“HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER” and the Not-So-Great Robin/Barney Love Fest

“HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER” AND THE NOT-SO-GREAT ROBIN/BARNEY LOVE FEST

I am tired of the Robin Scherbatsky/Barney Stinson (Cobie Smulders/Neil Patrick Harris) saga. I really am. They have practically dominated Season Seven of CBS’s “HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER” with a romance that seemed to be force-fed by the series’ creators Craig Thomas and Carter Bays, in order to satisfy the certain shippers. 

What can I say? Everything about the Robin/Barney love story has seemed forced to me. As far back as Seasons Four and Five. When the pair first became a couple back in Season Five, Thomas and Bays managed to screw that relationship by breaking them up in (5.07) “The Rough Patch”. And they used one of the most contrived reasons I have come across in television history. After dating each other for a while, the two decided to break up, because their relationship led them –“two awesomes” – to “cancel each other out”, making them less than they want to be. Their relationship led Robin to become a sloppy dresser and Barney to gain weight. It was one of the most ridiculous episodes I had ever seen.

But what happened between Robin and Barney seemed nothing in compare to the love saga that awaited viewers in Seasons Six and Seven. Robin introduced Barney to a work colleague of hers named Nora (Nazanin Boniadi) in the Season Six episode, (6.16) “Desperation Day. After Barney struggled with his feelings for Nora throughout late Season Six, he finally realized that he was interested in her in the season finale, (6.24) “Challenge Accepted”. In the following season, Barney told Nora about his sexual past in (7.02) “The Naked Truth”. She nearly dumped him, until she realized how serious he was about her . . . and decided to give him a chance. During this initial courtship between Barney and Nora, Robin decided that she still have feelings for him. Gee . . . how convenient. Instead of telling Barney about her feelings, she eventually began dating her psychiatrist, Kevin (portrayed by Kai Penn).

I was willing to give the possibility of a second Barney/Robin hook-up another chance. But Thomas and Bays managed to fuck it all up. At least for me. One, the producers had decided to portray poor Nora as a one-dimensional paragon of perfection. During the nine episodes Nora appeared in the series, the writers never developed her beyond her penchant for Valentine’s Day, kids and ideal romance. She was a female Ted Mosby (Josh Radnor), but without any flaws or complexity whatsoever. Hell, Ted’s past girlfriends were portrayed with more complexity than Nora, especially the much maligned Zoey Pierson.   And I am not just talking about Robin. Even the latter’s new boyfriend, Kevin, seemed more complex and interesting as Nora. The only time I ever came close to really liking Nora was in (7.07) “Noretta”, in which she suffered a series of mishaps during a date that was supposed to culminate in sex for the first time with Barney. But Thomas and Bays never allowed Nora’s character to develop beyond the mishaps she had suffered in that particular episode. They seemed determined to manipulate the viewers into disliking her and cheering for a Barney/Robin hookup.

In the end, Thomas and Bays got rid of Nora in (7.10) “Tick, Tick, Tick . . .”. And how do they achieve this? They allowed Barney and Robin to cheat on both her and Kevin by having sex sometime between (7.09) “Disaster Averted” and “Tick, Tick, Tick . . .”. In the latter episode, Barney eventually told Nora that he had “slept with another woman”. He failed to inform her that the woman in question was her colleague and the woman who had introduced them . . . namely Robin. Then he dumped Nora. What the fuck? This unpleasant task was followed with a scene in which Robin silently conveyed to Barney that she decided to keep their night of illicit sex as a secret from Kevin. Barney ended up crying in his milk, because Robin decided to stay with Kevin. And how did I feel? I realized that I could not give a shit . . . about either Barney or Robin.

Wait. It got worse. At the end of (7.11) “The Rebound Girl”, Robin informed Barney that she might be pregnant. Even worse, he might be the father, since she has yet to have sex with Kevin. This bit of information had me rolling my eyes with disbelief. In (7.12) “Symphony of Illumination”, Robin discovered that she was not pregnant. Her celebration was short-lived, when her doctor informed that she could never have children. This last plot twist disgusted me to no end.

Why? Why in the hell did Thomas and Bays use to plot line for Robin in the first damn place? For what purpose? They revealed in a few interviews that Robin’s discovery about her inability to conceive would drive her to become more career-oriented. Really? How lame! They could have simply continued to use Robin’s dislike of motherhood to explain why she never had kids. Why in the hell did they bother to use this “inability to have kids” plot line, straight out of a Ross Hunter production from the late 1950s and early 60s? It is so Lana Turner. Did they honestly believe that the only way for Robin to remain sympathetic was for her to be physically denied the chance to get pregnant, instead of simply disliking the idea of being a mother? Or was this simply another addition to the Robin/Barney soap opera, leading to their eventual marriage?

What makes Robin and Barney’s romance even harder to swallow is the fact that I do not find their romantic chemistry all that exciting. In fact, I find it rather dull. Both Harris and Smulders had great chemistry when portraying their characters as close friends, or whenever Robin repelled one of Barney’s cheap come-ons. But when it came to portraying serious romance between the two, I found the chemistry between Harris and Smulders as exciting as a piece of wood. Smulders had better chemistry with Radnor during Robin’s romance with Ted. In the Season Two episode, (2.05) “The World’s Greatest Couple”, Lily had moved into Barney’s apartment to help him stave off persistent one-night stands. Harris and Hannigan had more chemistry in that one episode than he ever did with Smulders. He even had better chemistry with Boniadi, when her Nora character was at its most one-dimensional.

The Barney/Robin soap opera seemed to have affected the characters of Ted, Marshall Eriksen (Jason Segel) and Lily Aldrin (Alyson Hannigan). I realize that “HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER” is not solely about Ted’s search for his future wife. Six seasons of the series have proven this. But Ted, Marshall and Lily have been treated as supporting characters in compare to Barney and Robin. They have been given silly “B” plots in most of the season’s episodes, despite the fact that Marshall and Lily are expecting their first child and Ted is supposed to be the series’ leading character. while viewers (at least those who, like myself, are not Barney/Robin shippers) have been forced to swallow the barely digestible Barney/Robin love fest of Season Seven. The balance between all five characters have been off ever since the producers had decided to engage in Barney and Robin’s “love story” this past year.

Will the great Robin/Barney love fest abate at least a little by the second half of Season Seven? I hope so, but I have doubts. Barney is scheduled for his own wedding sometime in the near future, thanks to a flash forward seen in the season premiere, (7.01) “The Best Man”. Like many viewers, I suspect that the bride in question is likely to be Robin. When the series’ first two seasons led toward Marshall and Lily’s wedding in (2.21) “Something Borrowed”, their characters did not overshadow the other three with dominant appearances throughout the first two seasons. Yet, Thomas and Bays have bombarded viewers with episodes centering around Robin and Barney during this past year. Why? I suspect to satisfy the growing number of Barney/Robin shippers that seemed to have materialize over the past few seasons.

Now, is it really two much to ask for the producers to get over their Barney/Robin obsession and return the balance for all five characters? Is it? Many fans of the show had complained about the quality of Season Six. Mind you, the last season did not feature “HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER” at its best. But I managed to enjoy it a hell of a lot better than Season Seven. If this Robin/Barney love fest get any worse, Craig Thomas and Carter Bays is going to lose a fan . . . namely me.

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