Recurring Cast: Josh Radnor, Jason Segel, Cobie Smulders with Neil Patrick Harris and Alyson Hannigan
How I Met Your Mother goes from strong to unstoppable. While it is near impossible to narrow down the story of one season to a specific point, as the show is likely to drop certain narratives to go on an impulsive side-arc that can involve Barney’s surprise brother-in-law or Ted’s feud with his horrible boss (a superb guest-starring role by Bryan Cranston), the main arc of Season Two is the two central relationships. When Season One ended, Ted had finally managed to convince the independent Robin that they should make a go at a proper relationship, while the eternal love for Marshall and Lily came to a heart-breaking halt, when Lily decided she felt trapped and fled to Europe to find herself. The show takes these two stories and builds on them. Ted is no longer looking for ‘The One’ and his story comes from finding out the good and bad of actually having a relationship. Meanwhile Marshall struggles with the loss of his perfect woman, made even worse, when Lily ends up being forced to return to New York.
And Season Two boasts an impressive array of hilarious twenty-minute episodes that, unlike some of the other seasons, rarely dip in quality. Shows like these often pick up steam as they go on and the audience fall in love with the characters. Friends might be a cult piece of comedy history, but the best episodes are nestled in the mid-way point of its ten season run. How I Met Your Mother was surprisingly good for the get-go, but it must be said that Season Two, on the whole, is a lot stronger, because now we know what kind of comedy we are going to settle into. An important part of the charm of this show is that, in order to get the laughs and narrative, we need to fully connect with the five heroes at the centre of the story. Barney is a despicable character on paper, but his honesty and hidden moral side makes him too endearing to truly hate. Ted and Robin have selfish sides to their characters, so we need to genuinely like and empathise with them, if we are to have them as the leading protagonists in this story. However, thankfully, that has never been How I Met Your Mother’s problem. Season Two slightly corrects its slight wobble with Robin, making her a more three-dimensional character (it helps that she is now struggling to keep a relationship she never thought she would want afloat, rather than being the trophy girl in this season), and the rest of the characters continue to work on their strong points. Barney’s madness can only go one way and the character’s madcap silliness only grows from here. This season sees him arrange a stag do, gives us a shocking insight into his top secret flat and we even see him become a contestant on The Price Is Right. Barney might seem like the most predictable character on paper, yet the show always dreams up new ways to make him surprising. As a result, whenever we settle into an episode of HIMYM, we are comfortable in the knowledge we are in a safe pair of hands. This certainty makes the second season of HIMYM one of the strongest in the canon.
Perhaps the reason it is so consistent is because of how easy it is to relate to the events of the story. While Scrubs shows off a crazy night in a hospital and Big Bang Theory is about how social awkward teens view the world, HIMYM is always fixed on events that are likely to happen in our lives. We are so transfixed by Marshall’s agony at being dumped, because we have likely being through his despair ourselves. Ted and Robin become jealous at objects around the house that have been given by ex-partners. Marshall’s childhood car reaches its expiry date. We have all had these milestones in our lives and it is refreshing to see a famous sitcom reference our anxieties and experiences. We feel like we share the narrative of HIMYM. Sure, sometimes it treats itself to a fair bit of exaggeration, like the brilliant ‘Never Date A Girl With Crazy Eyes’ episode and, of course, when the season climaxes in the sitcom staple of a wedding episode, the sky is the limit in terms of things that can go wrong. But they are still firmly stuck in foundations of truth and as the characters react naturally to the events around them, we never lose touch with the comedy. It also does wonders for the tragedy elements of the show. It is a common trademark now for most comedies to delve into sad moments as the episode wraps to a close. Because we care for these characters so much, it is only fair that we see them as real people, rather than cartoons for our amusement. However, HIMYM manages to embrace drama as well as comedy far more often, and far more precisely, than most other comedies I know. You will be laughing one second and then be left reeling at a well-timed punch to the heart as we watch something truly earth-shattering happen to one of the characters. It’s not just the sad moments, but the heart-warming ones too that the show makes time for. Whenever it puts the gags on the back-burner, just to spend a quiet moment with a couple we know and love, no one minds. In fact, as the season gets to its endgame, you begin to actually tune in for the softer, more romantic moments.
Final Verdict: While still outright hilarious, How I Met Your Mother’s second season is more about a lesson in well-timed character study. The highlight of the series.