Season nine picks up exactly where the eighth left off, exactly fifty-five hours before the wedding; Barney and Robin prepare for their upcoming nuptials amid an incest scare and divorce news, Lily attempts to balance her maternal feelings with her usual indulgent feistiness, Marshall struggles to hide his new judgeship while entering a rivalry with a fellow traveler on his way back to New York, and Ted grapples with his lingering feelings for Robin and whether he should return the infamous locket, a symbol of his unyielding devotion to her. With three days of pre-wedding chaos set to span twenty episodes this season, there’s obviously no rush in the pacing of the episode, and “The Locket” seems to take advantage of this fact by taking the time to re-cap (at one point Lily “explains” to Ted, “Stella, the woman who left you at the altar!”) and play out old tropes (see: three minute opening scene of Ted being pretentious on a road trip). The highlight of the episode was by far Lily’s encounter with the Mother on a train to the wedding, where the two bonded over Lily’s rants about Ted and a batch of Mother-made cookies dubbed “Sumbitches”. Allaying the fear of fans everywhere, we learn the Mother is just as cool, charming, and quirky as she’s been built up to be.
Beyond the train, however, HIMYM was content to steer clear of any major arc developments and just let the characters sit back and breathe their usual sitcom-y air. Ted’s stupidly grand romantic gesture, Marshall’s unfathomably naïve kindness towards the aggressive woman at the airport, and Robin’s lingering insecurities about Barney’s womanizing past aren’t so much plot points as oxygen-level necessities for the show’s existence. I mean, would it really be HIMYM if Ted didn’t do something entirely desperate and cringe-worthy while bemoaning his loneliness? With 184 episodes of a track record to look back on, it’s hard to be surprised by anything anyone on the show does anymore, and Pamela Fryman doesn’t quite seem up to the challenge of proving us wrong either.
Although this sort of directorial laziness would normally send me back to Community reruns, eight years on air have blessed HIMYM with the charm to pull this off. It wasn’t art, but I still found myself chuckling at the throwbacks to Canada-bashing, Barney in faux period costumes, Ted’s enthusiasm during crosswords, and, of course, Ranjit. While at times the repeated gags feel like hearing the story your friend keeps telling that you regret even politely laughing at (voyeuristic Ranjit, cat-fighting Lily come to mind), HIMYM’s familiarity allows us to overlook those moments and enjoy the show—even after the bad strip club name puns. It’s hard to tell how long the show will be able to ride on the coattails of earlier seasons’ success, but for now we longtime fans will just have to sit back, smile, and listen as our old friend Bob Saget tells us his story one last time.