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How I Met Your Mother Ep. 9.08 “The Lighthouse” again chooses spectacle over substance

How I Met Your Mother Ep. 9.08 “The Lighthouse” again chooses spectacle over substance

himym 9.8

How I Met Your Mother Season 9, Episode 8 “The Lighthouse”
Written by Rachel Axler
Directed by Pamela Fryman
Airs Monday nights at 8pm ET on CBS

The best thing I can say about “The Lighthouse” is it’s not the worst episode of How I Met Your Mother in 2013. Unfortunately, that’s not saying much: it’s another episode of wasted potential that’s so busy checking off boxes on the narrative checklist it never stops to make any of the stories meaningful. Laden with convenient turns of emotion that culminate in a nice, but completely unearned conclusion, “The Lighthouse” is yet another episode of HIMYM unable to recognize its own potential.

The most frustrating thing about this season continues to be how underdeveloped characters and their emotions are, while dozens of intertwining “stories” and recurring gags are playing out on-screen. At its heart, “The Lighthouse” is another insight into an increasingly disillusioned Ted, contrasting the man he is right now, and the man he’ll start to become when the weekend is over. Problem is, Ted’s not really in the episode at all until the end. And when he is around, he’s hanging out with a girl he blatantly hates, a thoroughly pointless manifestation of Ted’s resignation to his loveless fate. It takes him most of the episode to get to the point where he turns the lighthouse into a metaphor for his life (this guy sometimes, amirite?), without really establishing beyond spending twelve hours with an annoying girl that he’s given up on his dream of true love (especially with the still unresolved feelings for his best friend’s fiancee).

There isn’t a hint of growth – or by the same token, hopeless desperation – to contrast 2013 Ted with 2015 Ted (or whatever year this damn wedding is taking place) in the final scene. And yes, it’s nice to finally see the Mother in meaningful context: but it’s a moment that comes way too soon, only a few minutes after he was seen up on the roof with a girl he tried to avoid just eight or ten hours earlier. It makes his proposal to the Mother an empty spectacle: a grand romantic moment, sure, but one that doesn’t really mean anything to us. We don’t know the Mother, we don’t even know what their first interaction is like – how are we supposed to understand the emotional transformation Ted makes by finally taking the leap with a woman (putting aside the fact he’s already “taken the leap” with Stella)?

Elsewhere, “The Lighthouse” is just painful to watch. I could give a fuck less about Daphne telling Marshall the same things over and over again (though the callback to Ted and Marshall’s old road trips was a nice call back), because as long as he’s in Ohio and Lily’s flipping out and interfering in things at the inn, their story is just not going to be interesting. Why do we care if Marshall hangs out at the Moesby household for a day? His scenes are just painful to watch at this point, removing a significant part of the group’s dynamic to drift alone – and in his place, destroying every recurring guest star’s character they can find.

Oddly enough, the central plot of “The Lighthouse” has nothing to do with the titular building: it’s focused on Robin’s petty shit with Barney’s mother! What happens there? Well, they are bitchy to each other for the whole episode, and then Robin’s mom cancels, so she’s sad. Fight over, Mrs. Stinson is hugging Robin, and Robin’s hugging her just like Barney did in the flashback (that I really don’t remember happening… how did Robin actually tell Barney and company she couldn’t have kids?). It renders the last two episodes pointless, pulling out the random fact we’ve never met Robin’s mom and all of sudden using it as an emotional weakness of its main female character. Has Robin ever given a shit about her mother before? No – but even that I could accept, if the petty arguments between her and Mrs. Stinson held some meaning beyond petty comedic opportunities (which they really haven’t, even when going for the broad “mother and daughter-in-law bond” crap). Plus, hasn’t Robin come to terms with not having kids already?

It seems nitpicky, but the problems in “The Lighthouse” echo those found in other episodes this season.: unearned emotional resolutions popping out of nowhere, intersected with scenes of Lily being angry and Marshall talking on a cell phone to somebody. The proposal is a nice moment, but being only the second scene we’ve seen of Ted and the Mother, seems to be an odd jumping off point for their love story, as future Ted would tell it to his children (then again, who talks about being obsessed with a family friend for eight years?). “The Lighthouse” makes these grand gestures of family, love, and the quest for the “perfect” one – but unlike previous seasons, doesn’t really seem interested in what those mean, or how they actually happen.


Other thoughts/observations:

– Lily: “Take this normal size chick up to the lighthouse and fall in love with her and quit bothering us with your dumb love life stuff.”

– Clint is just not funny.

– who wants to go for a ride in the Lamborcuzzi?