“You’re totally in our gang now. And once you’re in, you’re in for life.”
It’s been one week since the ending of How I Met Your Mother took to countless television screens across the world. After nine years of watching, waiting, anticipating the end – it finally came. The time for Ted to meet the girl with the yellow umbrella – the titular Mother. Only in the wake of its conclusion, the reaction hasn’t been entirely positive. Many, myself included, felt upset, bitter, and cheated. Now that the dust has settled, it’s time to pinpoint why.
Ultimately, the finale’s fault lies in the fact that its content was questionable – not inherently bad – but told in the worst possible way. It was written for a show seven years in the past – not the one we’ve ended up with. Above all, too much happened in too short a time, which left fans thinking:
Some could argue it was justified, foreshadowed, and even true to life, but the lesson it preaches is lost on an audience who knows it all too well. Just this once, we wanted a happy ending.
“When we got married, I made a vow that I would always tell you the truth.”
Right off the bat, Carter and Craig do a great job of making the viewer feel bitter and confused after Barney and Robin divorce less than twenty minutes into the episode. Why did we sit through a whole season built around a marriage that fell apart almost immediately, along with Barney’s development as a character? The past three seasons of HIMYM (Otherwise known as the “Barney and Robin” show) spent growing Barney’s character from a womanizing child to a (comparatively) mature adult – thrown out the window for some annoying play-centric jokes, and to realize an ending which no longer fit the direction the series took.
Having him knock up some girl and have a child was extremely unnecessary, though probably the most redeeming conclusion of the episode. NPH gave an absolutely amazing performance, given what he had to work with. That said, getting there was one step forward, ten steps back. It’s frustrating seeing all his conscious development torn apart, just to be repaired by things that happened to him, rather than earning it, as he had before.
“You are the love of my life. Everything I have and everything I am is yours. Forever.”
Not to mention the fact that the whole charade took time away from what we really wanted to see; what we’ve been waiting almost a decade for. If they were going to go that route, why couldn’t they go into it more deeply? They stretched a single weekend into twenty episodes, almost entirely filler, just to condense sixteen emotional years into a single episode? Half a season was spent on road-trip Marshall farting around with a walking black stereotype, who nearly everyone forgot about! Why have that, when we could’ve been getting to know the Mother – could’ve been playing out the fall of Barney and Robin’s relationship. But all those episodes passed, and we were left with only the last episode. And we still don’t get our wish.
“To Ted Evelyn Mosby: a man with more emotional endurance than anyone I know. It was a long, difficult road. Thank God we finally got here.”
I’m not so much upset about the Mother’s death (After the events of Vesuvius it was all but guaranteed), but rather how they handled it. We spend the whole episode learning about the characters lives building up to 2030 – Lilly and Marshall’s kids, Big Fudge becoming Judge Fudge, Robin’s empty fame and travelling, Barney’s train-wreck of a life – completely confused at where they’re going with things. All we can think about is the train station we’ve been waiting years for – Ted and the Mother meeting and growing old together. And then it arrives.
In the midst of a monologue (which I’d say was pretty damn good, all things considered), Ted talks about the importance of love – a summary of his entire relationship with the Mother. Only, towards the end, he halfheartedly throws in “she got sick.” We get a scene with the mother in a hospital bed. Immediately, and all at once, a million things race through out head: What!? What’s she sick with? Is she dead!?
And then the scene ends. No explanation, no clarification. When, only a few seconds later, he finally “has the guts to stand up, walk over to her [and] tap her on the shoulder” our thoughts aren’t about the meeting we’ve been waiting for: it’s about her underdeveloped death.
“Those are my initials, TM: Tracy McConnell.”
Upon re-watch, this final meeting was actually pretty satisfying: they addressed all the threads which weaved their way through both their lives; the Yellow Umbrella, Cindy the Roommate, Economics 305. While not without it’s faults, I would’ve been perfectly fine if the series ended here, bar the whole “getting sick” thing. It’s traditional, it’s expected, but it doesn’t make things any less meaningful.
But then the train whizzes by, and we’re back in the Mosby family livingroom. We hear the words we’ve been waiting for: “And that, kids, is how I met your mother.” We now know she’s dead for sure, even though there’s no emotional buildup or on-screen funeral, and we still can’t quite process it.
“Mom’s been gone for six years now. It’s time.”
In what seems like the blink of an eye, Ted’s kids immediately turn to saying how the story was all about Aunt Robin and how he loves her so much. That the past nine years were all about asking permission for him to date her. This is the furthest thing from anyone’s mind at this point – we’re still grieving over the loss of a character, the emotion of the past scene. How can we be okay with Ted moving on, if we haven’t moved on ourselves? We’re mad at Ted and the Kids for not giving her death the gravity it deserves – it’s insulting to her character!
Next thing we know, Ted’s buckling it over to Robin’s house with a Blue French Horn. And then, with Robin’s face in view, what pops up on the screen? “How I Met Your Mother” The final insult, leaving the viewer confused, angry, and above all, bitter.
In the end, the reason things fell apart was that most of the ending was decided a long, long time ago. If the episode had aired back in 2007, it would’ve been perfect. We weren’t as attached to the characters, and, fundamentally, they were different people. Their stories suited their characters; Barney abandoned his old ways and found someone to care for; Ted finally ended up with Robin; they each got what they were looking for out of life. But in 2014, Barney had room to grow by himself. In 2014, Ted has long since gotten over Robin – him letting go has been hammered into our heads over and over and over again. We’d been waiting too long for the Mother, and when she finally got here, she was perfect. But when she was ripped away, there was no time for us to process it.
Ultimately, having Ted turn back into the person he was 25 years ago is no recipe for a conclusion, and that’s why people are upset. In the show’s own words:
“Ted, the future is scary. But you can’t just run back to the past because it’s familiar. Yes, it’s tempting… but it’s a mistake.”
If the backlash from the episode is any indication, it was a mistake after all.