How I Met Your Mother Series Finale Recap: Did the Show Really Just End That Way?
By Lauren Hoffman
Its always a mistake to go into a series finale or into any episode of television, really with specific expectations. The reason, simply: You'll be disappointed. But that didnt stop dedicated How I Met Your Mother viewers, myself included, from having high hopes for tonight's final episode. (Did we learn nothing from Lost or True Detective?) What I thought wed get was an hour that revisited some of the series strongest points: the easy camaraderie of the gang, the impressive library of running jokes and references, the newly-developed chemistry between Ted and the Mother, and maybe even a Robin Sparkles reunion performance at the wedding reception.
What we got instead was an hour of the gang growing apart, divorcing, and, in the Mothers case, dying. As my buddy put it, This episode is a really great reminder to sign up for health insurance by midnight! Not to throw down the I cant believe I gave almost ten years of my life to this show and this is what I get in return card, but I very legitimately cant believe it. Lets take a look at how the episode stacked up, expectations versus reality.
Expectations: Devoted mother, loving wife, long and insufferably/delightfully twee life
We get a few lovely moments between Ted, the Mother, and the rest of the gang, but theyre all marred by the fact that she dies. The Mother is the Holy Grail of this series in that her reveal was supposed to be everything the show was building toward. The moment between her and Ted under the umbrella on the train platform was the perfect pay-off. If only the episode had stopped there. But, as the Mosby kids point out at the end of the episode, Ted's stories were mighty Robin-centric for their point to ultimately be about the Mother. We should have realized all along that the show was really about Ted and Robin.
The verb in the shows title is met and not stayed with until we both died of old age, so the literal promise of the series has been fulfilled, something the shows creators, Carter Bays and Craig Thomas, will likely point out in response to the backlash thats already mounting: We did, in fact, meet the mother. Perhaps we as an audience shouldve specified that this was not a wanted dead or alive situation.
Marshall and Lily
Expectations: Happily married with more kids; professionally fulfilled
Reality: Happily married with more kids; professionally fulfilled
After the knock down, drag-out fights that marred Marshall and Lilys interactions for most of the final season, it seems only fair that the two have an easy next few years. The only real bump in their road is Marshalls dislike of his corporate lawyer job (poor guy, but who hasnt had to pretend not to cry at work?), and thats neatly resolved once hes finally re-offered a judgeship. I was never very invested in Marshall and Lily living happily ever after, but thats probably because it seemed like a given that they would.
Expectations: Married to Robin, retired from full-time work to focus on magic
Reality: Divorced, devoted father, possibly reformed womanizer
After just three years, Barney and Robin divorce, mostly because she travels too much for work. Or something. Barney seems gravely concerned about not being able to post boner jokes on his lifestyle blog while he travels with Robin, which doesnt sound like a relationship-ending issue to me, but okay. They split, he bangs 31 girls in 31 days, and the 31st lucky lady gets pregnant. He feigns indifference at first, but looks into his daughters eyes and is transformed.
The trouble is, Barney falling in love with his daughter isnt redemptive. Parenting is difficult, and loving a child is sometimes a complicated undertaking, but its different than the work of a real, reciprocal relationship. You have to love your kids. I wouldve liked to see Barney choose love, too. And I thought he already had the show spent episode upon episode trying to get us to buy into the Robin and Barney relationship, and went so far as to spend an entire season ramping up to their wedding. It worked. I cared. Now I wish I hadnt.
Expectations: Married to Barney, hugely successful at work, possibly having affairs with NHL players
Reality: Divorced, hugely successful at work, newly yoked to Ted
Because Robin was the only single girl of the bunch, she was naturally the character I gravitated toward. Her enjoyment of sex, focus on her career, and resistance toward being mommy-tracked even while she looked for love were huge bonuses, too. Robin was smart, knew it, and acted it. Thats a rarity for women on sitcoms.
I applaud the finale for being honest about how difficult it is to be one of the gang when the gang consists of your married friends and your ex, even if thats not the most heart-warming topic to explore. And its equally wrenching to realize that youve broken things off with someone who couldve been the one. But that puts Robin in such a disempowered position were supposed to believe she spends years quietly, contentedly pining for Ted until he and the blue French horn turn up again? That doesnt sound like the Robin Scherbatsky I know.
Expectations: Married to the Mother, proud father
Reality: Widow on the prowl
One of the driving principles of How I Met Your Mother has always been Teds belief in destiny. Its so clearly etched across his face as he and the Mother stand under the umbrella on the train platform in the pouring rain, realizing how many tiny events converged for them to be in the same place at the same time, bickering over the same umbrella. Weve also been relentlessly reminded of Teds belief in the idea of the one that everyone gets one and only one mad, complete love in a lifetime.
And so Teds return to Robin, even years after the Mothers death, leaves me with one truly unsettling question: would How I Settled For Your Mother have been a more accurate title for the series?