One could say that the theme of How I Met Your Mother‘s final season was nostalgia. While moving forward with the narrative in a risky manner (22 half hour episodes focusing on the 48 hours before a wedding), the show focused on callback after callback. Loose threads were often tied off while jokes were made as a tip of the hat to the long term viewers. It makes sense, too, since the show’s overall narrative was Ted’s nostalgia for his lost youth. Apparently, it was also nostalgia about his lost love.
Given that the finale aired just last night, it’s hard to claim what will be considered controversial. I’m going to say it comes down to two things: the divorce of Robin and Barney and Ted’s final attempt to win over Robin. The latter will probably be the most frustrating for viewers, although I think I understand what the creators, Bays and Thomas, were aiming for when they put it together. The show ran for eight years before the mother was introduced. The entire narrative was told with her absent from it, and it literally started with Ted meeting Robin. When considering how to write the series from a Creative Writing 101 standpoint, you understand that the creators were trying to tie the ending into the beginning. It makes sense.
But after nine years and multiple stories about how Ted and Robin should not be together, it ends up not working. This last season alone there were two very strong episodes in which Ted let go of his feelings for Robin. That’s supposed to be the end of it. Not to mention the fact that this season also put in a lot of effort to convince people that Barney and Robin were a solid relationship. As a viewer who did not particularly enjoy their coupling, I found myself appreciating more and more. And then they undid it, approximately 11 hours of effort, in approximately three minutes. Same thing with Ted’s finally moving on. In the last three minutes, he doubled back. It’s like the show should actually be named arrested development.
Perhaps what was never considered in going into this final season was the performance of Cristin Milioti. Her screen time was used sparingly, but she nailed it every time. In what probably amounts to 90 minutes on screen (I’m sure someone out there knows exactly how much time we got to spend with the character), she was able to fit right in with the regulars as part of the group and make for a perfect partner for Ted. Had this been a lesser performance, it would not have been a big deal that the character died and Ted was convinced to move on. In most cases, viewers are able to shrug it off because the character did not stay with us for so long. But Milioti’s performance was spectacular. Tracy was such a warm, loving character – who worked in absolute contrast with Robin’s growing cold and distant. And unlikeable. You don’t make Lily cry and then walk away, keeping your distance for years. That sort of behavior is not supposed to reward you with the guy in the end. Then again, I think part of her story might have fallen away to the cutting room floor due to time. We don’t know why she’s back in New York in the end, and we don’t know how she might have grown between the time she saw Penny as a precocious five year-old and the show’s final scene.
The ending just didn’t work for me. It’s tough for sitcoms to stick the landing, but this is particularly disappointing because it came so close. The mother was perfect, the interactions were perfect, and even their meet cute moment was perfect. Meet cutes tend to be saccharine and annoying, but this one worked because of the slow discovery of their accidental shared history. But to move the mother out of the story just as easily as she was introduced just reeks of bad writing. To show how fitting Ted and Tracy were only to move Ted toward a woman whose history with him has been difficult, not to mention the recent years she spent emotionally distant from him and all of their friends, doesn’t make sense unless someone is convinced that returning to the one that got away is always a great device in romantic comedies. And after Lily strongly suggested that Tracy was the one for Ted, it really deflates anything he could have with Robin thereafter. If Robin’s not the one, then is she merely a consolation prize because the one is dead?
I’ll always love How I Met Your Mother and look back on the series fondly. The finale cannot undo what has otherwise been a very enjoyable nine years of television. But what it can do is make me hesitant about checking out the next series, How I Met Your Dad.
- Barney’s regression and then finally coming to mature after having a child makes some amount of sense given the heartbreak following the divorce and his love of babies, but it loses something when the mother is neither named nor seen. It’s like the baby was only named so viewers wouldn’t consider calling her Device.
- There really wasn’t much for Marshall this episode. His goodbye with Ted was strangely empty given their history together, and then it seemed more like was around to provide context and exposition rather than interact with the rest of the characters.
- I get that Lily’s the heart of the group, but this episode really showcased the fact that the character really has nothing else going on for her except talking about all of the other characters.
- The creators might have been locked into the ending we saw because of the footage they shot with the kids back in the second season. It’s possible they could have filmed other takes for additional possibilities, but I imagine they had this sort of finale in mind during the season when Ted and Robin realized they shouldn’t be together. It’s shortsighted, really, especially considering how well fans responded to Milioti.
- No new Robin Sparkles stuff? That’s probably why this season wasn’t received well by fans.