For those who do not know, the popular show How I Met Your Mother ended on Monday night after nine seasons. I’ve watched the show for a while, even after it got stale, just so I could finish the story. Finally, when it was over, I blinked to myself, thought, “Well, that was crappy,” and went on with my business. Because it was definitely not a good finale.
Warning: Spoilers ahead.
My problem with the finale wasn’t that Ted and The Mother (whose name we know is Tracy) didn’t live happily ever after because of her untimely death. It wasn’t even the fact that Ted ended up with Robin again per se; both of these things were guessed by many watchers of the show well before the finale, so it was hardly a shock. It was an ending that the creators of the show clearly intended early on, so in that regard, no one can accuse them of conjuring up this idea out of nowhere. The main problem with the finale was that, if they were going to go this route, then A) The last few seasons should have never happened or should have been written much better and/or B) The finale itself cannot screw up and erase seasons worth of character development just to get to a rigid ending, even if that character development wasn’t executed that well the past several seasons. So not only did we get some dull and often annoying development the past few years, we also get a finale that blows all of that up just to make sure that Robin and Ted still somehow end up together. In other words, the finale was a waste and basically made seasons 4-9 feel like total wastes as well.
Character regression in the span of an hour
For several seasons, we had to watch Barney slowly get out of his player ways and Robin learn how to commit to a guy. We had to watch Ted learn to finally get over his childish obsession over Robin. Furthermore, the entire last season is set during the weekend of Barney’s and Robin’s wedding, exploring all sorts of character interactions and setting up the union as an important one. None of this was executed all that well and the characters often got boring, but I understand the need for the characters to evolve. After all of that, in the last episode, we see Barney and Robin divorce after three years of marriage, Robin drift away from the group due to said divorce and her random pining after Ted, and Ted eventually run back to Robin even though their interactions had been sparse for years. I know the episode skipped around so, timeline wise, these changes weren’t sudden, but the fact that they spent the entire season building up to the wedding and then just axing it in the last episode to create room for Robin and Ted was just plain ol’ bad storytelling. It felt forced, fake, and altogether unconvincing.
Barney’s regression was by far the worst. All of a sudden, he goes back to being a player… and not a funny one anymore. He just seems desperate and emo, and he then inexplicably gets a girl pregnant, a girl that we never see, and his story arc “ends” with him attaching himself to his new daughter. Given his character growth, this made absolutely no sense, nor did it make sense that Barney, supposed master of sleeping around, would somehow accidentally impregnate someone. Yeah, Barney learned to be “honest” and committed and crap over a few seasons, only for him to turn into a less funny version of his old self. Again, bad storytelling.
And of course, it’s perfectly natural for best friends to go after each other’s ex-wives. That’ll make for some fun reunions with the gang.
The Mother: Underused and Underdeveloped
Cristin Milioti was charming as The Mother, and she was also completely underused in the final season and was basically spat on in the finale. I don’t necessarily mind that she died; I mind that she was kept on the sidelines so much so that it was difficult to care about the fact that she passed. They even neglected to show Ted’s and his friends’ reactions to her death and the funeral; she just disappeared all of a sudden to make room for Robin. It also made the kids’ final reactions callous to the point that it stretched credulity: “Yeah, dad, we were bored of your stupid story about our caring but dead mother; but we know it was really about how you still truly love Aunt Robin! Go get that!” Really?
The whole thing also implied that Ted, while he did love Tracy, nonetheless always loved Robin first and foremost. He barely talked to her over the years, and then he tells a story about his wife, his supposed true love, that is really subconsciously about how he is still in love with Robin? The show should be re-titled, “How I Met Your Mother, the Woman I Reluctantly Settled For After Getting Routinely Rejected by the Girl I Really Wanted Who Married One of My Best Friends.”
How it should have ended
If they were so dead-set about Robin and Ted finally ending up together, then honestly, not only should Tracy have died, Barney should have died too. Barney’s possible death had been speculated by fans for a while because he is never in flash-forwards. In that case, what they should have done is show more The Mother, show how the gang remained close friends because Barney and Robin stayed together, and then show how the deaths of Barney (probably killed doing something crazy) and Tracy made Robin and Ted grow closer over the resulting years to the point of romance again. That’s an ending that would make at least a modicum of sense because it gives a far more believable reason why Robin and Ted would find each other again.
Another possible way to avoid all of their nonsense would be to never let Barney and Robin marry. That way, it would be more consistent with Barney’s character progression that he’s still a player and is forced to learn responsibility because of a child, and it makes more sense for Robin to feel a tinge of regret that she let Ted go. This is, again, assuming that they were unwilling to change the ending they had planned. If they were going to go for this ending, then the show should have finished after about five seasons, not nine. I understand that it’s hard to turn down money, but stretching it out over nine seasons threw the story off track, filled it with useless junk, and forced them to cram in their pre-planned ending in a haphazard way.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not some pretentious literary critic who thinks that HIMYM was this super profound show *cough Grantland cough. It was not; the primary reason it was popular was because it was, at least initially, simply funny. However, it still had a story, and the story had been struggling for a while before it crash landed in the finale. There is a lot more wrong with where the show went, but I’ll leave that be. It’s enough to point out that the writers flubbed around for several seasons, took the characters in wildly different directions than what the ending required, and then forced the ending anyway. I’m mad at myself for not becoming a Hollywood writer because it’s a sad world we live in that people get paid for this crap.