How I Met Your Mother has become more and more like a soap opera this season, with implausible plot-twists and misleading cliffhangers thrown in for the drama. The characters often ceased being well-rounded people and became pawns, moved from place to place for the convenience of the plot. Which is a shame, because I've always loved this show.
The Magician's Code did have some fun elements. The "tell me a story" setup allowed the show to play in the crazy, anecdotal structure that it does best, and new baby Marvin Wait-For-It Erikson is beyond adorable. But far from telling a genuine-seeming story, the episode delighted in underestimating viewers' intelligence and playing tricks on their understanding of the plot.
Although it wasn't particularly surprising that Robin turned out to be Barney's bride (not least because the actress who plays Quinn has been signed on for a new pilot next season), the entire setup felt extremely cheap. Barney's relationship with Quinn, his proposal, ultimately seemed nothing more than a ruse, a misdirection to allow for a shocking final moment before the summer hiatus. First she's taking advantage of him, then they're in love, then they're moving in and getting engaged, in the space of a few episodes, and Barney's whole character changes as a result. He has become another Ted, getting engaged to two women in the space of the year; it's more about the wedding than about the women themselves and his relationship with them. As with the false pregnancy reveal in November sweeps, the story has become all about the viewer and their reaction, and not about the characters and their genuine experiences.
Meanwhile, Quinn quits her job as a stripper because Barney, the ultimate connoisseur of strip clubs, disapproves. And Barney immediately proposes, because she given up something so important to her to be with him. Again, they've only been together a couple of months, and Quinn has always been proud of her job and her skill at it. We never see Quinn outside of two contexts -- stripping and Barney -- and so the loss of her job is like the tossing away of her whole identity outside of Barney.
And then there's Victoria. I love Victoria as a character, and I still harbor the secret wish that she'll turn out to be the mother after all. But the renewed Victoria plotline in this episode was just painful to watch. Again, the show goes for almost unbelievable coincidences to drive the plot along: not only is Victoria getting married that day, but she is having second thoughts, particularly about the man she dated for a few months over 6 years before. And Ted, a man who was left at the altar himself, is fine with this.
But fine. Even if we accept that, the scenes in that car between Ted and Victoria as they drive off into the sunset made me deeply uncomfortable. Although this is supposed to be not only an epic romantic moment between the two of them, but also one of the most significant decisions in Victoria's life, the scene was all about Ted. He decides to return Victoria to the church, because he cannot ruin another man's life like that, without really giving her free choice -- maybe even if she doesn't run with you, Ted, she still might want to leave. She agrees that he has a point, but then Ted drives straight past the church and says that he's changed his mind, that he does want to be with her... and Victoria is completely fine with that as well.
The entire episode was badly executed, as the non-main-cast female characters because little more than game pieces to be moved back and forth, not even for the male characters' benefit, but so that the writers could twist the plot around and provide some shock factor for the audience. And perhaps the show gained a few extra hearts-in-throats, a few extra gasps from viewers, but in doing so, it lost its own heart.
But the baby really was cute.