How I Met Your Father Season 2 Episode 2 Review: “Midwife Crisis” Lacks the Vibes
As episode orders shrink (and the episodes themselves become longer), one of the most essential, underappreciated elements of a sitcom is starting to be lost. I’m talking, of course, about the ‘filler episode’, half hours spent reinforcing known character traits (or random, easy-to-resolve new ones) in throwaway stories unconcerned with overarching narrative or capable of affecting tangible, lasting change. It is there to fill out a traditional network episode order, and a way to stretch the creative muscles without overly taxing them; in the modern age of insanely short 8-10 episode orders, is a dying art form, despite its critical importance in building and maintaining an audience’s relationship with characters. Familiarity breeds intimacy – it’s why the legwork done with Robin, even in the worst of 208 How I Met Your Mother‘s episodes, is so important to her appearance in the season one finale… and its why, even with a stinker like “Midwife Crisis”, allowing How I Met Your Father to have these filler episodes is such an important thing.
The actual events of “Midwife Crisis” are uncharacteristically isolated, three plots operating at completely different emotional and comedic rhythms. But they are all united under a singular theme; they are stories designed to mostly maintain the status quo formed during “Timing is Everything”; Meredith is still Jesse’s shitty girlfriend, Ellen’s still neurotic about the neighbor she’s crushing on, and Sid… well, Sid is a character How I Met Your Father is still figuring out (and for my vote, broke bar owner is more interesting than quirky nerd who is weirdly into the Electric Slide). What happens within the confines of the episode is almost insignificant – what these episodes are about are their vibes, to further establish How I Met Your Father‘s voice and rhythms…. and it’s there, as a quality filler episode, that “Timing is Everything” is undeniably lacking.
The biggest problem, of course, is Meredith: Leighton Meester clearly understands Meredith’s specious intentions, but her performance isn’t utilized by Daniel & Matthew Libman’s script. In fact, it seems like HIMYF still isn’t sure how they feel about Meredith, who insists to Sid that’s she’s changed since her selfish burrito-stealing days. There’s no resolution to their side conflict, however: Sid merely decides to hold his tongue about complaining to Jesse any further, resolving the episode from… well, coming to a resolution. Instead, it offers a tease for a future conflict it doesn’t feel like anyone watching would really be invested in: at least, not in the current state of affairs, where there’s been nothing establishing why Meredith and Jesse are together beyond “they both do musics”.
Without a true investment in developing their chemistry, Sid’s superficially altruistic decisions strike a false note – we have no concrete evidence why this relationship is so important to its characters, or why Sid’s decision was a good one to make, even in the short term. One scene just isn’t enough here – but that’s all we get, with a lame reveal at the end reminding us not to invest in Meredith, in a very strange move (also, how DARE you set such a silly moment inside the former bedroom of Marshall, Lily, and Robin!).
At first, it feels like Sophie and Valentina’s story is taking a different approach: opening with future Sophie talking about how she’s a compulsive liar, “Midwife Crisis” takes its title from one of the lamer guest star appearances in recent memory (a thoroughly mundane Meghan Trainor as pregnant neighbor Ramona). Of the episode’s three stories, this is easily the most disappointing: from its indulgence of a largely lifeless guest appearance to its underutilization of a really interesting concept (How I Met Your Mother would also occasionally contend with Ted as an unreliable narrator) everything about this plot feels half-assed, in a way even the most filler-ific filler episodes should do better with.
There’s just so much untapped potential, both in the situation and its main characters. Ramona’s manic home birthing experience is an easy diagnosis: it’s just not funny at any point, with a bunch of lackluster punchlines and exactly one amusing moment (when Valentina decides to use frozen shrimp to cool down the birthing pool). Instead of using the opportunity to let Sophie’s lies build on each other (in either 2023 or the future) in interesting, possibly unsettling ways, all “Midwife Crisis” wants to do is have a screaming montage… which, mileage will vary on how that single gag (three women screaming) repeated 4-5 times in rapid succession will work for you.
Just because it’s a filler episode doesn’t mean How I Met Your Father can’t experiment with structure or delivery; in fact, these are the best episodes to test these things, since the actual drama of the episode’s stories are fairly low. Case in point: Ellen’s nervous obsession with getting her neighbor to see her and ask her out, which leads to her and Charlie having an impromptu house party. Here’s an opportunity for HIMYF to build out a mini-world for the show within itself (think Goliath Bank in HIMYM season four, or Robin’s workplace situations in later seasons), with some quirky one-off characters and a heavy sense of pathos for the budding friendship between roommates.
“Midwife Crisis” tries at one of these (the weird neighbor angle, in the form of an Odd Couple stand-in), and actively avoids the other two: while there’s no conflict between Ellen and Charlie, there’s nothing done to effectively build their relationship at all… and without that, what is really the point that can’t be accomplished by cutting right to the final scene (where Ellen and Rachel just go on a date)?
There’s a misnomer that filler episodes are inherently not compelling – a point I vehemently disagree with. Filler episodes are the heartbeat of a long running series, the very lifeblood with which our emotional attachment to a group of characters is fortified in our hearts and minds. But it takes a careful hand and a desire to put in the work – “Midwife Crisis” does none of this, rushing through its underwhelming set of jokes and situations, without ever cogently engaging in the various premises it establishes for itself.
I hesitate to call it counterproductive – “Midwife Crisis” is not actively awful, just egregiously mundane – but even with an extended season order, How I Met Your Father really needs to embrace the opportunities presented in these smaller episodes to fortify its (still growing, occasionally shaky) foundation as a comedy. The more specificity it can build into these characters through one-off stories and actually engage with these ideas and characteristics, the more freeing the episodes will feel: “Midwife Crisis” is too flat to even approach that, a disappointing early entry I hope doesn’t form habits for the season to follow.
- Ok, there was one really funny visual gag: Sophie knocking over everyone in her yoga class to run and find her phone (though I do wish the class was larger, so the joke had an opportunity to build a bit of momentum as she knocked more and more people over).
- Garrett Mrris and David Weisenberg are Julian and Maury, the aforementioned Odd Couple who wander into Ellen and Charlie’s apartment.
- Speaking of Ellen: when are we going to check in with Goliath? We are obviously heading there with the Barney Stinson reveal, but I’d like to get a little taste of how the show visions that company in 2023 (especially)
- If HIMYF is going to continue nodding to the OG series – can we have Pemberton’s carry Wharmpess, which we know is now featured in every bar in America?