“How Your Mother Met Me” was the least grating How I Met Your Mother episode in four years. I think the reason for that is the absence of every character fans love. Ted passes through The Mother’s life, Barney’s reduced to a one joke note, Lily’s there to hug Barney, and Robin and Marshall don’t appear. Well, every character appears, but in minor parts. None speak. How I Met Your Mother’s 200th episode is like LOST’s “The Other 48 Days,” ANGEL’s “Birthday,” and Buffy’s “Superstar.” In the latter two episodes, an alternate world is portrayed, but audience perspective shifts from Angel and Buffy, respectively, to other characters. “Birthday” follows Cordelia, and “Superstar” follows Jonathan. “The Other 48 Days” focuses on the survivors of the tail section of Oceanic Flight 815. I’m sure other episodes in television history compare to tonight’s HIMYM. Besides “Superstar,” the other two episodes bring a character (or characters to a critical place). In LOST, that episode brought together the fuselage survivors with the tail section, and Ana Lucia’s gun with Shannon’s belly; in ANGEL, Cordelia committed to her life’s calling.
Ted’s future wife’s previous eight years led to her fateful weekend in Farhampton where she’ll meet Ted at a train station. Eight years is a rather long period to cover in a 21-minute episode. Carter Bays and Craig Thomas opted to show the broadest beats of her life, all involving tragedy in love. How I Met Your Mother is American’s longest running bad romantic comedy, of course, and each character’s fate—but I really mean happiness in using ‘fate’--is determined by whether he or she is loved. The Mother’s defined through the love she lost and the love she rejected. The first act brings to mind David Foster Wallace’s famous sentence in The Pale King, later used as the title of D.T. Max’s DFW biography, “Every love story is a ghost story.” (I think David Foster Wallace was brought to that line through a James Joyce story considered a ghost story by Joyce, but that’s neither here nor there).
Ted’s story and his wife’s story is a ghost-love story. Ted chased the ghosts of his relationship with Robin. The Mother attached herself to a ghost—her deceased boyfriend, Max, whom she considered the apex of her love life. The story of Ted Mosby over the last nine years revolved around his attempts to move past Robin. Victoria couldn’t date him because of his attachment to the woman he met on a rooftop. The Mother couldn’t marry Louis because of an attachment to her ghost. The symbolic burst of wind confirmed to her that Louis wasn’t the man to marry. Louis was a random character to bridge the gap between Max and Ted. Louis committed the cardinal sin of saying, “That’s funny” instead of laughing when The Mother used an English muffin to sing her song. The sudden gust of wind pushes The Mother out of her relationship and to the Farhampton Inn, to a balcony across from Ted’s room, where she sings to him for the first time.
The Mother shares Ted’s knack for overly long narrative answers in response to a simple question. Ted’s “shellfish” joke sent her into a fit of laughter. She learned why Rachel Bilson’s character broke up with Ted and didn’t understand how someone could love her without knowing her. The Mother believes in only “The One.” Rachel Bilson’s character tells her there’s “The Next One.” Ted also believes in “The One.” The Mother’s charming ukulele was Max’s 21st birthday gift to her. The ukulele is symbolic of the life she could’ve had and a reminder of the great love she lost for Max could not give the gift to her on account of his being dead. Her ukulele rendition of “L’vie en Rose” is the first time Ted hears her. The ukulele transforms from a symbol of tragic love lost to love reborn and soon renewed.
Bays and Thomas litter the script with events of cosmic importance. Scenes from past seasons connect with The Mother’s path: the yellow umbrella, and other such stuff. The Mother was already a relatable and pleasant character. Bays and Thomas haven’t fell into the trap of creating a set of perfect traits for Ted instead of a character. I’d like to watch her story more than the rest of the wedding story. “How Your Mother Met Me” ends with a montage of the gang on the night before the wedding. Sadness abounds, except for Ted, who listens to his future wife’s song. The montage reminded me whatever enjoyment I found in tonight’s episode will disappear seconds into next week’s episode.