OK, so I know I’m way late with this, but it’s time for me to make my opinion known and perfectly clear: The ending of How I Met Your Mother was perfect! I was able to download and binge watch the final few episodes on a rainy day not to long ago and have since re-watched most of the show’s 9 seasons. Don’t judge me, I’ve just been on a lot of really long bus rides recently.
I started watching the show right when it first came on because it had Doogie Howser MD on it. (Yes, I’m old enough to have seen that show.) But I became a fan because HIMYM was clever. It used a lot of different and creative ways to tell stories whether it was using flashbacks, telling stories from different people’s perspectives or just telling a story in a nonlinear way. It came off as truer to life than Friends if for no other reason than the characters spent most of their time in a bar instead to sitting around a coffee shop like a bunch of yuppies. Plus, getting drunk and “eating sandwiches” were two of the most reoccurring story lines in the show. For me, this made the show much more accessible. Speaking of “eating sandwiches,” the show also respected the ability of its viewers to remember things and had more running jokes in it than any show I can think of other than Arrested Development. Slap bet, anyone?
But as a fan, I can also say that like most people, I found the last few seasons really started to suck and were a major pain the in ass (Major Pain <salute>). Whether it was the writers trying to cram too much story and character development into a show that was supposed to be a comedy, or whether they were just trying to draw out the story to fulfill their contractual obligation to CBS, the show lost a lot of its funny towards the end. That was, of course, largely because Barney stopped being Barney for so much of it. But, I, like a lot of other viewers, felt heavily invested and wanted to see how it played out and who the hell the mother was.
Still, when I recently saw an article listing the most disappointing series finales of all time and put HIMYM on it, I was annoyed. I loved the ending and after rewatching much the series, there is no doubt it worked and no question it’s the ending the creators had in mind from the start. That alone makes it much better than a lot of shows where the ending feels rushed, contrived, inconclusive or completely detached from what the show had been building up to (looking at you Lost and Battle Star Galactica).
The reason I liked the ending so much was because of how real it was, how much sense it made in terms of the story that had been told, and how well it tied up and concluded the story.
Life is messy and doesn’t go smoothly or flow in a straight line and here you have Ted who desperately wants that to not be the case. He wants to find the perfect woman, start his family and live happily ever after. He of course does, kind of, and we meet the mother. She’s lovely, sweet and the actress playing her really made her likable, but we also find out towards the end that she dies.
It was sad and I felt terrible for Ted and his kids, but that’s also life. Things don’t go perfectly. However, her death and Ted being single later in life was also part of an inescapable fact about the show: It was the love story of Robin and Ted. If you rewatch the show this is very clear. Sure there were many times where simply knowing that Robin wasn’t the mother, as they said in episode one, I didn’t see them ending up together. However, in rewatching it with all the facts in hand, it’s clear what, or should I say whose, story the writers were telling.
Furthermore, the extremely complex set of circumstances that transpired between their first meeting and Ted getting ready to ask her out again 20 some years later justifies what would have otherwise been a very creepy story for a father to tell his children, especially given how little the mother was featured in it. The children needed to hear how integral a part part of his life Robin had played. They also needed to understand the history behind him wanting to ask out their “Uncle” Barney’s ex-wife. But Ted used the love story of him and Robin to explain how all that messiness, even Robin’s marriage to Barney, literally put him in the right place at the right time to meet their mother. If that’s not the kind of sweetness we came to nauseously expect from Ted, I don’t know what is. It also stayed true to his romantic and fate believing ways.
I think there’s also something to be said for the way Barney ended up. While I won’t say the ending painted a very clear picture of what kind of guy he turned out to be after having his baby, I felt it was fitting that he ended up alone. Honestly, if there’s any karma in the world, a guy like that would. His level of misogyny certainly earned him that.
Sidebar: The biggest loose end of the series was where the hell the pineapple came from. Not knowing is driving me and Marshall crazy.