Tuesday, May 19, 2009

How I Met Your Mother: The Leap

How I Met Your Mother sometimes overreaches on the sentimentality. It's a flaw, but it's also part of the show's charm, and it happened towards the end of last night's season finale. “The Leap,” written by series creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas and directed, as usual, by Pamela Fryman, rolled along quite nicely until then, though.

Specifically, everything involving the goat was gold. There are, of course, those who believe it didn't live up to the hype, which is fair enough, I suppose. But that's why it's best not to measure quality by hype. (Which, incidentally, is why I almost universally hate backlashes.) And Ted fighting a goat to the delicate strains of “Murder Train?” That's funny.

Also funny is the budding romance between Barney and Robin. Though I think the show probably should have built up to their confrontation a bit more quickly, their fear of commitment and of their own feelings for one another make the dallying seem honest. And now that we've gotten the confrontation, it's hard for me to say that it could have been handled any better, really. Whenever Ted's relationships come to some sort of head, the show generally drops the comedy, strikes up the background pop song, and goes for straight, if slightly absurd, sentimentality. Not the case with Barney and Robin, at all, and that's how it should be.

As indicated in the lede, the show's melodramatic tendency did, however, rear its head at the end of the episode, when Ted infiltrated the Marshall and Lily storyline and turned Marshall's leap over to the neighboring rooftop into a somewhat strained metaphor for letting your life take you where it will. Which is sort of a nice sentiment.

And sort of a sad one. Because implicit in that leap is the harsh reality of giving up on your dreams; whether it's, in Lily's case, being an artist; or, in Marshall's case, saving the environment; or, in Barney's case, being a violinist; or, in Ted's case, being an architect. To its credit, the show is pretty upfront about this. None of these characters have accomplished their dreams, and in this way it is similar to The Office, which is a show about people who often fail and the small victories they do manage to achieve. Where the shows differ is mostly in style; whereas HIMYM embraces melodrama, The Office eschews it. So The Office gives us a scene wherein Pam finds out she's pregnant and hides it in silence behind a window, while HIMYM stages the leap in slow motion with voice-over narration.

What's most interesting about “The Leap,” though, is the way it plays the acceptance of failure as a victory in and of itself. And it is! We each have to accept our limitations. Despite what our parents told us when we were growing up, we can't actually be whatever we want to be. But we can be something else, even if that something else seems a little less spectacular to us. And maybe we can achieve slightly smaller dreams, like making the leap over to the roof next door. It's a bittersweet sort of victory.

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