After years of flash-forwards and rewinds, hints and countless red herrings, the sitcom How I Met Your Mother finally concluded its 9-season series on March 31, 2014. With a viewership of 12.9 million, the one-hour episode marked the show’s most-watched and highest-rated episode to date. Of these 12.9 million viewers who tuned in to watch the HIMYM finale, many were left disappointed. To be perfectly honest, I was one of them at first.
I sat in shock as the credits rolled up and I watched my favourite TV show characters leave forever. I asked myself, “ … What just happened?” Ted finally met the Mother, but she dies, Barney and Robin get divorced, the gang grows apart, Barney temporarily regressed to being a womanizer, and Ted and Robin rekindle their romance. I was overwhelmed by all that had happened within the span of an hour, and I wasn’t exactly sure how to feel. I logged onto Facebook and Twitter through my phone. The Internet exploded with rants by thousands of disappointed, enraged fans. I remained in the same spot on my sofa, just letting my brain absorb everything. There was an unsettling feeling in my stomach and I knew I wasn’t satisfied with what I had just seen.
I critiqued the episode in my mind for hours. I knew it was realistic from the very beginning, but it just wasn’t what I we wanted as the audience. We wanted our perfect, happy ending.
Let’s start with Barney and Robin’s divorce. The only reason why I was surprised that their marriage fell apart is because it had been the heart of season 9. Carter Bays and Craig Thomas had focused on building their marriage the entire season. In the same episode that showed their wedding, we were shown their divorce. When Robin asked Barney if he would take a way out of their marriage, I wanted him to say, “No. I love you, Robin, and we’ll find a way to spend time with each other. We’re going to figure this out together.” I was disappointed because, like others, I had grown to love the couple that ended up together against all odds. However I wasn’t surprised to see their marriage fall apart. There were signs of their marriage failing in the future, such as Barney being a compulsive liar. On top of that, Barney and Robin had always struggled with commitment and were both the first to flee at the mere sight of a problem. Old habits die hard. That being said, I was able to stomach their divorce.
I think Barney is a great contender for the “most screwed over” title in the season finale. He plays out most of his life as a womanizer with almost no substance. As the show continues, we see him grow and change immensely. He happily makes sacrifices for love and learns to put others’ needs before his own. Barney, the man whose goal was to bang 200 women, actually fell in love and even got married – something I never thought would happen at the beginning of the show. He became caring and sensitive, and my friends and I all agreed he was a total sweetheart. A few years down the road, Robin put her career before the man who became a new person for her and they decided to call it quits. This results in Barney going back to being his old playboy character. He went back to creating a new playbook and having meaningless sex and one-night stands. The only difference is that now, he’s truly and completely broken, thanks to Robin. And I think it’s safe to say that he will probably never allow himself to fall in love with another woman again.
Having his daughter Ellie was what ultimately corrected him and forced him to grow up. In the end, I was satisfied with how he turned out because of the scene where Barney goes to seemingly hit on a group of girls at the bar and instead throws their drinks out, and scolds them for making bad decisions. Although that left me feeling happy that at least he didn’t permanently go back to being a sleaze, I was appalled at the way he was until he had his baby girl. Yes, it was a one-night stand that led to the true love of his life — Ellie —but that’s not the Barney we had seen earlier. The Barney he had become wouldn’t refuse to see his own daughter. The scene with his newborn daughter was some of Neil Patrick Harris’s finest work on the series. We got to see a very human side of him rather than viewing him as a shallow man of silly rules, AND MAY I JUST SAY THAT HE NAILED IT. Ellie gave him a breath of warmth that he seemed to have lost after his divorce. I teared up as I watched Barney look into the eyes of his beautiful baby daughter and vow to give her all of him for as long as he lives. It was absolutely beautiful. It was only slightly spoiled by the fact Thomas and Bays couldn’t think of a better way to achieve that emotional side of Barney. Barney deserved better. Nevertheless, it was hands down the most touching scene in the finale.
On a sidenote, I personally liked how Ellie’s mother was never revealed. It would’ve been sort of an unnecessary face. It’s good to leave some parts a mystery.
As for the death of the Mother … well, was it sad and heartbreaking? Incredibly. Did it make me feel cheated? Not at all. I accept Tracy’s fate, because it’s what happens in life. The show was about Ted trying to find happiness/the love of his life, which he did. But like in the real world, happiness isn’t a constant. It fades out, as did the mother.
Some people complained that Ted reduced the mother to a baby-making machine. NO. Ted did NOT use the mother to have kids. He genuinely loved her. Even Lily noticed that his love for Tracy was different than his love for everyone else, including Robin. The way Ted and Tracy met was super adorable – from discovering they had the same initials to their dorky jokes about the initials – and it showed how amazing they were together. In the second episode of Season 5 “Double Date”, Ted goes on a blind date with a woman who hates all of his quirks, he realizes that he wants to be with someone who loves his quirks rather than simply tolerating them. Tracy was that woman. She even genuinely laughed at his shellfish pun! They shared similar interests and created a beautiful family together. We loved Cristin Milioti from the very beginning, and every scene involving her was heartwarming and perfect. I think that if the mom hadn’t died of cancer, her and Ted would’ve definitely stayed together forever.
