HIMYM ended on a beautiful moment (set to a Walkmen song, the series always could pull a great song when it needed it) that provided the series with symmetry and closure the likes of which are rarely seen in a sitcom. And I hated it.
Let’s back up. This was a show that was well past its prime, even the creatives behind the show didn’t plan on it making it this long. At seemingly the last moment during season eight, a ninth and final season was green-lit to let the writers expand the long-awaited wedding of Robin and Barney into a full season event. At the time that news broke, I was well beyond my frustration with the show’s formula, and my attitude was that they had to either put up or shut up. There were some missteps, but actually I was pretty impressed with most of the final season.
I wasn’t really coming for the interesting narrative or the jokes anymore, I’d be surprised if anyone was. I looked forward to How I Met Your Mother every Monday because I was attached to the characters and eager to see how it all works out for them. What can I say, I liked hanging out with this gang. Still do. And when the show focused on settling Ted, Barney, Robin, Lily, Marshall, and basically anyone who was ever important’s storyline, it was successful. “What a great opportunity this is,” I thought. “This is a show in the unique position of being able to turn what is effectively a victory lap into a satisfying bookend.”
“Gary Blauman” embodies this concept, in that it turns a minor, fairly forgettable character into a vehicle for wrapping up loose ends for long-time fans. The heartiest laughs this season came from in-jokes – Barney saying getting a few curly fries with your regular ones is “the dream” is funnier if you’re familiar with his usage of that phrase – but that’s not necessarily a bad thing given the concept they went for. After all, who but the most die hard fan is watching at this point? But given that, how do you explain some of the other choices the writers made?
I’m talking about the decision to partner Marshall with Sherri Shepherd for what turned out to be no reason. I know the show was in a pickle with Marshall starting the season in Minnesota, they couldn’t just write him out of a quarter of the season by putting him on a plane. Except they basically did, giving him unfunny scenes that sucked all the moment out of the show whenever they came back to him. It didn’t even make sense for the narrative, since Marshall didn’t actually learn a lesson until he met the mother right before showing up in Farhampton.
Right, the mother. Cristin Milioti is an incredible performer to be able to deliver on eight years of hype. The smartest, best thing about all of season nine were the flashes forward to Ted and the mother’s relationship. And honestly, the best episode of the whole season may have been “How Your Mother Met Me,” which mostly abandons the gang to show us how the last eight years led her to this wedding. It was clear early on that the season’s biggest hurdle had been overcome, the mother was great, and I couldn’t wait for everything to finally work out.
This has always been a show about love, and fate, and optimism. I really gravitate towards any media that can make that work without seeming too hammy or cliche. I thought the story this show was trying to tell was how hard it is to meet someone and really connect with them. And Robin, she was the embodiment of that. She was someone with whom it would never be exactly the right time or place to make that connection. And Ted had to learn that no big, romantic gesture was going to change that. Fate is fate. In the finale, he had finally learned to practice that which he had so often preached.
And the finale went down that path. It reminded us that life is hard, which, OK, I guess. There was that whole Marshall’s dad dying thing a few years ago, I guess that’s a part of the show. But mostly its been about embracing fate, not being destroyed by it. So that whole aspect of it was kind of weird, but forgivable because they gave us that scene when Ted and the mother finally say hello to each other and we learn her name and they learn that it was basically destiny that they meet and it’s very sweet and why couldn’t it end there?
In the last two minutes, we see the mother on her sick in a hospital bed and then we cut to 2030 and learn that she’s been dead for six years. Hey, that’s fucked up. This show was about these crazy kids getting together, right? Why’d you go and do that? Oh, because you’re totally flipping a bitch. Ted’s kids yell at him for basically turning the story of how he met their mom into the story of how much he wants to bone Aunt Robin, and tell him to go out there and get her. And he does and that’s how it ends.
This might have worked a few years ago, but we just spent a whole year talking about how great a couple Robin and Barney are. 22 episodes for their wedding, and they couldn’t even stay married for half an episode? Have you even been paying attention, HIMYM? Moreover, I lost count of how many episodes there have been were Ted had to learn he and Robin are a shitty match. That was literally the plot of the penultimate episode, Robin worries that maybe she should be marrying Ted and realizes that’s dumb. I feel like I’m taking crazy pills!
I feel so weird writing this shit. I’m usually someone who likes a darker, more real ending. I try not to obsess over what could have been in cases like this; it’s why I’ve been OK with the endings of Battlestar Galactica and Lost. It makes sense, this ending. I get it, I get why the writers would make it happen this way. They probably were hamstrung by footage they shot long before the show became what it is in the end. But I can’t help but feel betrayed by what happened in the finale and it casts a dark shadow over the whole show. Basically, they told me I was watching the show for the wrong reasons, and I know that’s going to taint my experience re-watching classic episodes now.
How I Met Your Mother was a groundbreaking show that combined elements of single camera comedies and serialized dramas into a fun multicamera sitcom. A review of one of its episodes is the most read thing I’ve ever put on the Internet, and even now I can still come up with more than 1000 words when I write about it. HIMYM ended a few days ago and I’m still worried about it. I’m going to miss it. And it’s fucking weird that after all this time, I feel like it rushed itself into its grave. And it wasn’t even the right grave.