Why I actually liked the HIMYM series finale (SPOILERS!)

I watched the HIMYM series finale Tuesday morning and immediately wanted to write a blog post. Then I read a bunch of negative reviews, and then I REALLY wanted to write a blog post. Then I got all tired thinking about it, and then I decided, yep I’ve got to write about this.

What’s better than writing about things that make you tired?

Lots of things.

But I have time to bang out a quick post (I’m just writing this off the cuff, not a million edits like I normally would. Nor am I going to link to the millions of other reviews and articles that I should probably reference. In other words, I’m asking for GRACE people!) so here goes.

I liked it? I think?

I didn’t LOVE it. But after reading many a social media post and pop culture writer review on it, I think in comparison to most people, I did love it. I’m certainly in the minority if nothing else. But let’s not talk about that. Let’s talk about what was wrong with the finale/season 9 in general, even though I did like it.

1) Let’s spread a 3 day wedding weekend over the course of an entire season but cram a decade into THE final episode.
This was a bad idea. How about 3-4 episodes of the wedding and then devoting the rest of the season to actually investigating Robin and Barney’s divorce, the mother’s illness, Marshall and Lily’s storyline (sorry, Yep, we’re going to Rome for a year, yep we’re back, I’m a lawyer again, here comes kid number 3, oh yeah we had a second kid too, wait now I’m a judge, ok now I’m running for State Supreme Court is not enough meat for the most adorable married couple on TV. BUT! I did appreciate the very real married fight they had on wedding weekend… pretty much the last moment of significance they had as a couple on the series, but still very good), and Barney’s fall and subsequent redemption. This is a lot to ask a series that traditionally does cram a ton of plot into one episode, but this entire season was simultaneously incredibly crammed and fast, and yet so slow that we had to see a pointless joke that ends in poor Josh Radnor wearing an old-time bathing suit. Let’s be better than that.

2) No real development of Robin and Barney’s divorce
I loved this couple as much as the next fan, but honestly, if we tear it down to studs, the relationship doesn’t work. Not long term. It’s sad, but it’s real, and so the divorce didn’t surprise me. I also thought the lead up to the wedding, the moments where Robin was doubting were very real, AND the moment that turned her back around to wanting to marry Barney was very real. But still, we need a better explanation for their divorce than “too much travel, no wifi.” On the flip side, we have seen Barney and Robin not work before, so maybe they thought we’d just fill in the blanks? If that’s what they were banking on: close, but no cigar.

3) Barney’s fall and redemption
Totally believable (albeit OVERDONE) fall back into his old ways. And totally believable redemption through seeing his daughter for the first time (YOU ACT NPH! YOU ACT THAT LOVE FOR YOUR CHILD! Seriously though, Bravo, beautiful scene), which was foreshadowed way back when his brother had his first child and you see Barney’s first understanding of love and marriage. So it works yes (and come on, after hundreds of women he was bound to get one pregnant, right?), and yet it’s not believable because in spite of his newfound true love (child) we NEVER meet the mother (spin-off? boo, sorry, too soon), never learn her name, and this makes Barney remain as shallow as ever. But with a daughter. That’s making him tired. Props?

4) The Mother’s illness
So, apparently they alluded to her illness a few episodes back and I missed it, but I applaud the effort. Just let us know a bit more, so we don’t feel like your sole reason for killing her off was to do your cute little twist ending. ALTHOUGH- you could defend this tactic- let’s remember that Ted is telling this story to his kids, who went through the illness already and probably don’t need a play by play. Food for thought.

And there are many more errors in execution, but most go back to number 1- spending a lot of time on a minutiae of details that are fun, but don’t really matter or move the plot and then glossing over the things the fans really care about.

Here are some things that bothered other people, but didn’t bother me.

1) THEY CHEATED US!
Sorry folks, creators don’t owe you anything, and certainly not your perfect ending. Endings are hard and there’s never one that pleases everyone. In the end, they told the story, and left you with some nostalgic moments, and somehow tied up (sometimes messily) every single storyline (well, not the pineapple). The didn’t cheat you, especially since you did actually meet the mother.

