Saturday, July 17, 2010

HIMYM 5.23: "The Wedding Bride"

“There is only one street where that is normal. Here’s a hint: a giant, yellow bird lives on it.”

I could see “The Wedding Bride” trying to be everything that the best episodes of HIMYM are. There was an in-depth look at a specific aspect of the dating world, callbacks to past episodes, a silly show within a show that could totally be a hit web video, and a sentimental ending. Note I used the word “trying,” though. The whole of this episode did not add up to the sum of its parts. I’d say that maybe it’s because the characters have gone beyond the point in life I can identify with (since I’m in my mid-20s, I mostly identify with the situations they face in seasons 1 and 2), but I honestly think there’s more to it than that. It felt hollow and like it was going through the motions. It wasn’t an awful viewing experience, but it wasn’t especially great either. I generally expect better from the penultimate episode of a season of HIMYM. This is when big, emotional things generally happen.

The subject of the episode is baggage. Apparently, ever since the Stella debacle, Ted has be very wary of dating any women with baggage. The concept of baggage is illustrated by large pieces of luggage with major issues printed on them. Ted’s, for instance, would say “Left at the altar.” He just doesn’t realize that yet. Ted is dating a woman named Royce, but he says he’s reluctant to open up to her because of how his heart got stomped on when Stella left him at the altar. Apparently, this is the explanation for his recent parade of women he’s dating. He goes on a few dates, discovers the woman has baggage, and hightails it out of there. The thing is, he hasn’t yet discovered that Royce has any baggage. She’s seems perfectly together and stable and happy. She’s kind of boring though. Maybe lack of character development for Royce is why I found this episode to be somewhat lacking. The big romantic comedy parody ending (spoilers…sorry) doesn’t have the same punch if you don’t care about one of the characters.

When Ted is discussing this dilemma with the gang at MacLaren’s, Marshall claims to have no baggage. The rest of the group begs to differ. Bottom line is that Marshall is “too nice.” He’s sweet and polite to people to an absurd degree and therefore gets walked all over. There’s a kind of fun fantasy sequence of Marshall happily skipping down a street, greeting everyone he sees, and joining in a round of break dancing. Later in the episode, the situation gets more serious when Lily tells Robin that Marshall insisted they help a couple of people move out of an apartment, only to discover too late that they were actually helping out burglars (not robbers, which is what Lily actually said to Robin…as far as we know, the occupants of the apartment were not home to have their belongings taken by force or threat of force). I didn’t even laugh at this joke, because HIMYM has used it before, and to much funnier effect, in last season’s episode “Murtaugh.” In that episode, Barney and Robin accidentally help burglars empty an apartment when Barney is trying to complete everything on Ted’s “Murtaugh List” of stuff he’s too old to do.

Speaking of Barney, this episode has a rather disappointing lack of Barney. Barney is not in most scenes at MacLaren’s (he is in the one from which the Quote of the Episode was taken, though), and he shows up at the movie theatre Ted and Royce later patronize just for several second comedy bits here and there throughout the second half of the episode. Barney really is the best thing left about this show to me when the writers are remembering to keep him a bit human. The only thing that really made the lack of Barney tolerable to me was that I’d bet the reason for it is that Neil Patrick Harris was off filming the spectacular Joss Whedon directed episode of “Glee,” “Dream On.” I’d gladly take one episode of HIMYM that is low on Barney in exchange for what was one of my favorite episode of television this year (not overall, but definitely this year).

Ted’s story starts to take an interesting turn when he and Royce take a trip to see the new hit movie “The Wedding Bride.” Ted knows he’s in trouble when he sees that the movie was written by Tony, the guy Stella left Ted for. The movie turns out to be a super cheesy romantic comedy telling the story of the Ted/Stella/Tony triangle from the point of view that Tony was the hero and Ted was the villain. Tony doesn’t try at all to hid the real-life story his movie is based upon. The villain’s name is “Jed Mosely,” and he wears red cowboy boots. Although there are some aspects of “Jed” that ring true like the boots and the way he pronounces “encyclopedia,” there are also plenty of things about Jed that are unfairly exaggerated. Jed doesn’t care about Stella at all and views her more as a possession than a person. I’ve been known to enjoy watching a romantic comedy here and there, but I prefer rom coms where the “villain” isn’t so moustache-twirling. “Sweet Home Alabama” would be a great example of that, I think. The first time I saw it, I think I actually rooted for Patrick Dempsey’s character to end up with Reese Witherspoon’s character by the end, even though it was clear that wasn’t how it was going to end up.

Ted tries for a while to keep his identity as “Jed” a secret from Royce. The rest of the gang (who rather gleefully go to see the movie and bask in how successful the movie is) try to convince Ted that he should come clean with Royce. Ted, naturally, doesn’t take the advice, and he ends up making a complete ass of himself in front of Royce and her friends. They’re all talking about how great “The Wedding Bride” is, and Ted’s being bitter about it. Because Royce doesn’t know the whole story, she just thinks Ted is being a jerk for no good reason. When Ted laments about this to the rest of the group (minus Barney…like I said, unfortunate lack of Barney in this one…), Marshall tells Ted he needs to try and win Royce back. The end of the episode is a juxtaposition of the end of “The Wedding Bride,” where Tony wins over Stella, with Ted back in the movie theater trying to win back Royce. Even the dialogue is made to be parallel. Both Ted and Tony succeed, and we have a happy rom com ending. Which we know can’t last, of course, because Royce isn’t the Mother. Oh, and there's the pesky fact that in the episode's tag, it turns out that Royce has more baggage than the rest of the women Ted has dated combined.

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