How I hated the finale of “How I Met Your Mother”

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…

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6 thoughts on “How I hated the finale of “How I Met Your Mother”

  1. Jenny @ Reading the End says:

    Blech, I hated it too. I feel like the showrunners made themselves slaves to an ending they had conceived when the show was a very different show and its characters were very different people. They put so much time and energy into convincing us that Ted and Robin were wrong for each other, but Robin and Barney were right for each other, that it felt really shitty for them to change their minds right at the very end.

    Which is not even to mention how mad I am that Cristin Milioti didn’t survive and wasn’t the proper love of Ted’s life. Grrrrrrr to that. Cristin Milioti could not have been more delightful in that role. She lived up to every bit of hype built up by all the seasons of the show, and it was so crummy of them to just kill her at the end. If it were me, I’d have scrapped the footage they had of the kids’ reaction shots, and just ended the show with Ted and Tracy meeting at the train station (wonderful scene!), with the implication that they then lived happily ever after.

    • Christina says:

      Agree completely…even though apparently Ted+Robin was a plan they’d had for years, it was really a last-minute shift in gears after an entire season about Robin and Barney’s wedding!

      And you are right…Milioti COULDN’T have been more delightful! The problem is, she was just TOO GOOD at her job of being Ted’s perfect match. And in the end, she basically became a convenient plot device to give Ted his kids and then die so that he could end up with Robin, the “real” love of his life. I would have been SO much happier if the last scene had been Ted and Tracy under that umbrella.

  2. Lianne @ caffeinatedlife.net says:

    I don’t watch HIMYM but I did hear about the ending and yikes, I really felt bad for all of the fans who watch the show, it seemed to ignore the initial premise of the show and all of the development that happened over the seasons 😦

    • Christina says:

      Well, 4 or 5 years ago I would have encouraged you to watch the show…but now, even though a lot of it is on Netflix, I’d say don’t bother. There are some really great episodes, especially in the early seasons, but the ending has left such a sour taste in my mouth that it all seems a bit tainted now. Oh well, maybe I’ll change my mind when I’ve had time to calm down a bit!

  3. aartichapati says:

    I also disliked the ending! I agree that the mother felt like a footnote. What was the point of all those seeded coincidences and such with the mother?! Ridiculous! And I honestly just don’t believe that Ted could feel real love for anyone since he claimed to be in love with everyone.

    That said, I never thought Robin and Barney would last. I HATE the way show creators always feel compelled to match up stray characters with each other, and that happened on this show all the time. the Robin/Barney/Ted thing was the worst. Seriously, marrying one of your best friends’ ex-wife? And Barney going from married to slime all to over-protective dad? Just the worst.

    • Christina says:

      I definitely agree that season 9 Robin and Barney would never have worked out. I do think there was a period where Barney seemed to grow up a little — particularly when he finally met his dad — and at that point, I would totally have bought him and Robin as a couple. But the show really seemed to go out of its way to make both of them (Barney especially!) as obnoxious as possible in the last few seasons.

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