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The soap opera drama we thought we had on our hands drastically shape-shifted before our eyes. But despite the misleading tease of baby-daddy drama, How I Met Your Mother Season 7 is probably all the better for it.
Robin got the spotlight (and the role of narrator) here as “Symphony of Illumination” opened with her talking to her future children about their father, who is clearly Barney. Yet things are never as they seem when some crucial piece of future information gets revealed so bluntly. Sure enough, it’s all too exciting to be true, as these kids don’t exist, and we are left with a sad and surprisingly touching conclusion.
Cobie Smulders shined her brightest as an actress in this episode. She’s done a lot of good work on this show the last seven years, but the range here from humor to drama has no equal. She’s a treasure and she deserved an episode like this.
Credit to Carter Bays and Craig Thomas though, because you’re never a step ahead of these guys. I can’t count the number of incorrect predictions I’ve made this season. Even in just this episode itself I believed that Robin did have children and that perhaps Barney had donated of himself to conceive them, hence her referring to him as their father, but obviously that was wrong. At first the imaginary move seemed cheap, but it fit well with where Robin’s character was emotionally.
The question of how long the issue of Robin’s infertility will linger and affect her character remains to be seen. My guess (look, another prediction!) is that it could start to impact her relationship with Kevin. It could also serve to drive her more professionally. I would hope they don’t just gloss over it in the short term.
The Barney and Robin factor, on the other hand, continues to confound. Barney gets extremely excited at the news of being a father despite learning in the last episode that he’s not cut out for parenting quite yet. As Ted and Lily try to guess what’s wrong with Robin, he has trouble concealing their affair. All in all, it seems that their affair will be kept secret until presumably later in the season. Robin’s imagining of Barney as her kids’ father implies (slightly) that she sees him as the future and we know Barney wants to be with her.
The perfect foil to all of this was Marshall getting stuck on the roof thanks to his deceptive teenage neighbor Scott, who exploits Marshall’s newfound desire to settle into a role as patriarch. Marshall shouting into the sky window as Scott eats a sandwich in his house was classic and though it could’ve gone farther, it added some nice comic relief.
But “Symphony of Illumination” left you feeling for Robin. Her character has by far been the most consistent. She’s simply a slightly masculinized woman who can’t admit her need for companionship is equally as strong if not stronger than her drive to be a professional journalist. She’s had extended periods of being more comic relief, but she’s never behaved out of character. Truthfully, her feelings for Barney have been her only questionable characteristic. Her sudden sadness at the realization that having children is not a possibility despite strongly disliking them echoes how she carries herself as if she’s too career-driven to have a committed relationship.
Season 7 continues to surprise us in all manner of ways and presumably it’s nowhere near done. With the way things have heated up in just a half a season, you’d have to think the number of funny fill-in fluff episodes will be less than usual for the remainder of the season. One thing that remains a little more up in the air is what we’ll get with Ted’s story line, the most important of them all, yet the one we seem to get the least of. No Ted/mother movement until season’s end would trump all the great work Bays and Thomas have done thus far.