Among the best things about How I Met Your Mother is it’s fascination with the show’s own history – as so few sitcoms boast the bravery to weave so much of the past into their present.
With the final series rattling through episodes, the writers must find themselves with a fair amount of work ahead of them to pull eight years of the group’s history into one wedding weekend.
The Poker Game, the fifth episode, is a perfect indicator of how they’re going to do it. With multiple simmering resentments brewing under the surface of the wedding façade-from Ted’s fear that his best friend is marrying the love of his life to Marshall hurtling cross-country in an effort to even make it to the wedding on time – we’re given the time to have a poke around some of the less obvious ones in another solid episode.
First, there’s the throwaway sub-plot, which reveals Marshall and Ted have been passive-aggressively sniping at each other for years over a mis-communication about a wedding gift.
The humour is infectious, smacking of the tight, elegant comedy the show is so well known for putting together-those separate interpretations of the same situations are both nailed by Radnor and Segel, who less bounce off each other than ricochet off the surrounding furniture.
It’s a funny, fluffy counterpoint to the main plot, allowing this series MVP Allyson Hannigan to flex her comedy muscles to great effect.
The main plot concerns Barney’s conflict of loyalties between his family and his wife-to-be-his recently divorced brother won’t stop making snide comments about marriage, so Robin wins his wedding ring off him in a game of poker and refuses to return it.
Cue Frances Conroy descending on the cast like an angel sent from American Horror Story, trapping Barney between his past and his future.
The jokes take a back seat to the genuine emotion at the heart of the plot, with Neil Patrick Harris once again turning in a superb performance as the eternally torn Barney – one half of him a callous womaniser getting married to a hot chick, the other a bit of a romantic and mummy’s boy caught between his loyalties to the two strong women in his life.
Once again, series 9 has proved to be one of the sharpest, saddest and funniest in the show’s history, and it’s a matter of working out whether they can keep it up.
And, for the love of God, why have we seen so little of The Mother? It’s not like we haven’t waited long e-damn-nough.