How I Met Your Father Season 2 Episode 1 Review: “Cool and Chill” Slides into Place
If you blinked anytime between January and March last year, you probably missed the entirety of How I Met Your Father‘s all-too-brief first season, which survived a rough beginning and was just finding its footing when the first season finale, “Timing is Everything”, dropped an avalanche of plot and character development in a chaotic 22 minutes. Ten months later, “Cool and Chill” has to somehow deal with that mess, and still begin to introduce new threads for the (expanded!) 20-episode second season; and though its unable to really step outside the lingering shadows of season one to do the latter, it finds humor (and even a bit of pathos) as it begins to unwind the many knots of the former.
With Sid and Hannah’s wedding party at Pemberton’s as the backdrop, “Cool and Chill” is also trying to do all of this (mostly) at a single location – which quickly becomes a hectic affair, as competing plots and conversations immediately begin to overlap and crash into each other. More than any episode before it, “Cool and Chill” takes on the structure and movements of a stage play – even more so than the traditional sitcom format mimics it, guided by Pamela Fryman’s experienced, often subtle camera work. I hesitate to call it a bottle episode (it does begin at the gallery, and throw in a number of cutaway gags), but it is a distinct decision to ensnare the narrative insanity of “Timing is Everything” and let the characters bounce of the walls against each other, and one I really appreciate.
While it does get a bit repetitive at times, it is a welcome reintroduction to the idiosyncrasies of our main characters (and introducing new ones, like Sid’s obsession with the Electric Slide, or Ellen’s impressive sequin abilities) – and more importantly, does an impressive job taking on the larger task of processing Sophie’s recent life decisions. In the last 48 hours, she went through a break up, a hook up, a freak out, her first gallery showing – and then, Ian returning from his oceanography excursion, right before we cut to credits and went off air for nearly a year.
That’s a lot for any human to deal with; it’s even more for a sitcom to try and unwrap, especially with a half-dozen other characters interspersed between them. And it’s certainly clumsy at times, whether it’s tossing Sid and Hannah into the background, or squeezing in scenes with Charlie and Valentina trying to resolve their own extremely new breakup.
But to its credit, the more “Cool and Chill” whiplashes around Pemberton’s, the more it begins to find its footing, grounding itself in Charlie’s earnestness and not shying away from the complicated, frustrating feels between Sophie and Jesse. Charlie’s enthusiastic genitals, Drew’s misguided post-breakup spa adventure, Ellen’s wallet; there are certainly worse ways to fill space while the episode clears Sophie’s headspace for the season to follow!
It would be easy to brush these stories under the rug quickly, to move a few weeks or months into the future and re-establish the season premiere a few months later; the harder task, which credited writers (and series creators) Isaac Aptaker & Elizabeth Berger take on with surprising aplomb, is to sit in the aftermath of those dramatic decisions, and offer a thoughtful observation on how we try to cope in the immediate aftermath of moments we are distinctly trying to ignore – and how things can spiral when they’re staring us in the face.
Anyone looking for “Cool and Chill” to offer a preview of what is to come in this season’s plot may be a bit disappointed; however, as a season premiere for a series that came and went extremely quickly in its debut, it’s an entertaining, asymmetric premiere that knows exactly what makes the chemistry between (most) of its cast percolate. For a half hour of retreading, “Cool and Chill” fills its time well – and of course, ends with a twist and a big, unexplained tease.
As Sophie tells Ian they need to part ways for the time being while she figures out where she’s at, How I Met Your Father suddenly cuts away to engage with a risky storytelling device, one that paid huge dividends – and later, had huge consequences – for the similarly-named series before it. As Sophie Electric Slides over the dead bodies of three relationships she cratered in a 24 hour period, adult Sophie recounts to her son that she felt she was at her rock bottom – but, as it turns out, is really only the beginning of a downward spiral that ends with her possibly dating her dad (?) and smashing into the back of one Barney Stinson’s vehicle (license plate: LGNDRY).
It would be easy to be cynical to see How I Met Your Father engaging in old schtick, both narratively and by trotting out old audience favorites; but after the phenomenal appearance by Cobie Smulders as a reflective (and semi-famous) Robin Scherbatsky in the season one finale, I have some hope this series knows what its doing by bringing Barney frickin’ Stinson briefly back into the mix.
I mean, if the old gang shows up once a season to offer sage bits of advice to the next generation, I am perfectly fine with it: give me an aging, widowed Ted wandering around staring at the city skyline, or give me a frightened Lily returning to the big city for the first time after years in the suburbs… How I Met Your Mother might’ve been shit with planning elaborate plots in its later years (after being so fucking good at it in its first four seasons), but its characters are iconic, and the lessons they learned are stories worth passing down to the next generation of twenty-somethings trying to find their way in the world.
Though the brief tease (and Barney cameo) isn’t really the most exciting thing on the planet, it is a sign that How I Met Your Father is entering season two with a little bit more structure, and has a plan to fill out this extended season order with some meaningful professional and personal stories. None of them are present in “Cool and Chill” except Sophie’s rock bottom, of course, but in a way, it speaks to the confidence of the writers that what is to come is worth waiting for, something that truly can’t be rushed through in the space of four hours and change of story.
“Cool and Chill” is a solid season premiere for a sitcom with such a stunted opportunity to grow in its first season; it reinforces the basics of its characters, quickly unwinds a complicated series of dramatic cliffhangers, and resists the urge to overwhelm an audience with new details, characters, and a sudden change of pace or emotion. Sometimes its just as simple as picking up where you left off, leaving fear behind (hope to see you again soon, Robin!) and pushing forward into the exciting unknown.
- Welcome (or welcome back) to How I Met Your Father reviews! As with last season, reviews will publish when new episodes premiere each Tuesday morning (slash in the middle of the night, because streaming schedules make sense!).
- Ellen insists that Valentina and Charlie coined the phrase “Netflix and *********************************************.”
- One detail that really needed to be explained: someone just delivers a gifelte fish instead of a wedding cake, and it is NEVER MENTIONED AGAIN. How does someone make such a grievous error????
- It’s such an overused joke, but goddamnit I laughed so hard at Drew’s midlife crisis “Orange Creamsicle” package.
- An astute observation that 99.5% of people do not know any lyrics to “When A Man (Loves a Woman)” outside of the titular phrase.
- can we please get more flashbacks of Jesse with Zac Efron hair? Side note: feels really weird to be old enough that the college flashbacks are from my era.
- How does someone accidentally film a sex tape in 2022? Charlie and Valentina manage to do it, though I’m thoroughly unconvinced of its “accidental” nature.
- Jesse’s delivery of “I would rather be electri-cuted”… now that’s comedy, folks!