I have loved How I Met Your Mother since it premiered in 2005. It was about people from my exact age who spoke about things that I cared about like Star Wars. Not only that, but it had a knack for twist endings that would hit you emotionally because above all it has a large, beating, romantic heart.
But the series has always had two major drawbacks:
1. The comedy can be too broad - As the show wore on, there was a lot of mugging at the camera, cheesy jokes, and a silliness that just broke the spell.
2. Vulgarity - The show pushed the envelope, especially with the show’s Lothario Barney. I like how people have commented that most of the stories that Ted tells his children are wildly inappropriate.
But the show was not afraid to take risks and swing for the fences. And as a result, while there is a lot of fluff, there is also a lot quality television.
It has the best directing of a four-camera sitcom I have ever seen.
And it had a fantastic cast. I watched originally because as a Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan I saw that Alyson Hannigan was in it and I was curious to see a show with an adult Neil Patrick Harris. I had not watched Freaks and Geeks, so I didn't know about Jason Seagal. And Cobie Smulders and Josh Radnor were wonderful surprises. And all five of them had great chemistry together.
And tomorrow is the final episode, so I think that it's time to look back on the top 10 episodes from the past 9 years.
10. Spoiler AlertThis episode touches on that universal experience of ignoring and then realizing the flaws of the people we care about. I like this one particularly because of the truth it describes: once you realize the flaw, you can’t NOT see it. But the larger point is that even though it’s there and you see it, you look past it because of the love you have for the other person.
9. Time Travellers
For the most part this is a standard time-loopy episode. But what sets it apart is the ending where Ted gives one of the best written speeches of the entire series, where he imagines himself speaking to his future wife 45 days before they meet. It also might be Josh Radnor’s best performance.
8. Trilogy Time (s7e20)
I have to admit I am a bit emotionally attached to this episode, as it centers around watching the Star Wars Trilogy once every 3 years. This is an impulse I can fully understand and practice. But the fun of this episode is comparing their expectation three years in the future to the reality. It resonates with our own plans verses the reality. It is especially fun to see how someone lacking the maturity of those following 3 years imagines their future details. And, as usual, there is a wonderful emotional ending.
7. The Final Page (s8e11-12)
This two part episode leads up to a fantastic finish. What sets this episode apart is that it reaches back all the way to beginning of the season and showed you all of the misdirection. This episode is important, because one of the central themes of the show is how all the little moments of the past lead up to a great and wonderful life changing event.
6. Ten Sessions (s3e13)
Ted’s search for love is the central plot of the show. His tragedy is that he falls for women who are not for him. But we always root for him because he has a big heart is an enormous romantic soul. His chemistry with Stella is fantastic. And his 2-minute date sequence might be one of the most sweetly romantic moments I’ve seen on television
5. Pilot (s1e01)
This was the episode that set the precedent. It set up the tone and the flashbacks and the wit and the humor. It still holds up along with the rest of the series. But the best part was the last 30 seconds: the hook. All of the promotions implied that Robin was the eponymous mother. But with the words, “And that’s how I met your aunt Robin,” I realized that this show was much more than it seemed. And I was in until the end.
4. Bad News (s6e13)
This episode is not funny. Okay, it has funny moments, it might be the most emotionally devastating in the entire series. Beyond the usual emotional gut punch, the tragedy is punctuated by a count down. It starts with the number 50 in the first shot, as it slowly counts down to one. Once you know that its there, it hurts in such a beautifully crafted catharsis, with the most horribly honest words, “I’m not ready for this.”
3. Swarley (s2e07)
This might be the funniest episode of them all. While some episodes might have had funnier jokes, this episode made me laugh the entire time. It used the trademark time distortion to set up jokes with great payoffs, particularly the midget hunchback.
2. Slap Bet (s2e09)
Not only is this episode incredibly funny and has long term ramifications all the way until the final season, but Robin’s secret was something that took me by absolute surprise and made me laugh so hard. Not only did they capture the absolute cheesiness of 80’s teen pop stars and their videos, but they made sure to make her anthem “Let’s Go to the Mall” horribly catchy.
1. Sunrise (s9e17)
In this case, the best episode I’ve seen was saved almost for the end. Barney is off on a drunken stupor passing on his Bro-found wisdom, Marshall imagines a fight with Lilly. But it is the Ted and Robin on the beach scenes that make this episode work so well. The writers sum up the journey that has led these two characters to this point so well and precisely. We know that this relationship is doomed. We’ve known from the pilot. But this is not a will-they-won’t-they moment. It is simply about the honesty of saying goodbye. And the last scene on the beach made my heart catch. It was everything good about the show, using what would otherwise be silly and strange visuals to instead hit you with an emotional punch. Perfect ending.
The Duel - fun sword fighting and “lemon law”
The Pineapple Incident - learning that karaoke is “hauntingly beautiful.”
Drumroll, Please - wonderful build up to a romantic ending.
Nothing Good Happens After 2am - a great episode about making bad choices
Mary the Paralegal - some of the funniest jokes in the series.
Come On - emotional ending both good and bad
Ted Mosby: Architect - nice twist to the episode that you should see coming, but might not.
Arrividerci, Fiero - I cannot here that Proclaimers song without thinking of this ep.
How I Met Everyone Else -Almost made the top 10.introduced Blah-blah and the Crazy-Hot Scale
The Naked Man - Outrageous humor.
The Playbook - funny, short, creative vignettes.
Symphony of Illumination - Also almost made the top 10. Sucker punch ending.
How Your Mother Met Me - we get to know the title character and it connects to so many past episodes.