How I Met Your Mother Season 9, Episode 4 “The Broken Code”
Written by Matthew Kuhn
Directed by Pamela Fryman
Airs Monday nights at 8pm ET on CBS
“The Broken Code” is really a precursor of episodes to come: it foreshadows three big season nine story lines to come, but fails at making them intriguing stories. Instead, “The Broken Code” consists of a sequence of unfunny scenes that feel like they’re treading water for stories to come – stories that are made a little too obvious by the plots of this episode. Worst of all, this refusal to take a ‘full measure’ (we miss you, WW) by the writers actually works against its characters, landing its big emotional moments with dull, insignificant smacks on the floor.
The biggest of these, of course, is the big cloud hanging over the entire season: what will Ted do to try and ruin Barney and Robin’s wedding – and how is Barney going to forgive him in time for the scenes we started seeing years ago to still make sense? Well, “The Broken Code” certainly doesn’t try to answer this, bringing back The Bro Code for one more laughless round of Barney and Ted trying to talk each other out of their own feelings. Barney SHOULD be pissed at Ted for never actually backing away from Robin, even when the time had clearly passed – and by the same token, Ted SHOULD feel really, really weird that he’s the best man at a wedding he wants to be the groom in. Regardless of how ridiculous Ted’s feelings are at this point in the show, this relationship doesn’t feel like its on the mend by the time the episode closes: Ted’s wedding gift remains, the true test of whether he’s a best man or just a shitty friend.
Worst of all, they undermine the tension they’ve attempted to build over the past three episodes at every turn: in every scene, Barney and Ted are walking on glass around each other, even when Barney’s bossing him around to do everything as his penance for being a possible home wrecker. Was the tension even there to begin with? Knowing that they’ll all be friends by the end of the show, it never really felt like it was: which in turn, makes the events in “The Broken Code” even less meaningful than they already feel. There’s no suspense here: in the end, we know Ted doesn’t try to destroy the wedding – he wouldn’t be consoling both of them on wedding day if he didn’t. It all feels unnecessary, and the machinations they make for Barney to all of a sudden forgive him (although nothing has really changed) undermines a strong character at an important moment in the show.
The other plot of “The Broken Code” is trying to establish one thing: Robin can’t make girlfriends. Why? Because she’s a bitch, because she was raised as a boy… there are a number of reasons that don’t really matter. What does matter is how obvious this subplot is: the show’s clearly laying the foundation for a Robin/The Mother friendship to brew in the final stretch of episodes, and this is the setup for it all. And what a limp setup it is, with Robin mocking women around every turn, and Lily being celebrated for being a “psycho” (their words, not mine) and obsessive friend, halting the progress she had forced upon Robin minutes earlier. When the only thing stopping her from allowing Robin to make friends is a lesbian fantasy, there’s something wrong with the dramatic tension of your plot.
Like last week’s episode, everything in “The Broken Code” feels so meaningless: who cares if Robin makes friends with The Mother (because we don’t know her at all yet) – and who cares if Barney and Ted are fighting over Robin again. The show’s already given away the ending to the latter, so the weight of carrying all the dramatic tension falls to the Robin/Lily stuff, which can barely keeps its head above water as anything but a woman-bashing session (I don’t even want to talk about Marshall’s “presence” so far this season, because it’s really obvious and painful to watch, especially when it falls into Weekend at Bernie‘s parody). It’s not often I suggest that a show go for plot over character – but right now, How I Met Your Mother needs a twist, something interesting and dynamic to spice up this final season until they bring The Mother off the sidelines and get to the Big Stories and Big Moments waiting at the series’ close.
– man, Marshpillow 2.0 stunk.
– Ted: “I have feelings I can’t explain! I can’t stop wanting your fiancee – so let’s both just bury the tension and move on! Our friendship is SO HEALTHY right now!”
– Third story line to come: The Tale of the Vengeful Best Man-To-Be.
– Randy Dankievitch