HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER: 9.23-9.24 “Last Forever”
In my mind, the way HIMYM would have ended would have felt like the picture above. A big group hug. After all, saying good-bye to these characters that we’ve watched grow for nine years should feel as sentimental as it was saying good-bye to Ted when he was supposedly moving to Chicago.
But last night’s finale was not my sentimental good-bye. And while I’d like to spend my time here screaming and ranting about why I wanted something better, I’m going to try to make this as coherent as possible as to why this finale just didn’t work. There are enough people out there telling us how pissed they are. I don’t need to add to it.
I’ll certainly say I’m not pleased with the ending of this series. Sure, it annoyed me that all those theories ended up true (with the exception of my own). That Robin ended up with Ted in the end. But here’s why.
First, the episode just wasn’t funny. And, in fact, it was depressing. Somehow, I didn’t get excited throughout the day, anticipating seeing all my favorite characters’ lives fall apart. I didn’t want to see a marriage — one that began with beautiful wedding where a couple moved past their cold feet to marry the ones they truly love (three deep breaths, right?) — that I’d spent all season waiting for fall apart within three years. Or in the case of this episode, within twenty minutes. I didn’t like seeing that the gang fell apart, even if it was foreshadowed earlier in the season. I didn’t like seeing Lily pregnant and alone in the old apartment. I didn’t like seeing Barney become such a despicable person. There’s a line from The Wedding Singer that I always remember about the Fonz from Happy Days: “No one wanted to see a fifty-year-old guy picking up chicks.” True then. True now. It just got ugly.
I wanted humor. I didn’t get any relief. After the team said good-bye outside the wedding reception, it’s almost like they said good-bye to who they were in the series. Where were the jokes? Marshall slipped into the background, only being useful to point out “big moments.” Lily was sad and lamenting. No one interacted with each other to crack a joke, and it just made the entire thing depressing to watch.
Honestly, at one point, I thought that this was all a trick. That Ted would suddenly reveal that had he walked across that platform to introduce himself in that moment, all of those moments in the future would come to pass. But instead, he waited five more minutes, and suddenly, here’s the happy ending. But as we all know, that didn’t happen. We just kept with the darkest timeline.
Alongside this, they just showed too much. I didn’t really need to see all of the gang’s lives. I know that many people really want to know how everything turns out. That’s why so many people want movies following series. Personally, I like to wonder and imagine. Especially when I’m discovering that it includes way too much depressing stuff and an exceptional amount of bad hair. I wish we could have spent more time on the short-term — meeting the mother and seeing the beginning of their relationship — than to see so many years and so many intervals into the future.
But then again, that wouldn’t fit into the story. And that story is not the story of Ted and the mother (excuse me, Tracy) but the story of Ted and Robin. The writers have said that they’ve always had this ending in mind (you can read more about this and Alan Sepinwall’s reaction to the finale in this great post), but it just didn’t work for me. That’s simply stated. But I think I can at least attempt to sort through the disappointment and annoyance to get to the heart of why it just didn’t work.
Ted has always been a romantic. Stealing a blue french horn. Doing a rain dance. Getting a blue orchestra to surprise someone at their apartment. Being part of an almost kiss. All of this goes to the heart of a romantic. And in hearing that he was telling the story of how he met the mother, we assumed we were hearing the greatest love story ever told, at least in the mind of Ted.
But we weren’t. Instead, we were hearing the story of Ted and Robin. And yes, to some degree, this makes sense. You suddenly understand why we went through every detail of he and Robin’s on-again, off-again relationship — and the many others. It all comes full circle. He may have been meeting the mother, but really, this is the story of his “forever love” of Robin. So in a logical way, yes, this makes sense.
But it also adds a number of problems. Suddenly, the mother — er, Tracy — is cheapened. This girl, who this season we’ve learned to love and love to see Ted with, has suddenly become the woman that Ted settled for until the timing was right. Please don’t get me wrong. Of course, widowers can move on after a wife’s death. But in telling this story, he was revealing that he never stopped loving Robin. He never let go of her. And that glint that was in Lily’s eye as she saw Ted talking on the phone with Tracy meant nothing. He may have loved Tracy in some way, but the way he tells it, the way he said he stuck by her year after year and even after she got sick just seemed to indicate that, yeah, he was there, but he would have rather been somewhere else.
This goes more to the point when you start to think about why Ted and Tracy really did hold off getting married. She was pregnant, so she didn’t want to get married while she was showing. But why wait longer? On the surface, life just got in the way. Ted wanted the big, fancy wedding day. But really, he just knew she wasn’t the one. Robin was. It cheapened the relationship that we were waiting for.
And that’s not fair to Ted. And it’s not fair to the love story. Ted, the romantic, deserved a love story. A crazy, dramatic love story and a happy ending. I guess you could argue that Robin and Ted had the “crazy, dramatic” part. But a happy ending? The majority of the episode was devoted to sad events. Sure, life isn’t a fairy tale. But wasn’t the way Ted always looked at love something too ideal for this world? Shouldn’t his love story have that ideal sense, instead of being rocked with sickness, unplanned pregnancy, tension, and ultimately, loving someone else? Some may argue that there’s no such thing as a perfect love story and this series proves that. But I’d say it should have done the opposite. That in this messy world, there is one thing that can be perfection, even if it’s just in the story as you tell it to your children. And I was hoping that was Ted’s relationship with the mother.
I hate those series that feel the need to pacify ‘shippers by putting characters together, just so you can see that those pieces don’t fit. Like watching the final season of Felicity, Felicity and Noel get together, only to have Noel die in a fire — all for the purpose of showing the viewers that Felicity and (a cheating) Ben should stay together after all. And last night’s finale seemed to do that. Barney and Robin were put together and pulled apart, just to show fans that it wouldn’t work. Robin must be with Ted. See? She can’t be happy with someone else. Ted must be with Robin. See? Things just don’t work out right with the mother. Oh, and she’ll die anyway.
It’s a manipulation of emotion, and for this particular series, it just wasn’t fair to what story it was actually telling. Sure, with episodes like “Symphony of Illumination,” “Bad News,” and heck, the pilot, we shouldn’t be surprised to have a twist at the end of the episode to play with our heads. But in the finale, I was hoping to get closure and a happy ending with our favorite characters. And instead, I’m just left saddened for all of them.