Why I Hated the How I Met Your Mother Finale

Nine years ago, I started watching How I Met Your Mother. After viewing the pilot episode, I immediately fell in love with it. The characters were hilarious and relatable. The setting (NYC) was magical. (TV has a way of making the city seem like a fairy tale land where anything is possible and no one struggles to make rent on their tiny studio walk up.) And the non-linear storytelling made the story captivating.

Seven days ago, the series finale aired. And I hated it.

Since then, I’ve expressed on social media (see links in the right hand column) my displeasure with how the story ended. And, with a select few friends, I’ve aired my grievances in detail. But, others have asked me why. “I liked it a lot, Josh. Why do you hate it so much?”

Well, I’ll tell you why. (To respect those that have still not seen it, this is your official warning. SPOILERS FOLLOW!)

The pilot episode ends on a twist. The girl that Ted had fallen in love with (even professed his love to on the first date), Robin, was not the mother. At the time, it was a giant curveball. During that particular half hour, you had seen Robin through Ted’s eyes. She was beautiful, funny, smart, and, well… perfect. So, it was a surprise to hear it wasn’t her that would be waiting for us at the end of the story. To their credit, the creators of HIMYM had constructed a masterful hook to keep viewers invested past that original half hour. But they had also made a promise. They, through their own twist, said that the most important relationship in this whole world would not be with Robin. It would be with an as yet unmet future woman. A woman that, as much as we had come to believe in Robin’s perceived perfection, was even more perfect for Ted.

We finally got to see this mystery perfect woman in the season 8 finale. As we entered season 9, it was announced that the mother (played by actress Christin Milioti) would become a series regular. During these episodes, we got to meet her through each of the main characters (except Ted). We even get a special episode (the 200th) told from her perspective. All of this seemed to be setting up Ted’s hard earned happily ever after.

In seeing the finale, I thought Ted got the happy, just not the ever after.

Now, there’s lots of things that I could pick apart that either bothered me a little or that I flat out hated about the episode. Things like Barney and Robin’s divorce (after all the time spent building their relationship and the entire ninth season taking place at their wedding) bugged me. Barney’s subsequent character regression post-divorce bugged me. And, yes, his fathering a daughter with a random bugged me. (Especially the implication that his daughter swings him all the way back to his “good” self.) The reveal that some people are calling "the big one" was that the mother dies. But, to me, all of those things are small potatoes. And, none of them are why I wanted to write this post.

I hate, I Hate, I HATE that Ted ends up with Robin.

I hate it.

Ted and Robin started dating in season 2. They were together for that season and that season alone. They broke up at Marshall and Lily’s wedding and then spent the rest of the series going back and forth until Robin and Barney. During all of that time, two things were made clear: 1) Robin wasn’t compatible with Ted because she wanted very different things out of life than he did. And 2) Ted had a problem with letting go.

In the finale, Ted meets the mother (we find out her character’s name is Tracy McConnell) while leaving Barney and Robin’s wedding. They date for 5 years (during that time, they have two kids), they get married (finally), she gets sick (we don’t know from what), and then she dies. Six years passes and Ted begins telling his story. (We don’t know if that’s how long it took to tell the story.)

Was I shocked that the mother died? Not really. People had been predicting it for a long time. But when the kids tell Ted that they think the story wasn’t about their mom, I started to get worried. They said that, if the story was about their mom, she would have been in it more. (I agree.) That the story was really about how Ted had the hots for Robin and wanted to know if they’d be OK with him asking her out. They said, "of course" and that he should call her. Instead, he goes and gets the blue French Horn and shows up outside her window and is greeted by her and her dogs.

Here’s why I hate that.

I hate it because it broke the promise that they made in the pilot.

As much as Ted grated on me as a character (sorry, he did), he gave me hope. Truth is, Ted and I are more alike than I want to admit. I’d love to be a Marshall or a disease free Barney, but I’m a Ted. He spent almost all of the series pining after Robin, convinced she was his soulmate. But he finally let go. In fact, they devoted an entire episode to him letting go of her (including a weird sequence in which she floated away into the beach air). And, I always thought that, if Ted could be so deeply in love with Robin that he was still trying to win her during the weekend of her wedding, but could let her go and find the love of his life, then so could I.

Four years ago, I fell in love with someone. She and I met each others’ families, talked about getting married, and I made my plans to ask the questions (to her father and her). But we broke up. And, you know what? I had a tough time letting go. I’ve worked really hard to feel my sadness, grieve my loss, and accept that it’s over. But there are still days that I think of her and sigh. Don’t get me wrong, I’m ok. But I still feel it sometimes, you know? And Ted gave me hope. If he could do it, then I could do it.

But the way that the finale played out, I feel like he didn’t do it. He went back to Robin. Did he ever really get over her? During the seven or eight years he was with Tracy, was he still in love with Robin? Did he settle for Tracy?

I felt like him going back to Robin cheapened him and Tracy. I felt like it negated all of the growth that he had to go through to get over Robin. And I felt like the nine years that I invested in the show were wasted, because they could have ended it at the end of the pilot by just saying “And that’s how I met Robin” instead of Aunt Robin.

So, yes. My hatred for the finale is personal. Because, to me, the show was personal. The show gave me hope that, one day, I’ll fully let go and walk forward because that’s what Ted did. But he didn’t. He went back.

I still have hope. But, not from Ted. His story is one that I can no longer look to for inspiration. But that's the beauty of living in a world with so many stories. You can carry one with you for as long as it inspires you, then you can look for another. And, all the while, you can be creating your own. 

1 comment:

Riley Miller said...

Great post. I spent much of last spring through last week watching every single episode of HIMYM. I laughed, I cried, and yes, Ted grated on me too. I HATED the finale. It was personal for me too, but for different reasons. Robin and Barney had a very weird, nontraditional romance, but I BELIEVED it. They'd sold me on it. And Ted? Tracey was so obviously the better fit for him, may she RIP. The series was more about the growth of the characters in finding love-- how what they thought they wanted (and WHO they thought they wanted) initially wasn't what they ended up wanting/needing... And that change was beautiful. That concept is something that has proven so true for me. The end contradicted that and I hated it. Very personally. Love your comment on stories.