How I Met Your Father Season 2 Episode 5 Review: “Ride or Die” Finds A Tempo
As How I Met Your Father begins to feel out the studio space of a full second season order, it is starting to feel like a comedy getting comfortable in its own skin – beyond the familiarity of the first four words in its title. “Ride or Die”, in many ways, mirrors “Pathetic Deirdre” before it, using a similar structure (Charlie’s weird notions of relationships, Sophie and Val’s friendship, Jesse’s emasculation) to resolve a lot of the threads still left hanging from “Timing is Everything” – but with a few tweaks to the formula, which delivers the funniest, if not the most meaningful, episode of its young sophomore season.
The big resolution, of course, comes off-screen, when Meredith reveals (on stage in Massapequa, of all places) that Jesse’s left her – which is not just an important resolution to Jesse being constantly shamed by his girlfriend, but a reminder that underneath all of this Meredith nonsense, there is an actual character How I Met Your Father is interested in exploring – a friend, a musician, and of course, the possible father of Sophie’s children. Meredith’s re-introduction at the end of season one has sucked all of the life out of his character, consumed by her tour, social media requirements, and the constant feeling that he’s not considered an equal in his own relationship.
Quite frankly, it has turned Jesse into a door mat; it’s why his freakout over Sid coming to his concert felt a bit rushed, and why the resolution at the end of this episode is so meaningful. Jesse may not exactly be the most interesting character in the world, but in Meredith’s orbit, he becomes the leading candidate for Sad Sack of the Year – a trend that continues through the first two acts of “Ride or Die”, but one HIMYF smartly lays at Ellen’s feet this time around, providing an avenue of resolution through a character who knows Jesse in ways nobody else in the cast can. Is it a reminder that sometimes it feels like the show forgets they are siblings? Look – nobody’s perfect, but what I can say in this episode is Ellen’s conversation with Jesse feels grounded in ways that help to grow both characters as individuals, and a collective whole.
Would it have been nice to see the moment Jesse decided to stand up for himself? Definitely – a bit of conviction in his personality would be a really heartening thing to see for his character. What we get instead is not bad – his reunion with Sid, which kind of shows where the real priorities of the series are – but is it not as dynamic, or potentially dramatic, as seeing Jesse confront Meredith (and in a way, himself) over how his life has gone for the past few months. We can see his heart drop when the viral proposal gone bad video shows up in the “J Street” montage – but I do wish “Ride or Die” had latched onto this moment more instead of opting for the easier solution, but admittedly, it is a bit of a nitpick.
With the whole Meredith thing being put on ice (finally), the rest of How I Met Your Father is pretty standard fare, as Charlie plays bro matchmaker with Sid and Jesse, while Val’s parents (played by Mark Consuelos and Constance Marie) try to engineer another romantic setup for her. Written by former Superstore and Friends with Benefits producer Owen Ellickson, “Ride or Die” is a world building episode without a ton of narrative high points – except, of course, until the beginning of the third act, when future Sophie declares she “wanted to play with structure a little bit.”
Now, I love this notion: the more HIMYF leans into Sophie as a manipulator, the more interesting she becomes as her own unreliable narrator (Charlie’s attempts to manipulate are also worthwhile, albeit for more comedic reasons). But rather than a framing device for the entire episode (which last week’s entry used to great success), “Ride or Die” plainly points out it withheld important bits of conversation, out of nothing more than an easy way to manufacture very short-term drama. I don’t know what is more frustrating: the fact this concept wasn’t used in more meaningful fashion (the extra detail of Sid’s allergy attack is funny, but weightless) and the episode tried to high five itself while doing it felt a bit forced, lacking the playful creativity of HIMYM‘s most inventive episodes (an energy it is most certainly trying to mimic).
“Ride or Die” is still finding its personality in fits and starts – and that’s ok, even if it is going to lead to some episodes tailing off a bit, as this one does when it starts randomly moving the narrative goal posts. However, there are a lot of important, encouraging moments in these 22 minutes the series can really latch onto, from Sid’s inner monologue to Charlie, who is almost starting to feel like a light commentary on the very construction of sitcom narratives (in that they’re ridiculous, and don’t make sense when objectively observed from a distance), there’s a lot for HIMYF to continue building on. With 15 episodes now under its belt, it is time for How I Met Your Mother to stop playing it safe – I’m hoping the last half of season 2A really starts to embrace its combination of weird and endearing to unearth the abundant potential lying dormant in this young sitcom’s heart.