So, after nine years, we’ve reached the end of How I Met Your Mother. In that time we’ve had laughs and we’ve had tears. But before the last episode we never had blind, murderous rage.
Speaking of upsetting fans, this is an official SPOILER WARNING. I ruin pretty much everything. Turn back now or forever hold your peace.
Now, I don’t think the ending was completely bad. The first half was pretty decent with the same good jokes and a really sweet moment between Ted and the mother under the umbrella. It was after the umbrella when they started putting bullets in the fans’ gun.
The next scene was the first bad sign. All we need is for Lily to watch Ted call the mother for her to declare it true love— love Ted has never felt before, love she was very quick to dismiss a moment ago. However, the way he leans on that jukebox tells her it’s a love that shall echo through the halls of history. I thought at first it seemed a little hasty, but I accepted a musical number about suits, so I gave them a pass.
The problem was that they never stopped pressing my credulity. Throughout the rest of the finale I felt like someone was sitting on the fast forward button. We rush through Barney and Robin’s divorce, the group splitting up, Ted and Tracy (the mother) raising a family and getting married, Barney having a child, and the mother dying.
Let’s just focus on that last one for a bit. We got, “…when your mother got sick” and, “Mom’s been gone for six years.” We spent this entire season building her up as an enjoyable character—not to mention spending eight years teasing us with details—and she gets shuffled off with two lines. She had become a well-rounded character with a rich backstory and everything, and all we got was two lines and her holding Ted’s hand in a hospital bed. I partly expected her to die, since my mom predicted the idea in season three, and never let it go. Especially after Ted broke down at the mention of a mother missing her daughter’s wedding in an earlier episode. But I never expected her to die like that. It felt unfair to the character to get her out of the way once she was the mother.
Honestly, that’s my main complaint with the rest of the finale: it wasn’t fair to the characters. We had Barney go through a major change, then slide immediately back into old habits the second Robin left. Don’t get me wrong, Barney meeting his daughter may have been the best scene in the finale. But after that he was pretty well window-dressing. They also were knowingly coy about the mother of Barney’s child, never telling us if they kept in contact or even her name. I thought maybe they were trying to be clever, calling her “31” when the episode premiered on the 31st, but even then it was inexcusable.
Overall this episode invalidated a lot of what fans spent the last two seasons establishing. This whole time Barney and Robin are made out as this ultimately indestructible power couple. However, their next scene after the wedding they are separating. We kept talking about how Ted and Robin in the end were not right for each other, and then they end up together anyway. Even earlier in the season we see Ted crushed by what we now know to be Tracy’s death, which will keep her from her daughter’s wedding, and now we just brush her off once she’s popped out Ted’s children.
It would be one thing if I thought the plot didn’t give the characters what they deserve, because hey, life doesn’t do that all the time. However, the plot disregarded character arcs and traits in order to get a neat little bow. With a show that’s gone on this long, no ending would seem perfect, but there are a lot of endings that would have seemed better than this. There’s a fan version of an alternate ending floating around where we see Ted and Tracy talking under the umbrella, then flash to Old Ted who says, “And that kids, is how I met your mother.” No loss of character development, no cheap tricks, just the right amount of information. I can’t speak for you, but that’s the ending I accept. An alternative ending was just announced to be on the DVD release. And who knows, maybe the writers will learn from this and do a better job on the upcoming How I Met Your Dad. We can only hope.
by PETER WILLIAMS / arts & life columnist