By Tim Kaiser, Editor-in-Chief
*Spoilers: If you have not seen the series finale of HIMYM or don’t want to know what happens do not keep reading*
“How I Met Your Mother” came to a close Monday night with an hour-long, two-part finale episode. It had the mix of humor and heart that we have come to expect from HIMYM over nearly a decade of Ted Mosby telling his kids the story of how he met their mother. However, creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas missed on giving fans a satisfying conclusion to this 9 season love story, and fans let them hear about it as Twitter and TV writers’ comment sections exploded with criticism. I didn’t have a problem with the story, just the execution.
As I hope you know by now if you are still reading, the story turns out not to be how Ted met “the mother”, but that he is still in love with Robin after all these years and is asking his kids’ permission to ask out their “Aunt Robin.” The last scene of the series is a salt-and-pepper-haired Ted Mosby showing up at Robin’s apartment with the blue french horn, bringing their epic love story full circle.
Bays and Thomas actually shot the scene with the kids giving Ted permission to get back out there after their mother’s death during season 1 when they did not know whether the show would be picked up for another season. The fact that they knew where they were going all along makes the execution of the last season and the finale even more abysmal.
In the span of an hour, Robin and Barney get married, Ted and Tracy (the mother) meet, Robin and Barney get divorced, Robin is estranged from the group, Ted and Tracy get married, Tracy dies, and Ted and Robin get back together.
The time jumps are so rapid and they are trying to fit so many plot points into one final 40-minute window that the audience has no time to process these huge life changes in their beloved characters. The writers gave viewers 20 minutes to see and cope with the demise of two couples they spent an entire season making the audience care about. A show that usually is quite good at letting moments breath (Season 9 took place over the course of one weekend) got caught having to sprint to cross the line before time expired.
However, I do not put all of the blame on the showrunners and writers.They wrote the ending to this story almost a decade ago and have just been trying to fill space in between. In trying to produce more content than the material probably allowed for they wrote themselves out of the ending they had planned and couldn’t quite shoehorn their way back into that lane.
If the show had actually ended in season eight the ending might have been more emotionally satisfying. That would have been before we watched more than 20 episodes about a wedding that they made completely redundant with the finale; before they made “the mother” a person instead of just the idea of the perfect woman; before we saw Ted had finally move on from Robin as he shot down her last second offer to run away with him before her wedding and met his perfect woman.
Even with a ninth season, the ending could have been executed better. Instead of cramming all those huge, game-changing moments into a double episode, they could have been spread out. Season nine was definitely thin at points, especially early on with seemingly meaningless episodes that added nothing to the final chapter of the story but serving as packing peanuts to get us one week closer to the finale. This strategy would have made it feel more like the actual six years Ted waited after Tracy died rather than the five seconds it feels like.
The finale did have its flashes that reminded everyone why CBS wanted to keep it on the air. The scene in which Barney meets his daughter is as good as Neil Patrick Harris has ever been in the series, and somewhat made up for the writers undoing the two season maturation of Barney earlier in the finale.
Although I am critical of the execution of the ending, it does not spoil one of the most enjoyable shows of my generation. HIMYM is not in the same class for me as “The Office” or “Parks and Rec,” but I don’t think it was ever trying to be. HIMYM was part mystery, part love story. The NBC juggernauts use love stories and “will they or won’t they,” but aren’t solely reliant upon it ultimately. HIMYM didn’t have the option to just get to the mother when things got stale and the audience was screaming at their TVs as Ted’s heart was crushed by another woman.
For those people who will never watch an episode of HIMYM again as it re-airs through syndication on what seems like every channel, I feel sorry for you. Just like the people who wrote off “Dexter” after its terrible finale, you guys just need to enjoy the ride. Every show is not “The Office,” “The Wire,” or “Breaking Bad.” Sometimes you just want to shut your brain off and watch Barney get slapped in the face.
UPDATE: Someone re-cut the ending of the finale. It’s pretty great. This was the easier way to go after you write yourself into the corner with an extra season or two of character development.