While How I Met Your Mother may have jumped the shark last season, Season Seven, now available in "The Ducky Tie Edition" on DVD, still has a lot of good to offer, though not as much as earlier, more exemplary seasons.
How I Met Your Mother in Season Seven is starting to feel a lot like another TV show, Lost. The show is crammed full of flashbacks and flash forwards (oftentimes piling them onto each other like a heaping stack of DHARMA Initiative pancakes). References to past and future episodes abound as the show meticulously keeps in line with the established continuity of the series (for instance, Marshall is seen holding a cigarette just before hearing that Lily is in labor, when it was mentioned in a previous season that the day his first son was born was when Marshall quit smoking) and allows keen-eyed viewers with a Pause button some hidden jems to discover. Mysteries abound (for example, Season Seven begins with the mystery of who Barney is marrying, which isn't answered until the final moments of the season, highly reminiscent of season four of Lost's "who's in the coffin?" season-long mystery), complete with a great deal of teasing and misleading set-ups.
Fans of both series know from Jorge Garcia's guest appearance in Season Six (which was riddled with Lost references) that the writers of Mother are well-aquainted with Lost, so it seems likely that they've been taking notes and are playing from a modified version of the Lost playbook. Something working in Mother's favor here is that they have only one major mystery to solve (who is the titular "Mother?"), whereas Lost piled them up so high that it became impossible to touch upon all of them before the series' end. Thank goodness Mother features such a stellar cast of likable characters, otherwise the audience could have run out of patience by this point.
Season Seven sees each of the main characters changing in significant ways. Though the first episode hints that "timing" is the theme for this season (in the same way "loss" was the theme for the previous season), this season's theme really feels like "change.
This season sees long-time relationship-phobe Robin involved in her longest, most serious relationship yet. With that comes a new character, Kevin the therapist, played by Harold and Kumar's Kal Penn. Kevin brings probably the most interesting new dynamic to the gang of all the long-term boyfriend/girlfriend characters on the show. Being a therapist as well as a newcomer to the group, he's able to see and point out just how dysfunctional, co-dependent, and incestuous the group really is. The result transforms the familiar characters we've grown to know and love over the last six seasons and puts them in a very different light, similar to later seasons of Seinfeld when the audience starts to see Jerry, Elaine, George, and Kramer as a unit as destructive and surprisingly awful people.
Marshall and Lily deal with their upcoming child in different ways. Marshall becomes obsessed with becoming the best dad possible, regretting things he did earlier in life, such as appearing naked on the Internet as "Beercules," while Lily suffers most of the season from "pregnancy brain," leading her to make questionable decisions that are totally out-of-character for her, like moving to the suburbs of Long Island and allowing Marshall to get Minnesota Vikings draperies.
Ted, on his journey to "become who he had to be in order to meet [his future childrens'] mother," loses sight of his romantic side and pines that he no longer believes in destiny or finding "the one" anymore. But of all the characters it's Barney who surprisingly undergoes the biggest change this season in that the lifelong bachelor and one-night-stander decides it's time to settle down, get serious and get married.
The Ducky Tie Edition DVD (which is also the only DVD edition for this season--goofy, needless marketing titles strike again!) also contains several bonus features, including the usual gag reel and deleted scenes, as well as commentary tracks on "The Best Man," "Drunk Train," and "Karma." Also included are several short featurettes, such as "Neil Patrick Harris Gets His Star," "How We Write Your Mother" about the real-life stories that inspired the shenanigans on the show and "How We Make Your Mother" which is mainly about creating props, dressing the sets and costuming for the final episode of the season. There's also an extra called "Guest Star Powers" which asks each of this season's guest stars (although Katie Holmes is noticeably absent) to show off a hidden talent of theirs to very disappointing results.
While the show may be a little short on laughs this season, there's still a fantastic energy that pervades the show thanks to the spectacular ensemble cast. Long after the Lost-like stringing-along of the viewership grows too tiresome to bear, and the plotlines grow ever more strange, the intensely likeable, talented and dedicated cast of Josh Radnor, Jason Segel, Cobie Smulders, Neil Patrick Harris, and Alyson Hannigan will keep me and other viewers interested in the show and tuning in week after week and season after season on the long journey to meet the mystery mother.