When How I Met Your Father premiered in January 2022, critics were largely unimpressed. Many quickly doubted that the sequel series, created by Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger, could ever live up to its predecessor — but love it or hate it, there was no denying that the cast had chemistry. As Robin from How I Met Your Mother once said, “You got chemistry, you only need one other thing: Timing. But timing’s a bitch.”
How I Met Your Father took a while to find its own groove, but everything comes together (or in some cases falls apart) in the Season 1 finale, aptly titled, “Timing Is Everything.” The emotional rollercoaster of an episode successfully serves the kinds of sparks, setbacks, and kismet-heavy storylines that hooked fans on the original series, while setting up several major cliffhangers to be explored in Season 2. Writers also took the opportunity to deliver a heavy dose of nostalgia by including a perfectly-timed mix of HIMYM cameos and callbacks. If you have yet to watch the 10th episode of HIMYF, be warned that spoilers lie ahead.
HIMYF‘s finale opens with a shot of The Captain, Kyle MacLachlan’s boat-obsessed HIMYM character. The Captain’s wife Becky (Laura Bell Bundy) caught him cheating, so now they’re negotiating the terms of their divorce. It’s not initially clear why HIMYF is checking in with The Captain after all these years, but the older version of our protagonist Sophie (Kim Cattrall) assures us the affair will be important later. And boy, is she right.
Yes, that’s a bottle of Glen McKenna.
Credit: Patrick Wymore / Hulu
The episode ultimately marks a series of important milestones within the Pemberton’s friend group. Ellen (Tien Tran) lands herself a date and a job; Valentina (Francia Raísa) and Charlie (Tom Ainsley) break up; and Sid (Suraj Sharma) and Hannah (Ashley Reyes) almost call off their wedding only to elope instead. (They’re definitely doomed, right? Sidentina all the way.) It’s a jam-packed 25 minutes, but the focus lies on Sophie (Hilary Duff) and Jesse (Christopher Lowell), who go on a stellar first date, spend the night together, and part ways all before the end credits roll.
Sophie and Jesse have been a fan-favorite ship ever since she first slid into the backseat of his Uber two minutes into the series. In spite of their intimate friendship — or perhaps because of it — their romantic chemistry is off the charts. Look no further than their first kiss, set to “BRIGHTSIDE” by The Lumineers, which was so electric it resulted in me sending no less than 10 squeal-filled voice messages to friends.
Everything’s going swell for the “Drops of Jupiter” fans until Jesse prematurely says, “I love you,” spooking Sophie into subconsciously sabotaging their relationship before it even begins. The storyline is a not-so-subtle mirroring of the HIMYM pilot, in which Ted told Robin he loved her during their fantastic first date. Like Sophie, Robin feared Ted was moving too fast, so she slammed the brakes on their relationship.
LOOK. AT. THEM.
Credit: Patrick Wymore / Hulu
Ahead of her big gallery exhibition, Sophie stops by the nearest bar — the one below Jesse’s apartment — to cool off. It’s MacLaren’s Pub, it hasn’t changed a bit, and yes, I cried at the sheer sight of it. Carl (Joe Nieves) is still tending bar, and a familiar face, the Robin Scherbatsky (Cobie Smulders), who Sophie recognizes from the news, is parked at a stool as though she’s never left.
Because HIMYM was one of my favorite shows — and because we’re three years deep into a pandemic and I’ve hit peak emotional fragility — the back-to-back cameos ended me. Seeing Smulders (who looks smoking hot, BTW) reprise her role as Robin and settle so seamlessly back into her rightful place in the HIMY Universe was an absolute joy. As a fan of the original series, it also meant a lot to see HIMYF make such a valiant effort to keep that world alive.
“Back in the day, my friends and I wasted years in this very bar talking about our stupid love lives. I stop in here whenever I’m in the neighborhood,” Robin tells Sophie. “So please, tell me your stupid love story. Bring me back to the good old days.” The two relocate to the famous HIMYM booth, where Sophie fills Robin in on Jesse, and an older, wiser Scherbatsky tells Sophie about this “real piece of work” she once dated named Ted.
Seeing Smulders reprise her role as Robin and settle so seamlessly back into her rightful place in the HIMY Universe was an absolute joy.
A HIMYM-quality hype speech sends Sophie running back to Jesse’s apartment to apologize, where she finds him kissing his ex, Meredith (Leighton Meester). Ugh! What the hell, man? She returns to Robin, who explains, “If I’ve learned anything at all about love, it’s that timing is everything. And sometimes timing’s a bitch.”
Before the episode ends, we check back in with The Captain and Becky. She vows to take away all his precious boats, but The Captain fights for the one in Australia. “What those marine biologists are doing down there is important. They’re trying to help coral reefs procreate,” he tells her. She takes it anyway.
Kids, if you feel like you’ve heard the words “coral reef” and “procreate” on this show before, you weirdly have. Sophie’s perfect Tinder date from the pilot, marine biologist Ian, moved to Australia to work on that very boat. But because Becky put an end to the research, he’s back in New York. More specifically, he’s standing right in front of Sophie at her exhibition, which is how the episode ends. Whew.
I also need a hug.
Credit: Patrick Wymore / Hulu
The finale is extra, to say the least. But it’s good extra, not “bullhorn to the ass” extra, as Robin would say. From the start of the series, stars and creators stressed that they wanted HIMYF to be a “stand-alone sequel” — a show set in the world of the original that ultimately exists as its own entity. We saw the series start to achieve that goal halfway through the season, but as we learned from the sentimental apartment reveal in the pilot, HIMYF hits a certain creative stride when it weaves the two worlds together.
The finale is extra, to say the least. But it’s good extra, not “bullhorn to the ass” extra, as Robin would say.
It was necessary for the series to ignore its predecessor for a bit to develop an original voice and convince viewers that its characters were independently lovable. But once HIMYF showed it was capable of standing on its own, it picked the perfect time to cleverly re-harness the nostalgia factor. The finale proved to fans that as long as the show continues to bring a modern-day charm and original storylines to the screen, it can incorporate cherished references to HIMYM — as small-scale as mentioning the “The Pineapple Incident” or as major as dropping a Robin cameo — without losing itself. And that’s a legendary feat.
In the second half of the season, HIMYF also demonstrates a pivotal understanding of some of the broader formulaic strengths that made HIMYM so special. The sequel excels at crafting multiple overlapping storylines. It’s laid early groundwork for potential future romances. And it knows how to spin an elaborate web to show how the smallest occurrence can cause a ripple effect and change the course of an entire life.
HIMYM knew timing is everything. And though HIMYF took a minute to get there, the show seems to have a firm, promising grasp on that concept heading into Season 2.