If You Hate How I Met Your Mother's Ending, You Missed the Point
Written by Katie Shanahan
Last week on Twitter, the subject of hated series finales reared its ugly head again. More recent critical flops like Game of Thrones and House of Cards were thrown into the conversation, being compared to the infamous endings of Seinfeld, Dexter and, of course, How I Met Your Mother.
The latter may have the most loathed finale among its fans than any other show since the turn of the century. Nearly five and a half years after its airing, it is still common to hear people grumbling and groaning about how the episode made the previous seasons unwatchable for them now that they’ve seen what it all culminates in. I watched HIMYM sporadically as it aired, and about a year ago watched the whole series over the course of a couple months. During both of my viewings I had no issue with the ending and actually thought it was very fitting considering what I believe to be the central message of the series: Life doesn’t work out the way you think it’s going to, but that doesn’t mean you won’t end up happy.
[Spoilers ahead for people who haven’t gotten around to finishing the series yet half a decade after it finished its run!]
The final episode, Last Forever Part II, reveals that Ted has been telling his children the story of how he met their mother six years after she passed away from an unspecified illness. With his children’s blessing, he rekindles his romance with old flame Robin, showing up at her doorstep with the blue french horn in hand just as he did in the pilot. Many were disappointed by this conclusion. I commonly see people claiming that this single handedly undid all the development the characters underwent during the course of the series, but to me it was the natural conclusion of their arcs.
Think about it. Nothing ended up the way these people thought it would, and yet they still end up happy Throughout the series, we see Ted presume that ultimately, marriage will be the thing that will bring him contentment and that everything else will fall into place from there. He even almost rushes into marriage with Stella, a woman he barely knows, because he believes this so strongly. When he finally meets Tracy, who ends up being “The One”, they don’t get married until after seven years of being together and two children. When he met the right person, the thing he thought he needed no longer mattered. Barney believes that nothing could make him more happy than his philanderous lifestyle, only to realize upon the birth of his daughter that being a parent is the most fulfilling thing in the world for him. Robin thinks that focusing on her career will bring her joy, only to have it come at the cost and ending up empty and spiteful because of this, even going so far as to isolate herself from the rest of the group. Her true happiness comes at the rekindling of her relationship with Ted, who is by her own words “the guy she probably should have ended up with”. Things didn’t pan out the way any of these characters expected, and yet they still ended up satisfied in their lives.
The biggest grievance heard from the finale’s detractors is that The Mother was killed off; though, interestingly, their issue is never with the misogynistic trope of women being killed off for male character development. They gripe that the epic love that was built up for Ted over the course of the nine seasons was cruelly ripped away from him, but if she was alive why would Ted be telling his children this story alone? It’s obvious through the way he’s narrating this story that she’s dead. Plus, why else would he want those extra 45 days with her?
I also see many complaints about Barney and Robin getting divorced, but honestly, their romance was my least favorite part of the whole series. Their relationship was clearly unhealthy and doomed from the start due to their clashing lifestyles and personalities. It all felt very forced and rushed and unhealthy, and the weird manipulative stunt Barney pulled in order to propose to her never sat right with me.
Obviously, Ted didn’t expect his wife to die, but even in the unfortunate situation he finds himself in, he's able to find love again. Robin, after years of putting up emotional barriers, is finally able to let them down and let herself be vulnerable. To me, the ending displays that the characters are finally emotionally mature enough to let themselves be happy, even though life didn’t go exactly how they had planned.
I really don’t know what to say to the people I see lambasting the finale because the arguments they use make me feel like we watched two entirely different shows. I feel like most of them just can’t get over the fact that the ending wasn’t exactly what they wanted: Ted and The Mother living happily ever after and everything being perfect. Maybe they’re the ones who could benefit most from the message that you can still be happy even if things turn out different than you anticipated!