Disclaimer: This post contains spoilers, so if you’re not up to date on the How I Met Your Mother conclusion, you might not want to continue reading. Don’t say we didn’t warn you!
After nearly a decade on the air, How I Met Your Mother came to an end last night, and while the series kept viewers intrigued, grounded and hopeful all along, the finale left many dedicated fans feeling cheated and robbed.
I didn’t watch HIMYM until summer 2008, when I was temporarily living at American University in D.C. for a summer internship program. I was too young to accompany my hallmates to bars on the weekends, so I befriended a nice group of people on my floor that really liked HIMYM. I wasn’t quick to warm up to the show, but it was easy to watch, refreshingly optimistic and endearing. Unlike the numerous Barney Stinsons around him, Ted wanted so badly to find the right girl, and though I thought that had to be Robin, my new pals assured me she wasn’t The Mother because Ted referred to her as “Aunt Robin” in narrations to his kids. It turns out the writers knew Robin and Ted were meant for each other from the very beginning, and calling her “Aunt Robin” was just a way of throwing us all off.
To give you a brief recap, the finale implies Ted lives happily ever after with Robin… that is, six years following the unforeseen death of his terminally wife Tracy McConnell (portrayed by Cristin Milioti). Ted and Tracy get together after Barney and Robin’s wedding, and next thing you know, they’re engaged and planning a grand ceremony. Then he hears Tracy is pregnant and doesn’t want to tie the knot until she can fit into her wedding gown. After three years of commitment and a whole lot of traveling for Robin’s job, Robin and Barney divorce, and he immediately jumps back into the dating game and fathers a baby girl with someone else. His marriage to Robin couldn’t tame him after all, but sweet little Ellie does, and he realizes this when he holds her for the first time ever. Though too exhausted to fully hit on attractive women anymore, Barney still has “the gang.” Robin, on the other hand, has drifted away from the group following her split from Barney.
“Seven years and two kids” later, The Mother and Ted finally make it official. Ted sees her in her dress before the actual wedding, noting it’s “bad luck”, and sure enough, she dies before her time, thus inspiring Ted to tell his offspring how he met their mother.
Ted tells the story and provides an anecdote about his first conversation with Tracy, an adorable, serendipitous interaction on a train platform. Then it’s over and Ted’s daughter brings up a glaring point that’s been on our minds all nine seasons: “That’s it?”
The kids realize the point of his story – to gauge their reaction of his interest in “Aunt Robin” – and encourage Ted to make a move on her, and he does in the last scene. After nearly ten years of investment in this show, the finale was bound to be heavy, but lots of fans felt outraged rather than understandably bittersweet:
I’m not ashamed to admit I cried a few times during the last episode, not just because the final moment is emotional whether you love it or hate it, but because we’ve seen the characters go through so much over the past ten years. We may not have liked some of the things the gang went through, but doesn’t mean the last decade has been a waste. It just means they all had to grow up.
And Ted did grow up. We don’t get to see his relationship with the mother evolve, face setbacks or tragically end, and that’s why many fans expressed disappointment with the finale. There’s not much to know about The Mother other than the fact that Ted got what he ultimately wanted during their short time together: something solid and pure. As much as I liked Robin’s character, she and Ted were never on the same page at the same time. He longed to go all in immediately and start a family while she put her news reporting career above all else, a priority that ultimately tore her union with Barney apart. Ted and Robin just didn’t want the same things at the same time until much, much later in life. It takes the heartbreaking loss of the mother of Ted’s kids and Robin’s underwhelming experience with marriage for them to finally be ready for each other.
I understand the criticism that the finale makes The Mother seem irrelevant, and I’m definitely let down that the show didn’t go out with a “love the one you’re with” message, but Ted does adore Tracy while she’s around. It’s just a shame the sitcom writers wouldn’t afford us some more time with her, even though the whole thing was supposed to be about Ted’s journey.
Some have argued Ted seems disrespectful for talking about everyone but his late wife to their kids, adding that we as audience members never got to experience their relationship the way we experienced that of Tracy and Ted, Robin and Barney, and Lily and Marshall. Well, the mother has been gone for six years, and having lost a parent myself, I understand Ted’s choice to only mention the good things about Mom. You want to remember someone at their best, and that’s exactly what Ted does when he gushes about the very first time they met.
Ted could be considered tasteless for hitting on Robin six years after his wife’s untimely passing, but it’s not like he went after his old flame right away, and after caring about this guy for so many years, viewers shouldn’t want Ted to be alone until he himself meets his own demise. Life goes on, and returning to Robin doesn’t take away from what he had with his wife. They created children together, a bond he’ll never share with Robin, and though their time as a pair was cut short, it still means a lot to Ted. There’s no indication he would have ended up with Robin had his spouse survived. Simply, Robin and Ted finally got their timing right, for better or worse.
I’m genuinely interested in your thoughts on the finale. Loved it? Hated it? Tell me all about it in the comments section.