about Ted's history and feelings for his future wife. Their entire story could've been told in a single scene, which is one of my complaints about the framing device. Stories get dragged out. It's clever, 'daring,' but so far a waste.
The B story with Robin and Lily addresses Robin's lack of female friendships. Lily wants Robin to have more female friends once she's gone off to Itlay for a year. Robin meets a potential friend, but Lily's jealousy derails the potential friendship. It is a filler story. It's fun to address Robin's issues with female friendship but not for an entire B plot, especially when it adds nothing new to the character or to Lily. We know their friendship matters to both, and we know they can't have other friends because it's a sitcom. The hockey humor continues to be one of the rare bits HIMYM still writes well.
HIMYM used the South Park iPad bit from last year's Halloween episode for Marshall's involvement. Did Jason Segal agree to come back for more money and less interaction with the cast? The man's plate is full, of course, between writing scripts, novels, and acting in movies.
Anyway, "The Broken Code" is very forgettable. Nothing new happened for the character. None learned anything revelatory. Cristin Milioti was absent for the second week in a row.