2) Robin and Ted shouldn’t end up together
They don’t. For all we know, he shows up with that dumb French horn, she rolls her eyes and says “this again?” He ended up with the mother, had a wonderful, beautiful time with her, was fully committed to her, and I truly believe was not romantically interested in Robin during his time with Tracy. He had his til death do us part romance. And he had his fate/universe moment under the yellow umbrella. Watching the entire series, seeing Ted constantly in various ways turn back around toward Robin (and I’m not a fan of Ted and Robin together, I just could never see how the writer-creators were going to avoid it)- if they weren’t going to bring her back in for the ending then they would have left out a ton of stuff. Leave out the moment on her wedding day when she says “I should be marrying you.” Leave out the locket story. Ted’s not going to be able to ignore that kind of stuff, not the Ted they’ve developed throughout the entire series. He puts it aside because he’s found someone who he’s meant for in Tracy, that destined love that he’s spent his whole life looking for, he devotes himself to that. And when it ends (in an irritatingly underdeveloped way in the episode, but poetically, since he goes through what Tracy went through herself only a few years before meeting Ted) he grieves. And when he starts looking for new love (as people do, though we don’t like to think about our partners doing that) he goes for a different kind of love- the love that’s built from friendship over the years. And yet, we STILL don’t know that they end up together, we only know that, true to form, Ted can’t give up on the signs. Also, isn’t it kind of nice that they told a story of someone having two true, but different loves without an affair being involved?

3) It’s unfair to the mother.
No, it’s unfair to Christine Milioti who did a FANTASTIC job portraying someone that we came to love very quickly and only wanted more of. It’s also unfair to Cobie Smulders (who is not my favorite, but again, did a great job), because it paints her character as a mother killer which is lame, when it’s been written and developed that way for way longer than just the last episode. Also, why in the world does Josh Radnor have to be so dang adorable and have so much chemistry with like every woman on that show? I would have been fine with him ending up with Tracy, Victoria (VICTORIA! Hey, she called it, it’s always about Robin…) or Stella. As long as it wasn’t blah blah. Maybe if there was less adorableness putting him with oh ANY WOMAN we wouldn’t get so invested and care so much.

Truth be told, they could have ended on that beautiful scene where he does meet the mother, and left the following scenes for extras on a DVD release. I think a lot of people would have been happy with that (including me), but I don’t think it would have been the truest ending, and there would have been a TON of unresolved issues (the locket story, Victoria’s insistence that he’s not over Robin (I see her as the “seer” within the show’s mythology), Robin’s discontent with her place in the group.).

And finally here are some reasons I think it works.

But real quick- I’m also not a years long fan of the show. I started watching season 1 in January of 2013. And I caught up to season 9 by the time it started last fall. I will submit that if I had been watching, dedicated for 9 years, this ending would have been quite frustrating. As someone who’s seen the seasons in close succession, however, it is less upsetting, and actually makes a lot of sense.

Go back and watch episode 1 knowing what you know now. “Here’s the story of how I met your mother.” end of episode: “And that’s the story of how I met… your Aunt Robin.” You guys, they basically told us from the beginning “yeah, she’s NOT the mother, but this story is really about Robin.” And from that point on, most everything points back to Robin. And with a “The universe is telling me something” main character like Ted, I think it would have been wrong to just end it with the yellow umbrella.

What everyone really wants from a series finale is a satisfying, slightly twisty, but nostalgic close to the series. There are few that can attain all three, and I’m not arguing that this one did, but it got nostalgic DOWN.

I love that both of the most important symbols of the show (yellow umbrella, blue French horn) made their way into the finale. Cobie Smulders (huge Harry Potter fan) calls them horcruxes, and they truly are. I love that we see the full circle of both.

The kids. Those of you that feel you need an answer for what the writers decided to do… the kids response is your answer. It’s not true to life-what kid PUSHES their parent wholeheartedly to go on a date? -but the kids are the writers telling us “look guys, the mother wasn’t even in the story that much, this is about Robin.” and yet we get that AND a lovely look at his life with the mother. Also, how relieved are those kid, now adult, actors that they can FINALLY FINALLY let go of that 7 year long secret?

A lot of people have mentioned that the creators were to obsessed with this twist ending, that they held onto it for too long, that they should have course corrected. And maybe that’s true. On the other hand… I really love that they gave themselves a structure and stuck to it. Sometimes the most creative things come about with a strict structure. It might not have been perfect, but it certainly was a creative way to get all that they wanted in there. I mean really, most shows make you pick: Dawson or Pacey, Ross or Paris, Logan or reporting on the Obama campaign trail, but we got BOTH! We got Tracy and Robin. They had to figure out a way to over 9 years make that work (see also slap-bet, and too many more to name running jokes). Maybe it wasn’t perfect, but that’s also not an easy job.

Related to structure, another reason why it works is the frame. This show never leaves the frame of a dad telling his kids a story. And some great moments (sandwiches, bike flipping, a duckie tie) come out of that. But truthfully we should have known from the beginning that this is how the story would end. People tell stories with biases, to bring out the parts they like. If Robin wasn’t a significant part, then Ted wouldn’t have spent so much time on her moments. To not let him at least try again, I think, would have been disingenuous to his telling and also to his character.

And that’s story of why I liked the HIMYM finale.

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