How I Met Your Mother Season 9, Episode 12 “Unpause”
Written by Chris Harris
Directed by Pamela Fryman
Airs Monday nights at 8pm ET on CBS
If there’s one thing How I Met Your Mother‘s always been consistent with over the years, it’s the idea of hope. Knowing from episode one that Ted Mosby would have his happy ending frames the entire show as a love story, a reflection on the many mistakes, coincidences, and bad decisions at 2am that provide us the opportunities to grow into better versions of ourselves. A person’s luck can always change, for better or worse – and even though Ted’s mother still insists that nothing good ever happens in the darkest hours of the night, the opening and closing scenes to “Unpause” are a reminder of what makes HIMYM‘s story so endearing: all it takes is one night, one experience, one meeting – and our lives and perceptions of the world can be changed in an instant.
There are a few of these enlightened moments throughout “Unpause”, the most consistent episode of HIMYM‘s final season, thanks to the pathos embedded in each plot. Sure, Barney and Marshall’s antics rely heavily on gimmicks to pad out the episode, but their stories – along with Ted’s, both in the present and the future – push the characters forward in exciting ways. Barney’s is the most predictable – turns out he’s had his long time job to PLEASE just to rat out the guy who stole his ex – but it’s also an important moment of personal resolution for his character. With the impending investigation against his nemesis, Barney can finally let go of the life he’d thought was abandoned after he cut his hair and put on a suit for the first time (a call back to one of the show’s greatest pop culture references). He needs to be able to do this: just like getting rid of The Playbook, Barney can’t be at peace with himself until he’s let go of everything in his past. Him getting drunk was a convenient way for us to see an impromptu confessional, but the end result is the same; his transformation from spiteful philanderer to slightly perverted husband is almost complete… all that’s left for him to do is forgive Ted.
Although it hasn’t been mentioned in a bit, Ted’s wedding gift for Robin still hangs over him like a dark cloud in his 2013 scenes: him listening to Barney go on about how much he loves Robin is one of the season’s quietest and affecting moments (and it comes in the same vicinity as the season’s loudest and most affecting moment… but we’ll get to that), knowing that he’s still holding out that little bit of hope Barney will fuck things up and he’ll be able to swoop in for the ultimate win. It’s been a frustrating thing to sit through all season, knowing it’s a superficial drama bound to be resolved before the finale, but it serves an important purpose in juxtaposing 2013 Ted and 2017 Ted at the Farhampton Inn.
Slowly, this season’s broken down Ted’s all-powerful hope for love: he’s seen his best friend’s brother get divorced, Marshall and Lily have the biggest fight of their marriage – and watched his other best friend get ready to marry a girl he’s loved for seven years (not to mention those damn 35-year old scotches everyone keeps dropping). 2013 can’t escape the feeling that it’s always after 2am in his world – but there is 2017 Ted bleeding into the opening and closing scenes, the moments of brightness bookending some of the show’s most heart-wrenching scenes (Marshall and Lily), as him and the Mother drive away from the inn to welcome their second child Luke (at least one of them was named after Star Wars, right?). It’s a direct correlation to earlier episodes this season, where a sad Ted sat across the bar from Future Ted and his wife: there is always a chance for a better, brighter tomorrow – and as that happy ending finally begins to draw close, it appears that How I Met Your Mother is finding its protagonist again.
It also means that it’s time for other narrative chickens to come to roost: which they do in the episode’s titular plot between Marshall and Lily. What’s surprising is just how emotionally raw that scene is: How I Met Your Mother doesn’t shy away from the pettiness or selfishness of either character’s point of view (though it does give Marshall a much bigger arsenal to fight with, given the financial stability of a new job and all). But this is the nature of long-building resentments: Marshall’s never been able to let go of the “what ifs” he spent the entire summer of 2006 thinking about, just as Lily has spent the last few days fuming over the fact Marshall made a huge family decision without consulting her. Where Robin and Barney are moving forward with revelatory moments in their relationship this season, Marshmallow and Lilypad are struggling to do the same because they haven’t been honest with each other, no matter how much they love each other and over-describe their day. Remember when Lily told Ted she’d considered running away in last season’s “Band or DJ?” It may not have been intended, but it shows a lack of communication on between the two, something they’ve disguised with some of their more endearing traits – and the more and more they try to “pause” things (one of their aforementioned endearing qualities), the situation gets uglier and uglier until Lily’s running out of the inn crying, jumping into a darkened (of course) car and driving away.
Immediately following Lily’s departure is the flash-forward to 2017, a time where Marshall and Lily are Uncle Marshall and Aunt Lily, Barney and Robin are happily married, and Ted is finally having a good experience after 2am. It’s a literal manifestation of every virtue HIMYM‘s upheld over the years: that all it takes is hope to get where we want to go in love. Romanticized as all get out? You damn right it is – and despite that, “Unpause” gives a lot of emotional levity to the cathartic knowledge that all will be well with Marshall and Lily’s fight – it’s real, it’s devastatingly true, and it reaches at a very important problem within each character of How I Met Your Mother. Barney and Robin are on their way to their happy endings because they’ve moved on from the past: and although we all know the rest of the crew is on their way to their own, they can’t have it until they’ve reconciled with their pasts – and more importantly, themselves.
– Robin is worth six thousand Canadian craploads… damn, girl!
– PLEASE: Provide Legal Expunction And Sign Everything.
– levels of Barney drunk: Richard Dawson drunk, Plans With Strangers drunk, Marcel Marceau drunk, Jabba drunk, and Truth Serum drunk.