I used to think people who got really worked up over TV series finales were a little insane. What could possibly prompt someone to spend days crying real tears over characters that don’t even exist? Why would viewers get so delusional as to believe a show’s writers and producers owed them something?
But then “How I Met Your Mother” broke my heart last night.
The series came to its conclusion by carelessly killing off the long-awaited mother and throwing Ted and Robin together in the last few seconds of the series. Suddenly I understand, and I have all the feels. Like, beyond the kinds of feels I thought were possible for a TV show.
I feel betrayed and deceived by the finale. The series’ last twist did nothing to serve the show’s theme or further the plot in a meaningful way. It seems like nothing more than a pointless grasp at shock value. Barney, Robin, Ted, Lily and Marshall may not be real, but they’re alive enough that thousands of people have managed to fall in love with them over the past nine years. I’d like to see their stories end in a way that’s actually nice for them.
The internet had been predicting for weeks that Tracy might die some horrible death and pave the way for Ted to end up with Robin, but, honestly, something that crazy sounded too radical to be true. After all, this show is defined by how much heart it has, so why would it rip away a character we spent almost 10 years falling in love with?
Carter Bays and Craig Thomas have said repeatedly that they decided on the show’s conclusion years ago, so why did it seem so thrown together in the last 10 minutes of the series? Watching this finale felt a lot like watching the hastily mashed-up final episode of a show that was just canceled a week earlier, leaving writers scrambling to tie up all its loose ends in an hour. Bays and Thomas had years to plan this thing and instead spent the entire final season lingering on one weekend.
The characters’ experiences after Robin and Barney’s wedding seemed like a realistic progression — growing apart after having kids, big moves, divorce — and at first I was so grateful that the writers got real about the fact that best friends don’t get to just keep hanging out at the bar every night like perpetual college students once life starts to move on. The problem, though, is that each phase of their life was only onscreen for a few uninspired seconds. Maybe on some other planet that could have been executed well, but instead, the characters shuffled through their various new “grown-up” identities so quickly that there was no time for it to sink in enough to feel believable. The dialogue felt forced and the gang looked like they were just their 30-something selves playing dress-up. Those wigs!
Maybe, just maybe, Bays and Thomas could have sold the Ted and Robin ending believably if they’d used this season to create some kind of build-up. After all, the big message behind “HIMYM” is that life is bittersweet and doesn’t always work out the way we plan for it to. If Ted’s whole relationship with Tracy wasn’t glossed over in a matter of minutes (presumably to get to the Robin part faster?), maybe the twist wouldn’t have felt so disingenuous. The finale’s total disrespect for the character of Tracy — you know, the mother the show was named after? — is what makes the finale so egregious. If the writing team was so damn set on pairing off Ted and Robin, there were ways to do tit that didn’t make Tracy a lowly placeholder. She ended up being painted as nothing more than a stepping stone so that Ted could finally get to the good part of his life.
Even Ted’s own kids said their mom was barely in the story. So basically, Ted doesn’t really give a damn about the woman who is the supposed love of his life, and this is totally inconsistent with the values that framed every other episode of the show. Whenever Ted talked about his path to love, he always insisted that the harrowing journey was worth it to finally arrive at his destiny. Soooo … it was all worth it so that he could finally get to Robin, even if it meant that Tracy had to die!?
I also have a major issue with Robin suddenly morphing into a “spinster career woman” trope and becoming devoid of every trait that made her special. Thank you, Bays and Thomas, for reminding me that successful women are apparently destined to have terrible relationships, expected to die alone, and can only hope to be rescued by some ex who wants to make her his second choice — while her ex-husband (Barney) gets to remain a happy man-child forever.
The writers were so self-serving in prioritizing their mission to have the last laugh over protecting the integrity of the story. Apparently, Bays and Thomas were too cocky to remember that they’re now trying to sell a spin-off (the alleged “How I Met Your Dad,” ugh) to the same fans they just massively disappointed. What’s that show going to be about? Another nine-season slog toward death? No thanks!
When I think about the end of “HIMYM,” I’m going to focus on that perfect moment when Ted and Tracy finally meet at the Farhampton train station, and I’m going to remember Ted’s reaction when he first sees her in her wedding dress. I’m not going to think about the fact that Ted and Robin, who ended up together in the finale, are romantically incompatible, which we learned the first time they tried to date. I’m also going to ignore the fact that the show resorted to that tacky thing where they pretend it’s totally not weird for all the characters to trade partners and exes out of the blue (I see you, “Gossip Girl”). I have to pretend that Ted and Tracy’s wedding is the end of the series, because otherwise, I’ll never be able to watch a “HIMYM” rerun again.
Or, you know, maybe today CBS will tell us that this whole ridiculous episode was an April Fool’s joke. Please?
Did you watch the “How I Met Your Mother” finale? What did you think?