How I Met Your Mother: How Time Travel Works (Is It Real?)

How I Met Your Mother featured the concept of time travel multiple times throughout the series. While the CBS sitcom was pretty grounded when it came to storylines, it didn’t shy away from using risky plot devices. Characters like Ted Mosby and Marshall Eriksen had an affinity for sci-fi, and the show found unique ways to incorporate common elements of the genre. In total, time travel was presented in three episodes, and even though two of them were tricks, one particular scene confirmed its existence in the How I Met Your Mother universe.

Time travel served as the focus of a season 8 episode appropriately titled “The Time Travelers.” While sitting in MacLaren’s Pub, Barney invited Ted to Robots vs Wrestlers: Legends, but Ted was reluctant to go. When Barney claimed he would regret the decision 20 years from now, Ted was surprised to encounter twenty-years-from-now Barney. With the help of twenty-years-from-now Ted, the original Ted agreed to go. That changed when other versions of himself, Barney, and a former girlfriend alter his perception.

At first, it seemed as though How I Met Your Mother followed certain rules of time travel that allowed core characters to summon future versions of themselves. Whether it was minutes, hours, or years in the future, Barney showcased every option when it came to time travel. In reality, however, the episode’s time travel stemmed from Ted’s imagination. He was never invited to go to Robots vs Wrestlers, and instead, planned to go by himself the entire time. Ted only imagined the time travelers to realize all of his friends were too busy for him. Future Ted claimed that if he could go back to that night, he would want to spend the extra days with the “Mother.” Even though time travel was used as a storytelling device in season 8, a previous season made it a point to confirm the concept.

How Time Travel Was Confirmed In How I Met Your Mother

Time travel was first introduced in How I Met Your Mother season 4 through “Intervention.” The episode began with an older version of Barney claiming his younger self won’t be able to solve global warming unless he gets women to sleep with him. This, of course, was just normal Barney in old man makeup, preying on young women with an elaborate ploy to win them over. Despite the prank, time travel was confirmed in the very next season with the episode titled “The Window.”

Marshall received a box of childhood belongings when he finds a letter from 1993 written to his future self. It primarily insisted that Marshall went on to have a cool car, a hot wife, and to never become a “sell out.” He began to look down on himself for not living up to his younger self’s expectations with some aspects of his life until Lily snapped him out of the harsh feelings. By the end of the episode, Marshall decided to write a letter to himself 29 years into the future while he sat at MacLaren’s. He requested that Future Marshall let him known if time travel existed. Unbeknownst to Marshall, an older version of himself was sitting on the other side of the bar. While it was a bizarre moment for How I Met Your Mother, it made sense to use Marshall as a confirmation of time travel. He did go on to discover the Loch Ness Monster, so if anyone excelled at time travel in the series, it would be him.

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