A good series finale is almost impossible to pull off. There is the overwhelming pressure to tie everything up neatly. And by the time the network has decided to pull the plug, the show is usually not as good as it once was.
Most people who watch finales, then, do so for the sake of nostalgia. The payoff of an ending brings back one-time fans, but the end is usually not really the point.
But for How I Met Your Mother, the ending was always the point. It’s built in to the title.
The final season of How I Met Your Mother was basically one long series finale. It took place over Barney and Robin’s wedding weekend at an inn at the fake-looking Long Island town of Farhampton (which, honestly, seemed like an oddly traditional choice of venue for the couple).
Ted didn’t meet the mother until last night, but over the course of the last season everyone else in the cast did. There were flash forwards to Ted and the mother getting engaged and going back to the Farhampton Inn (they went back a lot), so it isn’t like we never saw Ted and the mother interact.
[Note: Spoilers ahead. If anyone is reading this who hasn’t seen the episode and cares what happened, well, I don’t know. Use headphones and watch the damn thing. It’s only an hour.]
The final episode of the final season was really just a summary of the the years between Robin and Barney getting married and the day when Ted’s kids had to sit down and hear a nine-year-long story of how their parents met.
In a nod to what was once great about the show, things keep on not working out, or working out differently than expected. Barney and Robin call it quits after three years of marriage. They did seem to connect in a way (I never really bought it, but whatever), but even if you did buy Barney and Robin as a couple, just try being married to Barney. I, like everyone, have no idea what makes for a good marriage. But I suspect stale catch phrases are not the best recipe for a long and happy union.
I did like Barney and Robin’s explanation that divorce isn’t a failure of marriage, or however they said it before they inevitably high fived.
Besides, Barney has a men’s lifestyle blog that isn’t going to write itself.
After Robin got famous like Carrie Bradshaw (she was on the side of a bus, but not in a tutu), she mostly just came back from her journalism-ing from time to time to say she is over the whole television fairytale idea of staying best friends with the group of friends you made in your twenties.
In a sense, that rang the most true of any of the plotlines.
Shows thrive on a core cast and the idea that there is a central crowd of friends. In real life, of course, people change and drift away imperceptibly until you realize that everything is different. The fact that you kind of just accept the change and keep going did seem true.
If Robin had the most believable storyline, Barney had the weakest and most predictable: the cad who finally changes because he had a daughter. Not that having a kid doesn’t change most people. It does (right?). But it just seemed obvious and stale. Really, the amazing part of the whole Barney story is that he didn’t knock up any of his million one night stands before he hit forty.
Marshall and Lily continue to have boring real-life married people problems. Besides working for eccentric people like Martin Short and Trey from Sex and the City, they have been pretty boring ever since they had a kid. (Again, probably true to life. Not that having a kid is boring. It just makes you boring to other people, especially when those people are TV viewers).
But Marshall was an unhappy corporate lawyer for how many years? He spent however many years getting egg salad thrown at his face and considering it a good day a day when his boss only called him variations of the word for vagina three times, while Lily just said that someday he’d karmically get a call to follow his dream, because he gave up his dream so she could follow her dream? Wouldn’t he have been mad at Lily? Maybe their relationship is just that strong. Fine. (Sidenote: Do corporate lawyers really just get phone calls to become judges? Is that how the judicial system works? Also, that is not how karma works).
Well, that brings us to Ted. Yes, The Mother died. But before that, they didn’t get married until after they had two kids, which is basically the coolest thing Ted has ever done.
As the kids correctly point out, this isn’t the story of how their father met their mother. It’s the story of how their father got his kids to tell him to ask out their Aunt Robin. Isn’t it weird that they call her ‘Aunt Robin,’ when she is really JUST their dad’s friend who he used to date and who has had dinner at their house a few times?
And sure, fans are disappointed because the mother died because, I don’t know, she seemed nice? But it does make more sense this way. Ted has been narrating the story and his feelings for Robin figured into them quite a bit. Wouldn’t it be way weirder if the mother was still alive, cooking dinner or playing bass (or whatever she did) while Dad is telling his kids the world’s longest story about how much he was in love with their “Aunt” Robin?
For a show that was often painfully sentimental, the finale was pretty realistic. It wasn’t a great ending, but in life there aren’t really “endings.” The plot doesn’t end with marriage or kids. Spouses die. Marrying your friend because you both like laser tag and scotch probably won’t work out in the long term. A year in Italy is really just a blip before you end up back in your regular life. Eventually, you have to move out of the apartment you lived in with your roommates in your twenties, no matter how great it is.
And nine years is more than enough to spend on any story. Or show.