It was a panel of beginnings and endings as the team behind How I Met Your Mother hosted their first panel to preview the CBS comedy's upcoming final season.
"It feels really sad to say goodbye. We love the fans so much," co-creator and executive producer Craig Thomas said Saturday during the show's packed Comic-Con session. "This is for you guys. This is our thank you to you guys and our appreciation to you." Added co-creator and executive producer Carter Bays: "Season 9 is going to be beautiful and funny and dramatic and awesome, and I think it's going to be the appropriate end to the story."
However, Josh Radnor sounded the most excited about the introduction of the mother, played by new series regular Cristin Milioti. "There was some kind of relief when she joined the show mainly so people would stop stopping me on the street and shaking me asking,' Who's the mother,'" he said. "Right when she walked on stage, I just knew. It was a feeling of like, that's her."
Although the entire 22-episode season will take place over the weekend of Barney and Robin's wedding, the team promises Season 9 won't be a huge departure from years past and will be feature lots of flashbacks and flash-forwards. "Everyone is headed off to this wedding and we've got this new framework for a season," Bays said. "We want to stress the word framework because we don't want people to think there are four episodes of flower arranging." Added Thomas: "We thought we'd be done after eight seasons so Season 9 is a bonus year and it's the wild west. Anything can happen. We're changing a lot of the rules of how we thought we were going to end."
Executive producer and frequent director Pamela Fryman promised fans will not be disappointed with the season premiere. "It's still our show," she said. "We pick up from where we left, but we give a lot of hints for what's in store for the finale."
The show's producers and five stars — who fielded questions from fans dressed up as Barney, Robin Sparkles and, yes, even a Hanging Chad — reflected on the show's long run and talked about how Season 9 will celebrate the series' best moments.
1. The love triangle continues: Fans may have met the mother, but Ted hasn't, which means his struggle over Robin's upcoming nuptials to Barney will continue. "He's either going to go insane or meet the love of his life," Radnor said. "He's at the crossroads moment." But after the romantic moment Ted shared with Robin in the season finale, Ted won't be the only conflicted one. "Ted really comes through for Robin. He shows up and Barney isn't there. So I think there is a moment for Robin going like, 'I'm marrying this person, and this is the person that I call to help me, and this is the person that shows up for me. I think that there's a conflict there and I think that conflict is happening with Ted's character as well," Cobie Smulders said. "Signing on for this kind of commitment is a big thing for both of the characters and the emotions behind that will play out throughout the season."
2. Fans will learn more about the mother: Although the producers noted they originally thought the story would end when the mother first appeared, their plans changed along the way. "We, like you, want to know who this girl is. We want to get to know her," Bays said. "And we want to see Ted happy and we want to see the great moments that are ahead for ted as he meets this girl." Thomas hinted at sequences that will help flesh out the character to for fans. "We can't say yet how, but you'll get to know her."
3. Lots of familiar faces: When asked about which fan-favorite guests might reprise their roles season, Bays hinted that there are many to be announced. "The much shorter list is the list of people who won't be back," Bays said. "We're throwing a wedding and everyone is invited. ... If there is someone that you've loved over the last eight years, chances are they'll be back." One of those returning guest stars that fans already know about is Barney's brother, James (Wayne Brady). However, Neil Patrick Harris drooped some scoop at the panel when he revealed that everyone will learn that James is getting a divorce.
4. Mama Scherbatsky?: One character fans surprisingly have yet to meet is Robin's mom, but Smulders is optimistic for a Season 9 appearance. "I think it will be a really fun cameo whoever we do end up getting," Smulders said. "It will be a really fun part, and I guess they are going to have study their Canadian accent."
5. Will Marshall's big secret accidentally slip? Alyson Hannigan and Jason Segel said they don't even know when Lily will find out about Marshall's judgeship. "They could wrap it up in the finale for all we know," Segel said. However, it sounds like that story will play a big part early in the season. "From the first two episodes, obviously he doesn't' want her to find out and it's going to be one of those: 'Is she gonna find out?' stressers for Marshall," Hannigan said.
6. One last encore from Robin Sparkles: During the panel, Smulder graciously led the audience in a sing-along of "Let's Go to the Mall." She also hopes to bust out her alter-ego one more time. "I hope we get to do another one before the show ends," she said. Quipped Harris: "I can't wait for the album." Producers were more tight-lipped. "We won't confirm or deny, but it's a wedding. People sing songs at weddings," Thomas said. "Some drunken karaoke maybe?" Smulders asked. Come on guys, give the woman what she wants!
7. This season will be slap-happy, literally: As every die-hard fan already knows, there are still two slaps left and producers plan to take full advantage of those final two. "There's going to be an episode in the middle of the season that takes place over the course of one slap. ... That is the frame work for one episode," Bays said. "And that may have a musical number. We don't know yet." Bays also said that there will be a new version of "You Just Got Slapped" that will be performed on the show "by someone really awesome, but we can't say who."
8. A new Robin and Barney dance number: "They do have a first dance at their wedding," Harris teased. "I bet it's going to be epic. I bet there'll be some lifts." Added Bays: "We know that there's exploding glitter cannons." Sounds like it's going to be legend — wait for it — dary.
9. How will the show end? Thomas and Bays revealed that they actually shot part of the series finale years earlier. "We shot a little piece of the very end of How I Met Your Mother with the kids in Season 2 before they got too old. ... It has to do with how the series ends," Thomas said. "The very end has not changed." Bays elaborated on how the final season will differ from their original vision. "The story hasn't changed, but how we tell it has changed now that we have 24 extra episodes to kind of expand on it and see a little more of it," he said.
Check out this hilarious video from the show's Comic-Con panel to find out what Ted's future children have been up to for the past eight seasons:
How I Met Your Mother returns on Monday, Sept. 23 at 8/7c on CBS. (Full Disclosure: TVGuide.com is owned by CBS.)