'How I Met Your Mother' Recap: Marshall and Lily "Unpause" into some serious marital trouble

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How’s that for some much-needed darkness?! Now, the likelihood that Lily and Marshall’s marital conflict lasts for more than a few episodes isn’t high. And quite honestly, How I Met Your Mother would be a very different show to focus TOO much on the underlying honest problems its characters face. But it was damn refreshing to watch HIMYM acknowledge — for the first time in a long, long time — that some of the cutesy affectations of, say, Marshall and Lily are actually masking some pretty deep relationship issues.

Hard to believe that Lily returning Marshall’s engagement ring and jetting off to San Francisco happened over seven long years ago, but it did happen. Obviously, she was always going to come back, Alyson Hannigan being a star of the show, but the way HIMYM played it — it was heartbreaking and believable and ultimately handled in such a way that you could understand and feel the scars it left, the way it had changed both characters. At least for a little while. So much stuff has happened since then, so much of it inconsequential, that the events and ramifications of Seasons 1-3 (the Golden Years!) have almost been swept under the rug.

So to understand that at the core of Marshall and Lily’s current “Pause/Unpause” dilemma — or at least what it digs up — is that moment of heartbreak so long ago? Pretty ballsy, HIMYM! Pretty REAL. I’ve been vocal about my belief that the show has given  sociopath Barney Stinson an astonishing pass in Season 9, forgiving a lot of infractions that most normal people and/or law enforcement agencies wouldn’t so easily let go. And while they don’t seem so interested in addressing that one, this Marshall/Lily flare-up offers a real character moment. Lily is perfectly right to suggest that Marshall was shitty to go behind her back and make a decision without consulting her. Partnerships require communication! Unilateral — or at least discussed and compromised on — decision making. But by the same token… the suggestions Marshall makes about Lily’s SF sojourn are absolutely on-point. Would she have come back if she hadn’t had such a miserable time? Even if Lily and Marshall are happy now, with a child… isn’t it sort of as a fallback to what she really wanted (at the time)?

I’m playing Devil’s Advocate — shit that happened seven years ago is ultimately of little consequence to a couple that’s (mostly) happily married and has forged a real and genuine life for themselves. Obviously they’ll smooth things out before long. But it makes the drama on the show that much richer to know it’s coming from a place of authentic emotion, and hurt. This is what HIMYM did at its best: mixing laughs and sadness together in a way that just felt… real. Here’s hoping the show has more of this up its sleeve in the back half.

Image: CBS