Neil Patrick Harris‘ Barney Stinson is back in the midseason finale of Hulu’s How I Met Your Father — and this time, he has an STD. No, not a sexually transmitted disease, but an experimental Shock Therapy Device programmed with over 10,000 problematic words and phrases that blasts him with enough electricity to power Staten Island if he so much as thinks of acting inappropriately toward women.
It comes in handy when the How I Met Your Mother character crosses paths with HIMYF protagonist Sophie, who’s about to embark on a quest to find her absentee dad — a quest not unlike Barney’s search for Jerome. But before he sends her on her way, Barney warns Sophie that finding her dad won’t necessarily solve all her issues. He also says how great it’s been having his dad in his life — especially after the arrival of his daughter Ellie, who was born in HIMYM‘s series finale. He even shows Sophie a few photos of his little girl.
Below, HIMYF creators Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger discuss the significance of Barney’s return — including new details about the Barnacle’s post-HIMYM life that they chose not to disclose in the episode — and how it sets up Sophie’s arc in the second half of Season 2 (premiering Tuesday, May 23).
TVLINE | We don’t actually find out what Barney was doing in the suburbs. Has he moved out of the city? Is he visiting someone? Is there a definitive answer?
APTAKER | There was a little bit more that we shot that we took out of the [final] cut, but our thinking was that Barney is a little bit more of a family man now… maybe he’s living the suburban dad life.
BERGER | There were a lot more details that unfortunately didn’t live [on in the episode]. We could have written this scene to go on for 45 minutes, but there were details about Sunday night dinner and all these things, and all of the routines and rituals that he has now as a family man. But yes, like Isaac said, we’re nodding to the idea that his life has changed and brought him here.
APTAKER | Even the car he’s driving! It’s still a cool car, but that SUV is a “dad mobile” if I’ve ever seen one.
TVLINE | The HIMYM finale didn’t reveal much about Barney’s future beyond the birth of his daughter Ellie in 2019. You could have disclosed more, you chose to hold back. Is that a conversation that you have whenever you bring back an OG character — how much to disclose, and how much you feel like it’s your place to directly impact HIMYM canon without original creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas’ direct involvement?
BERGER | Yes, absolutely. We always want to make sure that we are being true to the mythology — and, hopefully, giving fans of the original little morsels that fill in some of the pieces. But we also do feel like this is a character that holds such a special place in people’s hearts, and this is Carter and Craig’s creation, so if anyone should deep-dive into what’s going on with Barney, they feel like the guys to do it. So, it’s finding that balance of paying tribute and honoring the character, but also not getting wildly specific in ways that don’t really feel appropriate for us to do.
APTAKER | Yeah. We’re not trying to upend the How I Met Your Mother finale. It did leave [certain] holes, but it took those characters through this [period of] time and covered a lot, so we’re not trying to upend anything there.
TVLINE | Barney lists off some of his greatest scams, cons, hustles, hoodwinks, gambits, flimflams, stratagems and bamboozles from the original show — including the time he pretended to be a mannequin that came to life, and the time he hired a makeup team to transform him into a time-traveling old man. How’d you settle on those specific callbacks?
BERGER | We went back, we revisited… we had a much longer list. Again, it’s one of those things that could go on forever in a really fun way, but then we truncated it to give some of the highlights — the things we thought would really stick out in people’s minds. But yes, it was very fun to go back and craft that list.
TVLINE | Sophie says that she always pictured Malcolm in the Middle-era Bryan Cranston as her father. Cranston, of course, played Hammond Druthers on the mothership. Was that also meant as an Easter egg, or…?
APTAKER | [Laughs] That’s one thing we’ve run up against before and we had to make a choice. The original show was on for a gazillion episodes, and they had so many guest stars…. We did talk about it, and we thought back to Friends — how they referenced Die Hard, then had Bruce Willis on the show. So, you know what? If Friends can do it, we can do it, too!
BERGER | Almost any time we have a casting opportunity on our show, the first thing we have to do is go, “No, they were on the original! No, they were on the original…” as we go through our list.
APTAKER | We have committed to not casting actors who played a different role on the original as someone new, but we are going to sometimes talk about them.
TVLINE | Barney shows Sophie pictures of his daughter Ellie, who would be 3 or 4 years old now. Are those just stock photos you used, or are those actually photos of someone’s kid?
APTAKER | That’s Neil’s daughter [Harper]. I don’t know if he and [executive producer/director] Pam Fryman came up with that, or maybe it was Pam’s idea. We thought it was a lovely idea because you never see that character other than as an infant in the original, and you’re not going to do any better than Neil’s daughter!
TVLINE | Barney explains to Sophie how he expected finding his father would fix his abandonment issues, his commitment issues, you name it. Will Sophie keep that in mind and temper her expectations if she does track down her dad?
BERGER | I think so. She’s going to go into [her search] totally unsure what to expect, and not thinking it will solve all her problems in life. But I think what’s so lovely about running into Barney is that it crystalizes some feeling she had deep within her — “this is a thing I want and now it’s time to go for it” — so, in that way, he serves this really lovely purpose for her that we’re really excited about.
TVLINE | Does the search for Sophie’s dad drive the second half of Season 2?
APTAKER | Yeah, we jump right back in and pick up with that thread. It’s a really lovely story because it lets the group come together, and they all rally behind our girl and decide that they’re going to help her with this pretty daunting task of trying to reconnect with your dad in your thirties. It’s a big ensemble story about tracking down Sophie’s dad and, hopefully, forming a relationship.
BERGER | I will add, though, just so people know: We’re still going to do stories about other stuff, and still do the funny, silly hangout stories that we’ve been doing in the first half of the season. But it’s definitely a big arc that we’re playing.
TVLINE | Will we meet Sophie’s dad before the end of Season 2?
APTAKER | We will! I don’t think we’re allowed to say who it is yet, but we’re super, super excited about it and we really love the storyline.
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