As this is the final season, a lot of ongoing plotlines are being wound down into their final resting place. This episode, in particular, felt a lot like closure. Three stories were running concurrently with no real crossover save that they were all happening the same night. An inebriated Barney made peace with the loss of his singlehood by initiating two new Bros, Lily and Marshall resolved their differences in typical hyper-reality style, and Ted at long last admitted his true feelings to Robin.
I admit – the opening sequence, with Barney shambling out of the shadows, got my hopes up for a Horror-themed episode. What we got instead, were three very large corner-pieces of the HIMYM finale puzzle. Barney’s story was, to my mind, a little bit like filler. We had already seen him come to terms with giving up the Bachelor life. More than once, his love for Robin and willingness to be the doting husband has been confirmed. So, taking on two new pupils the night of his wedding seemed almost superfluous. However, it did give a pleasant echo back to his early days of training Ted to be a wing-man. The line “I’m gonna teach you how to live” was plucked straight from the very first time Ted and Barney ever met.
Barney also makes the point that nothing in life is worth doing if you’re not with your friends. The HIMYM gang has turned lone wolf “bro” Barney into a sentimental pseudo-brother and he could obviously not be happier for it. Highlights include the playbook re-recorded on (what looked like) cocktail napkins and a late night suit tailoring session with Tim Gunn (Project Runway, Guide to Style), himself.
Meanwhile, Marshall struggles with the ghosts of his past – literally. He imagines 2006 Lily as well as the spirit of modern-day Lily and the spirit of his late father in an attempt to play devil’s advocate with himself. While, I could have done without the random interjections of outdated references from 2006 Lily, the scene played out with heavy consideration for the real decisions and challenges faced in a relationship. Marshall has been lingering so much on the pain of the past, he is putting his present and future in jeopardy. Between Ghost Lily’s insight and some words of wisdom from his dead father, Marshall begins to realize that this whole fight was never about Italy at all.
Last, but certainly not least, Ted’s night unfolds as he combs the beach with Robin, looking for her errant husband-to-be. At the beginning of the episode, Ted told us the story of how he learned to hold on so tightly to the things he loves. It is couched in a silly story of having a balloon for a best friend. One day, he let go of the string and up the balloon went, floating away, never to be seen again. He says that he learned then to never let things go, even for a moment.
It is the most telling story we have gotten from his past. The way he clings steadfast to his love (obsession?) with Robin, through all the years, personal changes, and other relationships suddenly comes into a sharper focus. Ted believes deeply that to love is to never, ever let go. We see this in flashbacks, as he had been desperately trying to procure a particular locket for Robin for weeks before her wedding. Viewers may remember the locket that Robin had buried, that she went looking for as her “something old.” Ted sat in the mud, in pouring rain and helped her dig to try and find it. Since then, he has apparently been on the phone to nearly every ex-girlfriend he has trying to track it down. He tells them all that it is because he is the master of giving gifts. It’s not fooling anyone. It doesn’t even fool the crazy ex who destroyed his apartment. Finally confronted, Ted has to admit (in the flashback) that it isn’t really the locket he is struggling to let go of.
In the present, Robin is blissfully unaware of the lengths to which Ted has been going just to find her “something old.” Yet, the truth still comes out and Ted is finally stripped bare of his excuses and his pretense. He also tells Robin that he is moving to Chicago to work for a previous employer (the “penis building” guy). There isn’t much left to say, so they watch the sunrise together. In his mind, Ted lets go of a Robin who floats into the sky like a balloon. In real life, the sun is just coming up and Robin is on her way to get married that day.
Perhaps because I’ve never been as invested in Ted emotionally, I found this episode a smidge anti-climactic. It was necessary, if a little perfunctory. The stage is still being set for the grand moment when Ted and the Mother finally meet one another for the first time…