I’m not sure what the writers’ endgame for this season is and that has me worried. With everything that’s been happening over the last couple of episodes, How I Met Your Mother seems like it’s heading toward its long awaited conclusion. Barney and Robin are getting married; Lily and Marshall are moving to Rome for a year; and Ted will meet the mother some time next month. I was content not knowing who the mother was, but as the show continues barreling toward the alleged reveal and the sense of finality sinks in, I’m once again becoming engrossed in the mystery. With that in mind, “Romeward Bound” feels a little off to me. I don’t know how much I should invest myself in individual episodes like this because I have no clue where things are going. Are Marshall and Lily really going to live in Italy? Is Ted seriously not over Robin yet? I don’t know what to think and I want to go back to the days when the episodes were so much simpler.
“Romeward Bound” is a simple enough episode plot wise. Everything happens rather predictably, but the weight of the impending finale often trips it up. We’re only a few episodes away from the end of Season 8 and rather than building to a natural climax, we’re left with random inserts of severity. The whole “what’s under Liddy’s coat?” storyline is silly, but it’s played off as something quite serious at the end, almost out of left field. Yes, Barney is having trouble letting go of his bachelor way of thinking and he’s taking Robin’s coolness for granted, something Ted points out from a place of assumed jealousy. What are we left to think? I have no idea. It all comes back to this mysterious end game. How could this season possibly end in a way that allows for it to continue for a ninth season? It’s distracting to have that thought always at the back of my mind and I can’t help but feel the writers are pushing these characters into situations just for the sake of drama.
Take Lily’s job offer from the Captain to go with him to Rome. She’s naturally unsure of whether she’s comfortable uprooting Marshall from his gig as an environmental lawyer. But when we discover Marshall’s firm hasn’t had a client in months, it seems like it was written in the stars for them to go to room. It even turns out Lily’s fantasy sequence picturing all the things Marshall would end up hating about Italy are exactly the things he’s looking forward to. But now Lily’s on the fence about going and there’s no real reason why she should be. She claims it’s because she’s a coward, but it feels more like a plot mandated feeling than an actually flaw in her character. She lists off all these things she tried to do and then gave up on, like spending a week in Paris and that summer in Los Angeles. But really, she gave those up because she wasn’t with Marshall and has always ended up back with him. If she goes to Italy with her husband, she should be fine.
And so “Romeward Bound” ends with a lot of questions and all of them pertaining to how these story threads will end in the finale. Will Marshall and Lily really go to Rome? Will Robin go through with the wedding? Is Ted actually going to meet the mother? We have two options: either yes to all three and Season 9 becomes a different version of this show, or only one or two will play out and the writers will find yet another way to prolong the natural conclusion of this love story.