9.2/10. There's a line in Season 8 that feels like the show's mission statement. Ted's describing a german television show as big comedy, but points out that you still really care about the characters. And I feel like that's HIMYM at its best, balancing goofy, out there humor and structural experimentation with grounded, human moments, and that's basically what each of the stories here were.

The story of Marshall trying to keep he and Lily's "pause" going as long as possible, including trying to "bang his wife to sleep" is a pretty zany sitcom plot. But the premise has juice in it, and it has a lot of great comedic performances from both Jason Segel (especially when talking to himself) and Alyson Hannigan. But then they unpause, and you get this raw, kind of ugly fight between the two of them, where Marshall brings up Lily leaving for San Francisco and (most shockingly to me) calls her dream of being an artist "a hobby." Lily is visibly hurt by all of this, and talks about Marshall's broken promises and the extremely legitimate point that he lost the right to have them calmly discuss this when he agreed to become a judge without talking to her about it. It's a legitimate conflict of conflicting dreams, and that makes Lily's storm out feel meaningful and not just a stunt. The pause/unpause dynamic represents the show's ability to go back and forth between those painfully real moments and the broad comedy perfectly.

The same is true in the Barney/Ted/Robin storyline. The idea of reaching a level of drunkenness that you basically become a passive truthteller is pure sitcom hokum, and yet the show has so much fun with it. From callbacks to his claims to sleeping with secretaries of state to the recurring bit about Barney and Ted's mom to the whole ring bear(er) fake out, the show uses a pretty exaggerated narrative device to good comedic measure. Turning the reveal of what Barney's job is into a tale of him getting revenge on the guy who stole his girlfriend and prompted him to become "awesome" is a little too tidy for my tastes, but Barney's job has always been a pretty outsized part of the show, so I'm okay with it having an outsized, pretty convenient resolution.

But then the show stops using that device for comedy and starts using it for character. Robin and Barney have always been a hard sell for me as a viewer, but when Ted asks Barney how he's doing with the whole wedding, and Barney says that he's nervous but good, that he always felt a little broken but that he doesn't feel that way with Robin, and that he loves her and will do everything he can to show it, you'd have to have a heart of ice not to be at least a little moved by that. Maybe it's just that I have the same feelings about Mrs. Bloom, but however convenient and unlikely the truth serum device is, hearing these as Barney's true honest feelings about the woman he's marrying helps make their relationship at least feel like something you want to root for, even if the show hasn't exactly earned or proven that the two of them can work.

But more importantly, it's a great example of how this show can take something it uses to wring humor out of a pretty wacky set up and then turn it around to make you care about the characters and their hopes and dreams and damage a little bit more. It's the reason that this show was something more than just a gimmick, or a flash and the pan, or a series that gave into its worst impulses of lazy humor and convoluted plotting. It's a show that knows how to go big and zany, and how to go small and personal, and that ability lets the show move me even as it nears the end of its run here.

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