Series Finale of “How I Met Your Mother” Strays Tragically from its Unique Premise

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The “How I Met Your Mother” series finale disappointed long-time fans of the show.

Jamie Ferguson

The "How I Met Your Mother" series finale disappointed long-time fans of the show.
The “How I Met Your Mother” series finale disappointed long-time fans of the show.

In an industry where all the good ideas seem to already be taken, television shows are finding it increasingly difficult to have long, successful runs like shows did in the past. Acclaimed by critics and audiences alike, How I Met Your Mother debuted back in September 2005, and its ability to balance sarcasm and sweetness propelled its successful nine season run. However, its ninth season faltered considerably due to its fixation on Barney and Robin’s wedding, but its series finale gave the show the opportunity to remind viewers one last time why they loved the show in the first place. Unfortunately, not only was the How I Met Your Mother series finale a rushed, messy overview of 20 years of storytelling, it also backtracked on character arcs and invalidated the entire premise of the show.

The title of the show How I Met Your Mother establishes the premise of the show as the father Ted Mosby telling his children the really long story of how he met their mother.  For this premise, the creators filmed all of the scenes set in the future where Ted tells his children details as they sit on a couch and the voiceovers intertwine the storytelling to the children with flashbacks to the actual events.  The majority of the show takes place as flashbacks to New York City where Ted Mosby and his friends — Robin, Barney, Marshall, and Lily — mature from their twenties to their thirties, a process that includes real conflicts such as marriage, children, unrequited love, job promotion, and playful conflicts such as laser tag, Barney’s obsession with one-night stands, and Robin’s lobster allergy.

While the show frequently manipulated the subjectivity of the Ted’s flashbacks to provide comedy, the writers totally indulged in the last season by having the entire final season be focused solely on the minute problems of Robin and Barney’s wedding — an event that ends the penultimate episode. For whatever reason, the creators stretched out this wedding into a whole season; however, they then sloppily compacted 20 years of story into the finale.

The downfall of the finale traces back to one singular event: Barney and Robin’s divorce.  Not only does the divorce undermine the entire season, but it also was also a disappointment after the positive changes that both Barney and Robin went through as they became a couple. Although on the surface, the decision was not entirely bad, the writers’ decision to spend an entire season dedicated to the weekend of their wedding only to split them up in the beginning of the finale disappointed viewers who were forced to care about wedding problems unnecessarily for an entire season. Even though Robin said the divorce was because she was too busy with her job, after the divorce Robin grows distant as her job takes off, and the relationship she has with her old friends crumbles into nothingness, which contributes to a boring and sexist cliche: a woman who is successful and good at her job also has to be heartless and cold.

From the divorce, the rest of the episode went immediately downhill. Since the finale was a rushed portrayal of passing time (the episode spanned almost 20 years throughout its one hour duration), there was not enough time for what viewers really wanted to see: Ted and The Mother (who is named Tracy). Despite being (supposedly) the whole reason behind the show, Tracy has hardly any screen time, which is disappointing considering how much she really adds to the show. The moment when the two first met was a sweet, vulnerable moment that reminded viewers why they spent nine seasons waiting to meet Tracy.

Unfortunately, the writers pushed their storyline to the backburner, and Tracy dies during an anticlimactic offscreen moment that feels emotionless not only for the viewers, but for Ted’s children as well. She dies only a few minutes after their first encounter is shown, which is a cheap decision that discredits the majority of the past nine seasons. Not even Ted seems to be upset about his wife’s death, which reduces her character to nothing more than a storytelling device.

When the frame story ends, viewers realize that Ted’s story was never really about Tracy at all, but a way for him to subtly hint to his children that he was really in love with Robin the whole time. After supposedly telling his children the story of How I Met Your Mother for nine seasons, even his own daughter says, “This is the story of about how you’re totally in love with Aunt Robin and you’re thinking about asking her out and if you want to know if we’re okay with it.”

All of the scenes with Ted’s children were filmed in their entirety back in 2006 because the actors would have aged considerably had they filmed with them throughout the series, which forced the writers to choose an ending long before the show ended, thus invalidating the majority of the series’ development, because although Ted and Robin would have made a good couple early on in the show, by the end of the series, the changes in their characters and their many failed relationship attempts suggested that they would never work out as a couple.

The problem with the ending is not that Ted ended up with Robin; it is that Ted ended up with Robin when the writers spent nine seasons showing how the two would never work out. Had the show lasted only a few seasons, the decision to put Ted and Robin together would have made sense, but when the characters clearly changed, the ending should have changed, too. The penultimate episode focused on how Ted was finally over Robin and that Robin truly loved Barney, but the finale continued on as if these moments never happened. How I Met Your Mother’s nine seasons are full of arguments against the two as a couple, such as when Ted tells Robin before her wedding that he “doesn’t want to hear” that she regrets not staying with him because both of their lives are better when they are apart.

Although it had its bright moments (such as when the group said goodbye to Ted before he left for Chicago, the moment when Ted met Tracy for the first time at the bus station, and when Barney met his daughter for the first time), the How I Met Your Mother series finale was a huge disappointment that backtracked on years of storytelling and character development. It is a shame that the writers insisted on sticking to their original plans, because nine seasons of How I Met Your Mother’s unparalleled humor, sweetness, and unique method of storytelling deserved a strong ending, but instead it was tied with a sloppy bow.