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How I Met Your Father Offers Barney Stinson Closure and Depth

The midseason finale gives a glimpse of what he’s been up to post-HIMYM.
  • Sophie (Hilary Duff) and Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) on How I Met Your Father (Photo: Patrick Wymore/Hulu)
    Sophie (Hilary Duff) and Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) on How I Met Your Father (Photo: Patrick Wymore/Hulu)

    [Editor’s Note: This post contains spoilers for How I Met Your Father Season 2, Episode 11, “Daddy.”]

    The midseason finale of How I Met Your Father finally showcased the run-in that viewers have been waiting weeks for: the return of Barney Stinson (Neil Patrick Harris). The episode, “Daddy,” picks up from the moment teased in the Season 2 premiere, where Sophie (Hilary Duff) crashes — as in, literally crashes her car — into the beloved How I Met Your Mother alum.

    The episode offers a glimpse of what Barney has been up to post-HIMYM. When he steps out of his vehicle, Barney mentions he’s a “recovering serial womanizer,” proceeding to read a long list of some of his most elaborate schemes, such as the times he pretended to be a mannequin or a time-traveling old man to lure women into bed. It is also revealed that he has an STD — a Shock Therapy Device — programmed with 10,000 problematic words and phrases that electrocute him if he says anything inappropriate. It’s an amusing way of maintaining Barney’s original appeal without leaving him stuck in the past, as it acknowledges how much of what his character represented would not fly in current times.

    When Barney and Sophie meet, Sophie is in the process of fleeing her older-boyfriend-and-possibly-long-lost-father’s home after finding out that Robert (John Corbett) was also linked to her mother on the day she was conceived. Although it turns out to be a false alarm, it forces Sophie to see that her fear of commitment stems from growing up without a dad. It’s a parallel to Barney’s journey, who spent the latter half of HIMYM reconciling with his own father, Jerome (John Lithgow). Although it didn’t completely fix his abandonment problems, Barney says becoming a father pushed him to change his problematic ways, and he is lucky that having Jerome in both his and his daughter’s lives has been great.

    Similar to Robin’s (Cobie Smulders) appearance in the Season 1 finale, the return of such a prominent HIMYM character like Barney must serve a larger purpose beyond sheer nostalgia bait. Co-creator Isaac Aptaker touched on this during an interview with TVLine: “Whenever we talk about bringing back a member of the original crew, you want it to serve two purposes: You want to give some tidbits about what is going on in their lives, where they’ve landed and where they’re at, but it’s also about how they impact the How I Met Your Father story, and how they send one of our characters in a new, unexpected direction.”

    HIMYF maintains the spirit of the original series by having its main characters encounter random, yet significant strangers that have a profound influence on their overarching narrative. In HIMYM’s Season 9 episode “Platonish,” Barney’s initial attempts to hit on Tracy (Cristin Milioti) sparked a meaningful conversation that pushed him to pursue Robin for real (which in turn inspired the idea for “The Robin”). For Sophie, her conversation with Barney encourages her to properly track down her father, which will play a major part in the latter half of the season.

    Barney’s appearance satisfies a widespread desire among fans for closure, as his character received arguably the shortest end of the stick in HIMYM. As Season 2 progresses, it’s clear that HIMYF is honing a balance between its necessary nods to the predecessor and maintaining a fresh, modern perspective that doesn’t lose itself to nostalgia, but rather carves out a unique path for Sophie.

    New episodes of How I Met Your Father return Tuesday, May 23 on Hulu. Join the discussion about the show in our forums.

    Dianna Shen is a TV Writer at Primetimer based in New York. Her work has been featured in Paste Magazine and Decider, among other outlets.

    TOPICS: How I Met Your Father, Hulu, How I Met Your Mother, Cobie Smulders, Elizabeth Berger, Hilary Duff, Isaac Aptaker, Neil Patrick Harris