How I Met Your Mother Series Finale: 8 Reasons It Was Actually Legendary
The series finale of the much-beloved sitcom How I Met Your Mother aired this past Monday night. The hour was a dramatic, funny, and emotionally satisfying journey that navigated through 15 years of Ted’s, Robin’s, Lily’s, Marshall’s and Barney’s lives. Each character wound up in a place that felt real and narratively satisfying to their own arcs.
Most satisfying of all was Ted’s, finally fulfilling his long burning (yet separate) desires to have a wife and family AND ultimately wind up with true love Robin. The show deftly managed both fronts, acknowledging the importance of the mother (or Tracy McConnell) and the tragedy of her death, without making it feel like she was just a placeholder until Ted could finally be with Robin.
But apparently the large majority of the internet fan base feels the exact opposite. Infuriated claims of betrayal have been echoing through social media since Monday night. Anger has been levied at HIMYM creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas for seemingly betraying the very title of the show through its ending. This sentiment is understandable, but ultimately misplaced. In general, the criticisms against the finale missed a few important points. Specifically, 8 points. Here are the 8 reasons the HIMYM finale was actually legendary.
8. Barney and Robin Divorce
Shocker number 1 of the time jumping finale was that Barney and Robin divorced after only 3 years of marriage. It was a delightfully unexpected twist, but angered fans for two main reasons.
The first reason is they felt it made the entire final season pointless. This is somewhat true. It was a little infuriating to have to sit through 22 episodes of meandering around Barney and Robin’s wedding weekend, only to have it completely undone in 5 minutes. But the finger of blame can be pointed at the season that preceded the finale rather than the finale itself. It was clearly a mistake to stretch the wedding out for so long. The writing suffered and the story as a whole lagged under its’ weight. But putting the divorce’s effect on the season aside, as a stand-alone twist it works pretty well. Taking it into account for shock value alone, you might even consider it pretty cool that the writers had the balls to pull this off after trying to convince us for a season that Barney and Robin were meant to be.
The second reason for the upset fans, is that Barney and Robin had developed so much together and this twist ruined everything. But Barney and Robin were never meant to be. They never worked as a couple. Their chemistry consisted of high fives, dumb sex jokes, and mutually narcissistic ego boosting. They always seemed way more like friends with benefits than an actual couple.
The divorce twist not only righted an egregious wrong in character pairings, it also worked as one of those very real facts of life (something the finale was chock full of). Barney and Robin were another unfortunate victim of profession standing in the way of relationships, something that was always a possibility because of Robin’s convictions.Â As for Barney, his big win of the break up was having a kid, something he always wanted (at least back in Season 6) but never could have achieved with Robin. Which brings us to our next category.
7. The Barney Reset
There aren’t many who will argue that the most emotionally powerful scene of the episode was Barney giving himself over completely to his newborn daughter. It was a beautiful moment that brought about more “real” character growth than anything we ever saw from him and Robin.
But this is where many fans disagree. They complain that after Barney and Robin broke up, he simply reset, returning to his old womanizing ways and even producing a brand new playbook. The frustration is understandable, but isn’t this a clear case of the ends justifying the means? Yes, Barney returned to his old ways, but he got a new kid out of the deal. And it’s not like the writers simply ignored his previous development. They acknowledged it. Barney himself acknowledged it when he asked his friends, “Can I please just be me?”
Much of Barney’s development with Nora, Quinn, and Robin never quite rang true. It always felt like Barney was pretending to be the new Ted rather than actually genuinely believing himself to be. And this episode was the first time the writers acknowledged that they felt the same way. When Barney asked his friends if he could simply be himself, it was the most refreshing and true moment we’d seen from the character in a very long time. The true love of his life was not some woman who he would have to change himself for. The true love of his life was a child he could put all of himself into.
For a man who grew up fatherless, it was emotionally truthful that Barney would pledge himself forever to his own child. And it made for one hell of a beautiful scene. A scene that was only so powerful because of the very reset button fans are complaining about. In order to his find his true calling, Barney had to find himself again first.
6. The Time Jumps
Another common complaint has been about the jumps in time shown throughout the finale. Rather than staying rooted in say, two time periods – with future Ted and present Ted – the episode instead charts the future arcs of every single character. Fans feel that the episode rushed through such important plot points such as Barney and Robin’s divorce, Barney becoming a father, Ted and Tracy getting married, and Tracy’s death. It was a season’s worth of dramatic content stuffed into one episode. But rather than weigh the episode down, this wealth of dramatic material served to boot the finale as a whole.
Each of the plot points were only given a few minutes, but each of those minutes were doused with so much great writing, characterization, and acting. It’s really all we needed to see. The scene between Barney and his daughter was about 30 seconds, but we understood the power of their connection through brevity. Though Tracy’s death was mentioned only at the end, we understood the full weight of Ted’s sadness as the editing took us through time, from the end of the mother’s life back to the very first time she and Ted met. And Ted’s ultimate reunion with Robin was quick and wordless, but we understood the timeless strength of their connection simply by the way they looked at each other.
These moments work so beautifully precisely because they’re short and sweet. If they had been spread out over the course of several episodes, they wouldn’t have worked nearly as strongly as they did contained within this last hour. HIMYM has always been a master at storytelling through time jumps, and this finale reached the apex of that technique.
5. The Mother’s Death
It’s ironic that the most popular fan theory of all turned out to be completely true, and yet fans still reacted to it with outrage. Fans have called it insulting, morbid, and too dark for this show. But there’s something to be said for HIMYM’s ability to navigate drama with comedy. They’ve been doing it successfully for years. The death of Marshall’s dad, Robin learning she can’t have kids… The show has always expertly balanced emotional content within the framework of the show’s narrative. It always had a meaning, and was never tragedy for the sake of tragedy.
