Saturday, January 3, 2015

How I Met Tracy - Final Review

After starting at ten to noon yesterday, I finally finished the last three episodes of the eighth season and the entire final season all in one run.

I remember what I wrote sometime last year about points of view. I'd commented that perhaps the writers put too much emphasis on one thing which usually makes people react too badly or happily when it's just one part or aspect of life focused on with a magnifying glass.

After now seeing it all and garnering some credibility - I stand by my objective write-up.

The writers of that show - apparently quoted as wanting to 'write about the stupid things we did in New York' - put five main characters together to blast drama around and at each other for nine seasons. The traditionally married (or set-in-stone-going-to-get-married-early-in-the-third-season) couple, two single guys and one other single girl. No doubt at all she's going to bounce around between them or away from them. The writers created that dynamic and tweaked it around over and over to grease peoples' feelings and hopes, which is a great way to keep the audience into it. And the archetypes are there - Ted's everyman personage, Barney's 'player' image and Marshall/Lily's quirky couple dynamic.

That all being said, I think they did a pretty good job a fair amount of the time. The only issue for me was getting into the later seasons, particularly after the couples' firstborn comes along. The early seasons have Ted and Barney almost merrily holding court amongst the girls at the bar and doing things with enthusiasm. M/L are cute, before and after the drama of their summer separation. Then after good ol' Vicki Lewis steps in to help deliver their baby, things get more disinterested and jaded for Ted, until he's living alone in his own apartment feeling isolated and pessimistic, ready to date the craziest idiot who's reading the same book as him on the subway. I wasn't particularly in to the eighth season. The best episode from that season alone was the one focusing on "Robin Sparkles" turning into "Robin Daggers" in an obvious parody of Alanis Morissette. I never expected to see Gino Vanelli's 70s portrait fill my screen via an episode of H...IMYM. Otherwise, by that point I was eagerly waiting for him to finally meet the darn mother.

I loved Cristin Milloti as the mother (Tracy). As soon as I saw her I had to smile. I loved how she appeared throughout the ninth season, though my patience was really tested for their first meeting (which is one of the last actual scenes of the series). I felt for Ted; the previous season he wasn't in a good place, and he'd been through a tonne of crap over the series (as every main character typically goes through in any series). Here was his saviour. The woman to change and make his life complete like he'd always wanted and dreamed of. She even looks like she could be his wife. I was overjoyed at her appearance. If I didn't like something the writers did, it was limit her actual appearances and interactions to small little flash-forwards and pictures and quick little scenes, a lot of which involved everyone else before Ted.

I can also see the viewer's feeling of being cheated when Robin/Barney split up in the final episode after an entire series based around their wedding weekend, as well as all of Barney's schemes and actions and determination to actually get her (pretending to be with her co-worker Patrice, etc.) but I repeat what I mean about the writers focusing a lot on one thing, and to be objective, that to me was how it had to work. They had to make Barney jump through hoops and plans to get Robin - and then focus on her entire weekend for a season. If that doesn't show a characters' full depth and breadth as a person, if that doesn't elevate someone like Barney from a one-dimensional superficial cartoon of a person, I don't know what would. They divorced for a very reasonable reason - he couldn't keep up with her business travelling.

I think it was a good ending, and I'm happy that Ted's children insist on his pursuing of Robin. It is the story of how he met their mother - at the end of a huge story of how he felt around, with, about, and for Robin. I think Tracy does deserve more time and space and attention, way more - but the fact that it really was all about Robin is also definitely sweet.

From the first season where they're enthusiastic twenty-somethings ready to sword-fight and play "Have You Met...?" to grown-up characters who more or less move on in many ways, I think this series deserves a pretty good mark. The downsides are the pessimistic view of dating it tended to give me towards the end as well as Tracy's limited screen time, and the positives are its realistic writing, its handling of all the relationship dynamics (regardless of the attention/focus some of those dynamics got) and consistency. I love that a super-minor character like chauffeur Ranjit can appear as a cab driver in the Pilot episode when Ted goes after Robin, then appear randomly throughout every season until near the end of the very last, as well as so many other minor characters. One of the most powerful scenes for me was one the flash-forwards of the final season where Marshall and Lily, a year later, are in Italy arguing about snack food until Marshall's mother and Lily's father come in with their toddler and baby girl in a pram; Marshall gets down next to the stroller and peeks at his baby daughter. That's a beautiful moment to me right there. I hope I have a moment like that in the future.

There are so many other things to laud and nitpick (why did Bob Saget narrate only to be replaced with a grey-haired Ted in the second-last scene with his own voice?) but it's late and I've got my life to return to, so...

How I Met Your Mother: B+

It was a long, binge-watching journey (finished this in roughly four weeks). I'm happy I watched it. It was lovely.

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