For this post, I was trying to find an image that featured the entire cast — the one including Cristin Milioti, the lovely and talented actress who played Tracy McConnell, a.k.a. the Mother. The fact that I couldn’t find one speaks to only one of the many problems I had with the series finale of “How I Met Your Mother.” My thoughts on this issue — as well as the series as a whole — are long, ranting, and very spoiler-laden, so read more at your own risk!
So first and foremost, I cannot believe Carter Bays and Craig Thomas actually went with an ending where the Mother is dead in 2030 and Ted reunites (once again, and presumably on a permanent basis) with Robin. I’d heard that theory before, but I just assumed it was a crazy forlorn hope from the fans who still really, really wanted Ted and Robin to end up together. I honestly never thought it was a real possibility for the show, but they did it. And I can’t decide whether I’m more shocked or enraged.
Here’s why I’m shocked: From the very first episode, this show has been about Ted’s search for the love of his life, the mother of his children. Some of my friends (and random folks on the Internet) have pointed out that in real life, you don’t always have kids with the love of your life; ergo, Robin could be Ted’s soulmate even though she wasn’t the Mother. Others have argued that in real life, people fall in love more than once; ergo, Ted could have genuinely loved Tracy, mourned her for six years, and then reconnected with his former love, Robin.
The thing is, neither of those explanations is really satisfying in the world of this show. This show established from day one that it’s on Ted’s side, and Ted is a big believer in romance, true love, fate, and destiny. It doesn’t matter whether those things actually exist in real life or not; they exist in the world of “How I Met Your Mother.” The entire show was built on the premise that Ted would eventually meet the Mother, and that she would be his soulmate, the person who made all his pain and loneliness and bad relationships worth it. Even though the writers adhered to the letter of their script — Ted did eventually meet the Mother, and he had kids with her and married her and talked about how much he loved her — they totally violated its spirit. The Mother was supposed to be the love of Ted’s life. Instead, she was basically a footnote on Ted’s much more epic, drawn-out romance with Robin, his REAL soulmate.
And here’s why I’m enraged: Cristin Milioti was EXCELLENT as Tracy McConnell. She was in the show just enough to breathe life into a generally terrible final season. She was charming, she fit right into the world of the show, she interacted well with the entire cast, and she was obviously the perfect match for Ted. My biggest complaint throughout season 9 was that we didn’t get nearly enough of the Mother. But based on how everything turned out, I almost wish we hadn’t seen her at all. By making her such a likable character and showing how much chemistry she had with Ted, the writers completely convinced me that she was the one who would, and SHOULD, end up with Ted. Unfortunately, the entire final season was basically a long con. Maybe I should have expected it; Bays and Thomas have always enjoyed playing tricks on the audience, from the “Aunt Robin” fake-out in the pilot to the mystery of Barney’s bride that spanned about four season finales. Watching the final episode, you could tell that they just thought they were SO clever, tricking us all into believing that Ted would end up with someone other than Robin. They sacrificed the beautiful relationship they’d been building between Ted and Tracy for a cheap gimmick.
But even setting all of that aside, I was never rooting for a Ted/Robin pairing at the end. Don’t get me wrong; Josh Radnor and Cobie Smulders had excellent chemistry, and it was wonderful watching them get together in season 1, then date happily in season 2. If the show had ended with Ted and Robin together at that point, I would have been fine with it — maybe even thrilled! But SO MUCH has happened since then. Most notably, Robin fell in love with someone else, and her relationship with Barney was much more prominent in later years than her relationship with Ted.
I’ll be honest — I’m a bit biased here, because I always really liked the idea of Robin and Barney together. They seemed more compatible than Robin and Ted: they were both independent people who weren’t interested in commitment or in a conventional life. The season 1 episode “Zip, Zip,” in which Robin joins Barney for an honorary bro’s night out, gave an enticing peek into what that relationship would be like. So I was rooting for them to get together in season 4, especially when it seemed like Barney was finally showing some emotional growth. (Sadly, that all went out the window in subsequent seasons, but that’s another rant.) I was talking with a friend about the show today, and she compared Robin and Ted to another famous on-again-off-again TV couple, Ross and Rachel from “Friends.” But to me, Robin and Barney were truly the Ross and Rachel of “HIMYM” — they were the couple that somehow kept returning to each other, through all the fights and breakups and other relationships that momentarily derailed them.
Of course, then the writers focused the entirety of season 9 around a wedding that ended up being undone in about one minute in the series finale. All the Robin/Barney buildup, all the promises they made to each other, all the fights they resolved, all the flaws they forgave each other for…none of it mattered at all, because apparently Robin was always destined to end up with Ted. But honestly, the Robin/Ted relationship barely got explored in later seasons of the show. Every so often Ted would suddenly get feelings for Robin again, and he’d make a move, and she would always shoot him down. But to me, that always just seemed like a particularly inept way of stirring the pot and/or giving Ted something to do when he wasn’t actively dating a potential Mother. His feelings always seemed to come out of nowhere, then completely subside as he continued to hang out with Robin as a friend like nothing had ever happened. So if the writers wanted me to believe that Ted and Robin belong together, they should have done a much better job of selling it to me and building up to it gradually, rather than just dropping it on me in the last episode of the series.
So here’s how I wish “HIMYM” had ended: Barney and Robin, Lily and Marshall, and Ted and Tracy are happily married. They’re all really old (because Lily and Marshall in their “future” makeup just crack me up!), and they’re sitting on a front porch somewhere, reminiscing about their misspent youth at MacLaren’s and joking about classic memories like the slap bet and Robin Sparkles. That’s what I was hoping for when I started watching the finale, and that’s what I’ll tell myself whenever I start thinking about the actual ending and getting irritated. In reality, sadly, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to look back at “HIMYM” the same way. I may watch the occasional rerun when it airs on cable, but any hints about the Mother or Ted’s romantic future will be tainted by the writers’ subsequent terrible decisions. Sorry for rambling on so long, but THAT’s how much this series finale bothered me. For anyone else who watched the show, what did you think? Did you hate the ending as much as I did, or did you think it was romantic and wonderful? If the latter, can you convince me to agree with you? Because really, I’d rather not leave the show with such a bad taste in my mouth…