The Curious Case of How I Met Your Mother
Okay, so almost a full three days have gone by, and I feel like I have finally digested the controversial ending to How I Met Your Mother.
For those not inundated with the series, it is a show whose narrator (voiced by Bob Saget) tell his kids about the nine years leading up to the day when he met their mother. The series, which concluded a nine-year run on Monday night has been masterful over the years at using misdirection, jumping in time, and providing clues to how Ted (played by Josh Radnor) would eventually meet the woman of his dreams.
In what many have seen as a cruel twist of events, the mother (played by Cristin Milioti) is revealed to have died a mere 10 years after meeting Ted and six years before he begins telling his teenage children the tale.
Upon the conclusion of the story, Ted’s children, who have been listening to stories of slutty pumpkins, slap bets, and “sandwich” eating (the show’s thinly veiled reference to marijuana) alert their father that the story that he has painstakingly told to them isn’t really about the mother at all. Instead, they claim that their father is still in love with their Aunt Robin (Cobie Smulders) and that six years of mourning the death of their mother is enough.
In the final scene of the show, the year is 2030 and Ted heads to Robin’s apartment and from the street presents to her the blue trumpet that he had stolen for her on their first date all the way back in 2005.
The finale begins with a scene from 2005 where Lily (played by the irresistible Alyson Hannigan – no flutes in this show) excitedly tells both Ted and Neil Patrick Harris’ Barney Stinson character that they cannot hook up with Robin unless they marry her. Barney married Robin is the penultimate episode, but viewers soon learn that the couple calls it quits a mere three years after the wedding.
The assumption is that Ted and Robin will fall in love all over again in 2030 and live happily ever after.
First, let me state that I had no problem with 98 percent of the finale. Divorce happens and the writers did a fantastic job of depicting an all too common occurrence of people growing apart through the years. In fact, that aspect of the finale probably hit home more than anything else. I did not have a problem either with the fact that the mother, who we learn is named Tracy, dies.
Sadly death is a part of life.
I did take issue with two things in particular. First, over the last three seasons, one of the major plot points was the emotional maturity of Barney. Harris plays a creepy womanizer better than anyone else on Earth. If this show is not enough evidence of that fact, check out the Harold and Kumar trilogy.
But over the last three seasons of the show, the writers painstakingly developed Barney into a character that had feelings and one who we wanted to root for to be happy. After flirting with two serious relationships, Barney realizes that Robin is his true love and their wedding is the central theme of most flash forwards in seasons seven and eight and is the setting of the entirety of season nine.
Despite my reluctance to buy them as a couple – I would have preferred him to be with Quinn or Nora initially - I was all-in during season nine and in a way their union seemed fitting. Both were portrayed as lost souls at times, both drank hard, and both loved to bang.
After the divorce, which seemed to be precipitated by Robin’s insane work schedule, Barney retrogresses back to his old self, managing to get laid in a variety of new and entertaining ways until he knocks up a one-night stand (girl number 31 in his “perfect month”). In one of the more touching scenes of the finale, Barney falls completely head over heels for his daughter when he looks at her for the first time, providing viewers with his happy ending.
But the birth of his daughter seemed somewhat like an afterthought of redemption than a true progression of his character.
The second issue I had was the suggestion that the story was that of Ted’s love for Robin all along. No doubt in the HIMYM universe, Robin is a grandly significant part of Ted’s life. What the show failed to do in the end, however, was accentuate the fact that Tracy was Ted’s true love. I think that it may have been their intention to do so, but with only a little over 40 minutes to work with and five character arcs to wrap up, the most important one – the one that the show’s premise was based on – got short changed.
The scene where Ted’s children encourage him to ask Aunt Robin out was actually filmed during season one of the show. The writers new all along that the mother was a somewhat of a red herring, and I can’t help but feel a little cheated – not because the mother died, but because her significance to Ted is undercut by the suggestion that Robin was Ted’s destiny.
The truth is that Ted and Robin were not a good fit for one another. Ted is too much of a romantic and Robin is too hard-nosed for it to make sense in the long run. That’s why I thought that their dating each other early in the show was a stroke of genius because it accurately portrayed what many of us go through – a long term romantic relationship that does not make it to the altar.
Despite my disappointment over certain aspects of the finale, it is hard to take tremendous umbrage with the complete arc of the show. Like many shows before, it slipped a bit in the latter seasons, but because of its unique style of presenting a story I believe it has earned its place – with no disrespect to Seinfeld, Cheers, or Friends – as one of the best, if not the best sitcom ever.