Like others, I was initially quite unhappy with how the finale did not show the Mother’s death. The writers took the most emotional and heart-wrenching event of his life (Tracy’s death), and played it off-screen. It would have been nice to see how the gang rallied around him during the difficult time. But then I remembered that Ted is narrating this story to his children, not the audience. His kids already know of their mother’s death and what happened during that time, so it would not make sense for Ted to go into detail about her death.
Many also complained that Ted and the kids spoke of the Mother’s death very nonchalant manner, as if it was something trivial. The kids immediately began talking about Robin as soon as Ted finished his story. However, keep in mind that it had already been 6 years since the Mother died, so it’s not like they are freshly dealing with the loss. The kids as well as Ted both had a lot of time to cope with her death. It does not mean they longer care for the Mother; it simply means they have come to terms with her death and did not let her death prevent them from living their lives. How I Met Your Mother was never really a series about the Mother. The show was always about Ted’s life and the adventures he had in New York on the search to finding the Mother. It was about Ted explaining to his kids that he loved their mother with all his heart and they were meant to be together, but he also wanted them to understand why he also loved their Aunt Robin. Tracy’s death wasn’t news to the kids, and they wanted their father to be happy. Wouldn’t you? In fact, in one of the last episodes, the Mother herself said to Ted, “I don’t want you to be the guy that lives in his stories.” She practically gives him permission to move on. She must have known that a part of Ted will always love Robin, and she WANTED him to move on after her death and live a happy life. It wasn’t as if Ted moved on as soon as Tracy died. It took him over 6 years. Once he saw that his kids were okay with him moving on and that they liked Robin, he was willing to give it a shot again.
It would have been way too sad to leave Ted alone and unhappy at the end, and what better choice than Robin? Robin and Ted always worked well together. The only reason they broke up was because they both wanted different things out of life. Being the ambitious, success-driven woman she is, Robin wished to excel in her career as a reporter and travel around the world; whereas Ted wished to marry a loving woman, have children and settle down. Timing had never been right for them. However, by that point in time, Robin was already very successful in her career and she had already travelled around the world. We heard her acknowledge to Lily that Ted is the man whom she “probably should’ve ended up with”. Ted spent many years of his lives with an amazing woman who he loved with all his heart, and his two children. Both Ted and Robin had achieved their life goals. With both their partners gone, the two were as lonely as ever and they both knew they still had feelings for each other. The timing was finally right. When Ted raised the blue French horn as Robin looked down at him with her dogs, How I Met Your Mother came full circle from the first season. It was implied that Ted goes back to Robin one last time. Yes, it might be a mistake, but don’t we all make mistakes? Who said our favourite sitcom characters are supposed to do everything right? Everything wasn’t intended to be perfect. Life isn’t perfect.
The only characters who remained unchanged in the finale were Marshall and Lily—unless we’re counting those Captain Ahab and the White Whale Halloween costumes, because truth be told, they weren’t helping anyone – but that isn’t surprising as they have been the most stable couple since the series began. They’re totally in sync and attached at the hip, and they even have special, adorable rules for when they’re in a fight such as their Pause Rule.
I’m tired of people bashing on those who liked the episode and saying, “The people who loved the series finale of HIMYM must have never watched the show before this.” We all have different perspectives and different reasons for liking and disliking the things we do. I’ve watched every single episode of the show multiple times and love it with all my heart. I love each and every character of the show, so don’t tell me that my opinion is invalid just because I didn’t hate the finale like you did and was able to accept the writers’ decision.
As it stands, I can truthfully say that “Last Forever” is not an episode I’m eager to revisit anytime soon simply because although it is realistic, it’s too painful a watch for a softie like me. Season 9 was the worst with several episodes falling short of my expectations but, after reflecting on the finale and the entire 9-year run, I can only applaud the cast and the crew. They managed to create something very special and memorable: larger-than-life characters whom you love and feel like you know personally, and, most important, a show relatable to all that makes you reflect on your own life and come to peace with it. I do, and always will, love the show with all my heart. I’ve made many positive changes to my life as a result of this show. So I think the best way to say farewell to How I Met Your Mother is by living by the life lessons the season finale taught us:
Life isn’t perfect – you must make the best of what you have.
One moment can change your life forever.
As beautiful as friendship is, life gets busy and even the greatest of friends can grow apart.
Love doesn’t always make sense, and sometimes we go back to those who hurt us the most.
Life is all about making decisions, and we don’t always make the best ones. But if it makes us happy, then who’s to say it isn’t the best decision?
You can fall in love more than once because true love isn’t limited to just one person. There could be more than one person, at different stages of your life.
Loss and pain are both an inevitable part of life. We must cherish every moment, memory, and person while we still have them in our lives, and always live with a grateful heart.
Thank you Ted, Barney, Robin, Lily and Marshall for nine years of wonderful memories. We will miss you.