As the “How I Met Your Mother” writers had to have expected, Monday’s follow-up to “Rebound Girl” has generated some harsh criticism from fans who were angered by the “fake-out.” Instead of providing a real, game-changing glimpse into the future (well, the present in the “How I Met Your Mother” universe), the latest “Mother” storytelling device was another element of fantasy.
Yet any anger over the twist–which is unjustified, given how beautifully-executed it was–should pale in comparison to the glee over the fact that “Mother” is not, in fact, falling victim to the lame temptation of making Robin pregnant.
In its review discussing how “Mother” can rebound from November’s awful “cliffhanger”–Robin confirming to Barney that she is pregnant–Headline Planet presented two options to salvage the storyline. Luckily, the writers were on board with one of them, and shortly into this episode, it would be revealed that Robin is not, in fact, having a kid.
Nor, apparently, will she ever have one. Instead of getting proof that she was having a child, Robin learned from the doctor that she is unable to conceive. Suddenly, Robin’s perspective on having a child changed. She had always dismissed the idea of starting a family, but now that the option was forever taken away, she had emotional second thoughts. It was easy to be anti-child now, when there was no room for a kid in her life, but there was still comfort in knowing that when the right situation came along, she would be able to fill the world with a child of her own.
Cobie Smulders’ emotional struggle was Emmy-worthy, although if Jason Segel could not even earn a nomination for his brilliant performance last season, it is hard to assume she will even be considered for a trophy. But her willingness to internalize the news, repeating it to her friends only as news that she could never become an Olympic pole vaulter, was both emotionally-touching and decisively “Mother” in tone. Ted’s willingness to comfort Robin was a nice touch and a great sign of the “real” Ted, rather than the cartoonish yuppie of many recent episodes.
So, what was the anger-inducing twist? In an interesting touch, “Mother” narrated the bulk of the episode from Robin’s perspective. It opened with Robin telling her two kids–a boy and a girl–the story of how she met their father, who was quickly identified as Barney. Robin narrated the entirety of the story (her disinterest in having a kid, her happiness when she found out she was not pregnant, her sudden-sadness when she learned the chance to have a child was taken away) to the kids; a closing scene, however, revealed the entire thing as a fantasy. Instead, she was sitting, in tears, on a cold park bench.
Yes, if one was actually hoping this was the big reveal that Robin and Barney ended up together and had kids, the twist was probably disappointed. But how could anyone have thought that?
“Mother” has an ongoing mystery associated with Barney’s wedding: who is the bride? Given that mystery, the idea that the show would nonchalantly confirm that Robin and Barney ended up together should have been utterly inconceivable to all viewers. Of course something was “up” with this scene.
Moreover, the execution was actually quite powerful and effective. In addition to showing Robin break down in a way she rarely has, the episode also did deliver fans some “intel.” It again confirmed that Robin, no matter who she might be dating, always sees Barney as the end-game–as the only person who she would want fathering her children (granted, it also revealed that she and Kevin have not slept together, which is a totally-ludicrous notion, but you win some and lose some). This type of confession is so much more effective and so much more consistent with a “long game” than simply having the two makeout in the back of a cab.
More importantly, it solidified a direction–and a logical, yet heartbreaking one at that–for one of the key characters. Instead of keeping everything wishy-washy and subject to hotshot, soap opera plot twists, we now know definitively that Robin cannot have kids, something that had long been suspected from those who followed how the relationship between Ted’s kids and Robin had been described in the storytelling. And we know that Robin need not fear being vulnerable, because after all, she will never be “alone.”
Like last season’s perfect handling of the loss of Marshall’s father, this episode introduced something crushing and heartbreaking, and yet realistic at the same time. Not everything will be perfect, and some characters will face the cruelest realization of “be careful what you wish for” possible.
But for the five “How I Met Your Mother” characters, there will always be a shoulder to lean on and a friend to assemble an AC/DC laser light show over fried chicken, whether the heartbreak is due to crushing news about one’s health and family, or due to an inability to jump over poles.