Seasons of television shows need to begin with a strong premiere episode to hook fans back in following the summer hiatus. In the case of How I Met Your Mother, those premieres usually included a big tease about the titular Mother, with mixed results. Sometimes they filled in a big piece of the puzzle; other times, they revealed that the puzzle was a lot larger than we initially thought.
The characters would all take major turns in their ongoing arcs and open up new storylines for the season. How do the premiere episodes of each of the show's nine seasons stack up with each other, though? Let's take a look!
9 Season 8: “Farhampton”
Ugh. Why would the writers cram Victoria back into the mix, just to completely betray her character and desecrate her good name as the girl that most fans thought Ted should’ve ended up with? That was Plan B, by the way – if the show hadn’t been picked up for a second season, Ted would’ve told his kids that Victoria was their mother.
The flash-forwards at the beginning and end of the episode have some interesting teases to Barney and Robin’s wedding that would get paid off a year later, but it wasn’t a great episode on the whole, as Ted insisted that Victoria leave a note for the fiancé she was abandoning.
8 Season 1: “Pilot”
Going back and watching the pilot episode of How I Met Your Mother now is an odd experience, because it’s like watching an entirely different show. The characters don’t look the same, the music is different, the jokes have a totally different style – it feels off.
Plus, the pilot episode introduced the underlying flaw that would bug fans for the next nine years. At the end of the episode, Ted looks across the bar at Robin and outright tells his kids, “That, kids, is the true story of how I met your Aunt Robin.” The episode set up the love of Ted’s life and then told us she wasn’t the love of Ted’s life we’d spend the next decade waiting for.
7 Season 9: “The Locket”
The worst thing about the Season 9 premiere “The Locket” is that it sets up an entire season to be set on Barney and Robin’s wedding weekend, a la 24, because the writers wrote themselves into a corner. However, the storyline of Ted going to ridiculous lengths to track down Robin’s locket, only to end with the twist that he decided not to give it to her, is really emotionally engaging, especially since we can tell Ted and Robin are destined to be together.
Plus, the episode sets up Season 9’s fun running story thread of all of Ted’s friends meeting the Mother before he does, with Lily meeting her on a train.
6 Season 2: “Where Were We?”
Season 2 opens with a storyline that seems crazy now that Marshall and Lily have gone on to be considered TV’s leading #RelationshipGoals. At the end of Season 1, Lily took an art scholarship in San Francisco and broke off her engagement with Marshall. So, Season 2 began with a single and heartbroken Marshall, and an entirely absent Lily.
These were very strange times. The plot of the episode sees Marshall moving on from a breakup that we could all tell wouldn’t be permanent, which is telegraphed no more clearly than in the episode’s final moments when Lily appears in the window at MacLaren’s right after Marshall has “moved on.”
5 Season 4: “Do I Know You?”
How I Met Your Mother fans really didn’t take to Ted’s relationship with Stella. The Season 4 premiere picks up where the Season 3 finale’s cliffhanger ending left off, with Ted proposing to Stella in an arcade. She accepts the proposal and they start getting to know each other better.
Meanwhile, Lily catches on that Barney is in love with Robin and coaches him through his feelings. Barney and Lily always had a really interesting dynamic when Barney was willing to be open and honest about his emotions and Lily wanted to help him deal with them, and it’s on funny, sweet display here.
4 Season 6: “Big Days”
The Season 6 premiere “Big Days” is a prime example of a How I Met Your Mother episode that promises to answer questions, but ends up asking a ton more (seriously, HIMYM was like the sitcom equivalent of Lost).
The episode is bookended by flash-forward scenes to a wedding. We’re led to believe it’s Ted’s wedding, but it’s later revealed that he’s the best man. Ted spends the episode pondering his relationship with the Mother’s roommate Cindy, who he sees on a date with a girl in MacLaren’s, but it doesn’t lead to any huge revelations.
3 Season 7: “The Best Man”
In the Season 7 premiere “The Best Man,” we find out whose wedding Ted was attending as the best man back in Season 6: Barney’s. We don’t yet find out who the bride is (Robin), although it does set up one of the most boring, dragged-out episodes in Season 9, as Lily questions Barney’s choice of tie.
Season 7’s kick-off is a pretty fine episode, because it balances the emotional scenes with the scenes of hilarity (like “Classic Schmosby” giving wedding toasts) really delicately and masterfully, in a way this show really does at its best.
2 Season 3: “Wait for It”
The Season 3 premiere “Wait for It” picks up where the Season 2 finale left off at Lily and Marshall’s wedding, with Ted telling Barney he’d broken up with Robin. As Ted decides he’s not ready to date again and wants to take some time to recover from his breakup with Robin, Robin returns from Argentina with a handsome man played by Enrique Iglesias.
Initially, Ted is driven crazy with jealousy, but he learns to let it go. Meanwhile, Robin’s rose-tinted glasses lose their tint as everything that was romantic and free-spirited in Argentina becomes annoying and tiresome in New York.
1 Season 5: “Definitions”
The series’ fifth season begins with Ted starting his job as a college professor. He’s nervous about giving lectures and being judged by his students, so Marshall and Lily buy him a fedora and whip so he feels like Indiana Jones. The episode was made out to be a bigger deal than it was.
Ted starts giving a lecture in the wrong room and all the students know he’s teaching the wrong class, but he won’t let them speak up to correct him, which only makes it worse – and the Mother is one of those students. On the whole, this premiere’s lack of major insights or revelations about the Mother despite promising them doesn’t feel like a serious problem, because it’s a great episode with all the characters in fine form nonetheless.