I previously declared that Season 6's "Legendaddy" was possibly the last great episode of How I Met Your Mother. I had admittedly forgotten about this one. In truth, it's a little short of great. The B-story featuring Marshall being hoodwinked by a neighborhood troublemaker is the type of broad humor the show seemed to veer toward, and even the main event about Robin's infertility feels manipulative at times. But it is, nevertheless, affecting in the right ways, and shows that even in the midst of both the humor and the storytelling of the series faltering, it could still pull off these big moments.
The thing that stands out when diving back into the episode is the way that the episode coopts the usual frame story device for Robin. In some ways, it feels cheap to tease the audience with the reveal that Robin and Barney had kids together, stringing them along with a supposed answer to the Robin-Barney romantic entanglement that's bubbled up once again in dramatic fashion. And yet, while the twist that this is, in actuality, Robin's imagined conversation with the kids she'll never have feels a bit gimmicky, it also feels like the most effective way to convey the shock, the gut punch, of believing this sort of thing was always a possibility, something you could have if you wanted it, even if you don't want it right now, and having that possibility ripped away from you.
How I Met Your Mother is a show of big moments and big gestures. Even at its peak, we got the heaven and hell of Ted and the blue french horn, of Marshall sitting on the stoop holding Lily's ring, of the wedding before the wedding. These moments make a splash, they reach out and grab us and what they lack in subtlety they make up for in impact. While the fade away from Robin's kids to Robin sitting alone in Central Park is a little disjointed, the moment where she throws her eggnog in the trash and reassures herself that she's glad about this, where she tries to give herself comfort in the midst of her clear devastation at this news, is heartbreaking.
And then she walks back into the apartment, and AC/DC begins to play, and Ted reaffirms that he is there to comfort her. It's a wonderfully touching moment, and one that reaffirms the central idea behind all of those big moments, that at our highest and our lowest points, those close to us will be there for us. The show has it both ways with moments like these between Ted and Robin, but I like to think of it as just that -- a simple act of friendship. Ted and Robin may or may not have feelings for one another anymore, but what they do have is genuine care and concern for one another, and years of shared experiences to prove it, which makes that moment meaningful.
There's a complicated darkness to this symphony. The complexity of having something you told yourself you didn't want suddenly made no longer an option is fruitful territory to explore, and when it's something at the level of whether you can have children, it's all the more significant. But the show does a very good job at here at treating the issue with grace, finding both the pathos and layered feelings from Robin after she hears the news, to the alternating fear and regret when a baby goes from being a inevitability to an impossibility, to Robin's pitch-perfect predictions as to how her friends would react, to the whole pole-valting cover story.
It's not a perfect episode. HIMYM couldn't really muster that anymore, and between the slight (and kind of weird) Marshall B-story, and certain lumpier parts of the main story, the flaws are there if you look for them. But this is still a great example of what the show can do supremely well when it's firing on all cylinders -- take something significant that many people have to come to terms with, and find the humor, meaning, and heart in it. Something to be glad for.