The quirky sitcom How I Met Your Mother ended its nine-year run this week, finally revealing who the mother was. My wife and I started watching the show after the second season, usually on weekend DVD-binges. It’s become our go-to comedy and re-watched countless times.
So the end is always bittersweet. Most finales are a letdown (except for Buffy) and this one is worst than most. The only thing that softens the blow is that it was going downhill for the last few seasons.
When we get this attached to a TV show, we usually need to process the end. That’s why there are so many articles to digest. We fans need a little therapy.
I was going to write my own take, but it’s all been said better than I can say it, so let’s just point to a few more insightful gems and offer a few last comments to say goodbye to a pretty great (until the end) TV show.
SPOILERS follow (duh).
- Finale Bailed on the Entire Show: Robin & Barney’s relationship is a cruel joke, Barney having a daughter with another, final unnamed conquest is sick and they basically bailed on the entire conceit of the show.
- Why We Deserved More From the Finale: “[The mother’s] death was covered in mere seconds on screen. It felt like we had been cheated.” Yes! That death was a big moment (a big theme in the finale) and we don’t get any of it.
- An Awful End to a Long Love Story: “That Ted was on a journey that was not about Robin was the first interesting thing the show ever said.” And then they flipped it. The writer argues that the show could have ended with that final meeting, and the Internet agreed.
- Not-so-Legendary: “Ted’s entire journey to find closure with Robin is what opened his heart to meeting Tracy. That’s what made How I Met Your Mother so wonderful. His dream girl wasn’t the girl he saw in the first five minutes of the pilot, it was someone just slightly beyond his reach.”
- Heartbreaking: In a nutshell, Ted never grew up.
And now for a few thoughts of my own:
Committed to the Bit
One of the things that made How I Met Your Mother so great were the bits. They kept coming back to these inside jokes and goofy things that were repeated again and again. From constantly riffing on Canada to the slapbet to Ted’s nerdiness, the show could reference itself like college students quoting The Simpsons. They tried to pay homage to that in the final season, pulling out as many self-referential jokes as they could and paying them off one last time. But nearly every one fell flat (the final slap) or seemed too forced (the parade of characters and where they are now). Major disapointment.
Lily & Marshall
I’ll tell you the one thing that worked about this entire show, from beginning to end: Lily and Marshall. They never let us down. They go through tragedy and pain, but they come through. They had their own ridiculous moments and utter failures, but there they are in the end, as fun and goofy and as deeply in love as they always were. They’ve earned the crown of Best Sitcom Couple.
I’ll say this much for the finale: In the grand scheme of things, it all makes sense. Everybody always asked why this show about meeting the mother start nine years before he even meets her? Well, it’s not about her. The daughter spells it out in the finale:
“You made us sit down and listen to this story about how you met mom, but mom is hardly in the story. No. This is a story about how you’re totally in love with Aunt Robin and you’re thinking about asking her out and you want to know if we’re OK with it.”
Apparently that scene was filmed back in 2005 and kept secret. How I Met Your Mother made an art of screwing with perspective and time. By shifting time and perspective they could drop bombshells and do creative things most half-hour sitcoms never touch (sometimes it worked, sometimes it failed). As Josh Radnor (Ted) put it:
“Part of the DNA of the show is they lead you one way and then they pull you back. You think you’re watching one thing in an episode and then it turns out you’re watching something completely different.”
In the end, the entire arc of the show was just another switch in perspective. As painful and deceptive as that switch ultimately feels, I think it’s true to the show.