The same is true of the mother’s passing. It retroactively brings a larger weight to Ted’s story, making it all the more worth telling. Looking back at the mother’s appearances over the course of the season, it’s now much easier to understand Bays’ and Thomas’ rationale for keeping her appearances brief. The future glimpses of her and Ted together almost take on a ghost-like characteristic, suggesting the mother’s presence as an all-important spirit within Ted rather than a fully fleshed out character.
If the mother had been any more prevalent within the past season, or indeed the series as a whole, her death would have been too much to bear. It would have been like killing off Lily or Marshall. That would have been too tragic for this show, but as a character we’ve only seen fleeting glimpses of, her presence worked well in defining the show’s ending without overwhelming it in sadness.
Truth be told, there is one aspect of this they could have handled a bit differently. They should have shown some of Ted’s grief following her passing. It wouldn’t have to be much, but perhaps a few shots of Ted at Tracy’s funeral and the gang all around him, sharing in his grief. This would have cemented the mother’s importance and prevented some of the backlash that the mother’s death was glossed over. Which brings us to Robin.
4. Ted Ends Up With Robin
The primary reason the mother’s death works is because this is the one and only turn that could have allowed Ted to end up with Robin. I’ve been rooting for the two of them to get together since the very first episode, and Bays and Thomas clearly were too. Many fans feel this twist was disrespectful to the mother, and made it seem like Ted was in love with Robin throughout his entire marriage.
But the more likely implication is that, while Ted was with Tracy, she was the only woman he had eyes for. And as Ted’s kids rightfully point out, it’s been six years since the mother’s passing. It was high time for Ted to move on. And who better to move on with than the first love of his life?
It bears mentioning that the final scene between Ted and Robin is simply beautiful. Showing up at her window with the blue French horn once again was the perfect callback to the first episode, and narratively it brought the entire story full circle. It returned Ted to his romantic best, bringing him out of the rut in his life caused by his wife’s death. On a story level it was the perfect romantic ending, bringing closure and allowing a happy ending for what otherwise would have been a way-too-tragic note to end on.
Bays and Thomas managed to resolve Ted’s relationship with the mother and bring him back together with Robin with one masterful stroke. If we remember, the only reason Ted and Robin broke up in the first place was because Ted wanted kids and Robin wanted to travel the world. Each of them individually achieved their own dream, and with those successes behind them, they were finally ready to be together.
3. It Was Never Really About The Mother
On a fundamental level, fans’ biggest issue is that the entire Robin twist places the series in a different light. For those of us who assumed the show was true to its title, this revelation gives the appearance that Bays and Thomas copped out of their initial premise just to service Ted/Robin shippers. But the thing is, the show was clearly always about Robin.
She was the woman Ted laid eyes on in the very first episode. That initial attraction set the course for the rest of the series. For the first 2 seasons Robin was the only girl Ted had eyes for. But even after that, he always kept coming back to her. Over the course of the rest of Ted’s relationships, Robin always wove in and out of them to a greater or lesser degree. I think Victoria summed it up best in season 7 when she declared that the real reason none of Ted’s relationships ever worked out was because of Robin. It’s clear that Bays and Thomas imbued that idea into the very core of the show.
It’s been pretty obvious for a while now that the true point of Ted’s story was to tell his kids how he felt about Aunt Robin. For fans who complain that the mother of the title was unfairly brushed aside, she wasn’t. Her importance, again, was clear, but she simply wasn’t the point of the story and she wasn’t Ted’s endgame. If angered fans were to view the title, “How I Met Your Mother” as a clever red herring rather than an insulting fake-out, they’d probably be far more accepting of the twist.
2. The Ending That Was Always Meant To Be
Despite any fan misgivings, one really has to give credit to Carter Bays and Craig Thomas for sticking to their guns. They filmed the penultimate scene with Ted’s kids nine years ago. For nine years they’ve known that Ted would wind up with Robin. Some critics have argued that the show evolved to a point in recent years where the original ending no longer made any sense. They argued that Bays and Thomas should have been aware of this and abandoned their original ending.
There’s probably a good argument to be made for that idea. But we live in a world where so many writers, at their best, allow their series to naturally evolve to their ending, and at their worst, simply wing it up until the last moment. But rarely do we see an ending that has been completely planned out since day 1.
Bays and Thomas should be commended for sticking with their original convictions. They had a vision for their show and they saw it through. It’s regrettable that their original trajectory got somewhat muddled through misdirection in the past couple of seasons. But although the show was unfortunately stretched out past its expiration date, the strength of the finale itself never wavered or altered in any form. And that’s pretty legendary.
1. It Stayed True To The HIMYM Formula
How I Met Your Mother has always been a show that thrived on an equal balance of comedy and drama, the real life lessons registering in our brains as the romantic elements rang true to our hearts. All of Barney’s hilarious social rules only worked because they struck with some element of our own experiences. And all of Ted’s romantic yearnings only spoke to us because we could see ourselves in his quest for love.
For readers, here is one final thought: think about just how realistic – yet true to the show – the ideas contained in the finale are. Friends grow older and grow apart. Marriages dissolve and single bachelors have children out of wedlock. Wives and mother pass away, and old lovers reunite. The events of this finale packed an emotional wallop that was very true to life. It was tragic yet optimistic, comedic yet dramatic, realistic yet romantic.
The way the episode managed to balance all these opposing elements and allow them to be equally true was a tremendous accomplishment. Ted and Robin ending up together was a realistic turn, yet a storybook ending. And for a show like How I Met Your Mother, which has always blended real-life awareness with storybook romance, it was an ending that could only be called “destiny.”