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How I Met Your Mother Series Finale Recap: Did the Show Really Just End That Way?

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It’s 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 didn’t 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 we’d 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 Mother’s 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 can’t 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 can’t believe it. Let’s take a look at how the episode stacked up, expectations versus reality. 

The Mother 
Expectations: Devoted mother, loving wife, long and insufferably/delightfully twee life
Reality: Dead 

We get a few lovely moments between Ted, the Mother, and the rest of the gang, but they’re 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 show’s 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 show’s creators, Carter Bays and Craig Thomas, will likely point out in response to the backlash that’s already mounting: We did, in fact, meet the mother. Perhaps we as an audience should’ve 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 Lily’s 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 Marshall’s dislike of his corporate lawyer job (poor guy, but who hasn’t had to pretend not to cry at work?), and that’s neatly resolved once he’s finally re-offered a judgeship. I was never very invested in Marshall and Lily living happily ever after, but that’s probably because it seemed like a given that they would. 

Barney
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 doesn’t 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 daughter’s eyes and is transformed. 

The trouble is, Barney falling in love with his daughter isn’t redemptive. Parenting is difficult, and loving a child is sometimes a complicated undertaking, but it’s different than the work of a real, reciprocal relationship. You have to love your kids. I would’ve 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 hadn’t.

Robin
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. That’s 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 that’s not the most heart-warming topic to explore. And it’s equally wrenching to realize that you’ve broken things off with someone who could’ve been the one. But that puts Robin in such a disempowered position — we’re supposed to believe she spends years quietly, contentedly pining for Ted until he and the blue French horn turn up again? That doesn’t sound like the Robin Scherbatsky I know.

Ted
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 Ted’s belief in destiny. It’s 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. We’ve also been relentlessly reminded of Ted’s belief in the idea of “the one” — that everyone gets one and only one mad, complete love in a lifetime.

And so Ted’s return to Robin, even years after the Mother’s death, leaves me with one truly unsettling question: would How I Settled For Your Mother have been a more accurate title for the series? 

 

Via Cosmpolitan.com


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