The first episode I ever watched of “How I Met Your Mother” was on an airplane in 2007. It was the Season 1 finale, which is absolutely fitting if you know how the show plays out in the very end.
I had no idea why Ted was after this girl Robin so desperately, why his friends were so against it (har har) and what the deal was with that blasted blue orchestra.
And yet I fell in love with every single character anyway, and I’ve been learning and growing with this show ever since, eagerly anticipated the moment we had all been waiting for on March 31st.
From this point on, we’re going to be discussing spoilers of course, so please don’t keep reading if you have not yet watched the series finale. I mean you can—but I personally believe that it would be a disservice to this legendary story that has been 9 years in the making.
Many people disliked the ending for “How I Met Your Mother,” and I’ve read many in-depth, compelling arguments and comments that address why so many of us walked away from that television screen with mixed emotions.
I know for me, all I could feel was confusion. Confusion because I was both angry and sad–typically symptoms of a traumatic experience. But the traumatic experience, honestly, wasn’t that the mother passed away. No, I was traumatized because in a way, we were losing all of these characters. It’s over. For good. The show has ended.
Now, many people are angry that in the end, Ted moves on to Robin. Six years after his wife passes away, Ted returns to Robin, and the show becomes full-circle, which had fans feeling like the real final slap was to them.
Why? It’s clearly not the ending fans wanted. Here are a few reasons.
First, let’s address Barney and Robin. I have to admit that I’m a bit biased when it comes to their onscreen romance because I’ve been against it since season 4. Admittedly, I was curious to see Barney and Robin try it out, but I never actually bought that they were right for each other or even loved each other. I think I really just wanted to see Barney Stinson do something new with his character for a change.
My feelings about this persisted in later seasons, especially in the seventh, when Barney and Robin have their emotional rollercoaster (she likes him—he says no—he likes her—she says no, etc.) Even worse was when Barney pretty much proposed out of nowhere in season 8, even though the two of them weren’t a couple.
I always felt like it was odd for a couple that didn’t work out conventionally 4 years ago to ditch both of their preconceptions (neither of them wanted to get married throughout the series) and just commit to spending their lives with each other because…of love, apparently.
That’s why when they announced the divorce, I was sad, but relieved. I was relieved that the awkwardness I was feeling about their relationship was being vindicated by the writers, who clearly never intended for Robin and Barney to last.
Of course, that makes many of you angry that we spent an entire season building up to a wedding that was essentially pointless, but I think that’s a misguided interpretation. After all, it was never really about the wedding itself. We were watching because we wanted to see Ted meet the mother, and in a way, this was as much of a goodbye for Ted and the gang as it was a celebration of Robin and Barney.
They built up to the wedding, sure, but they also gave us plenty of reasons for why we shouldn’t expect much from Barney and Robin as a married couple. In the end, it’s Barney’s vow to never lie to Robin that ends their marriage because they realize that they really are too much alike, and all of us should have seen that coming.
People keep saying that it’s unfair for the writers to spend an entire season focusing on Robin and Barney’s wedding, but if you watch the season closely, you find countless reasons for why they actually don’t work together. Barney is too childish and similar to Robin’s father, there’s no trust in the relationship, Barney doesn’t come through for Robin with the locket, and we even find out that they’re actually related (kind of).
I’m actually surprised the wedding followed through anyway. Perhaps the writers should have cancelled the wedding right before, chalking it up to Robin and Barney realizing that it would be a huge mistake and then Ted would meet the mother when it ended early, but doing so would have undercut the next 16 years.
It’s in that time that we figure out why the gang drifts apart. Robin pulls away from everyone intentionally to run away from Barney and Ted. That had to happen because that’s real life. One moment that touched me in particular was Robin’s confession to Lily during Halloween that she should have married Ted, but it was too late because he was with his soul mate.
But there’s a difference between a soul mate and the love of your life.
You hated the way the show ended because you wanted Ted to have the happy ending he deserved, not for him to backslide into a failed relationship from his 20s.
You hated the way the show ended because you thought it was “How I Met Your Mother,” not “How I Got Permission From My Kids To Marry Aunt Robin.”
You hated the way the show ended because it was messy. It wasn’t perfect. Ted found the perfect girl he wanted all along, but that didn’t mean life would be perfect forever.
You hated the way the show ended because you thought it was about having the patience to wait it out for a girl who is actually right for you.
You hated the show because it messed with the concept of time so furiously that it was difficult for us to process our emotions throughout. We had to say goodbye to the mother just as we met her, and even though Ted was happy for years with her, to us it felt like she almost never existed. It was rushed.
You hated the way the show ended because you wanted it to be about Tracy McConnell. But we both know it never was, as Ted’s kids cleverly explained.
You see, Ted didn’t backslide or regress. Robin wasn’t perfect for Ted. Never was. But you know what? There’s a difference between 27-year-old Ted and 52-year-old Ted.
In Season 1, Ted even says it himself: I don’t want perfect. I want Robin.
We wanted a perfect ending. We got Robin.
And I’m glad we did. I know that many people were feeling slighted because Ted had just spent the last few episodes of season 9 letting go of Robin, and it’s odd that he would ever go back to her. But keep in mind that letting go of Robin allowed Ted to meet the mother of his children. She gave him his dream.
In the end, Ted and Robin got everything they said they wanted in the first season. Ted got the perfect wife and two kids. Robin got the career and was able to travel the world. It was only after they both got everything they wanted that they were ready for each other decades later.
You might think that this is foolish because Ted and Robin just didn’t work for 9 seasons, and that’s true. But again, they weren’t ready for each other. They needed to be apart first.
Robin was the love of Ted’s life, not his soul mate.
In “Vesuvius,” Tracy tells Ted something interesting. He knows she’s dying, as hinted by the crying at the uttering of “What kind of mother doesn’t attend her daughter’s wedding,” and she begs him to not live in his stories anymore. To move on.
Ted does this. He realizes that he has to stop living in the past that is his perfect life with his soul mate and move on.
You might think that Robin isn’t the right choice for him at 52, but you have to remember that they made a pact. If they’re single at 40, they’ll marry each other (Season 4). Ted’s just a little late.
I was heartbroken when the mother died, but I still consider the ending to this show to be perfect in its own way. The key is to view the show as a 25-year story. It’s weird to us that Ted would end up with Robin after everything they put each other through over the course of a decade, but in the grand scheme of things, that time was just a small portion of their lives.
This theme is repeated when Marshall tried to tell those kids at MacLaren’s what he felt about the place but could only say “All kinds of stuff (happened here).” He was at a loss for words because he knew that their experiences there were so short, fleeting and insignificant in that big city. He knew what went on there, and that was enough.
Ted told his kids this story to find closure for his wife’s death and subtly explain to his kids why it should totally be okay for him to love someone besides their mom, hence she was barely in the story at all. Classic Schmosby.
It answered the question we always wondered. Why was Future Ted telling such a long story that was really about Robin? It was because he figured this was the best way to make his kids understand what Robin means to him and how it doesn’t undermine the love he had for their mother. He’s even surprised that the kids are so okay with this, story or not.
Even though it’s not the ending we really wanted (because we wanted Ted to have the perfect wife and life), it’s the ending that needed to happen, and I can personally find peace in that. It’s easy to find peace in a story that’s not afraid to be real once in a while, cockamouses aside.
The finale wasn’t flawless, of course. We still don’t know what the deal was with that pineapple. We didn’t get to see Marshall gloat about winning the long-term bet with Lily (though we saw him pay up on Ted’s wedding day).
We didn’t even meet the mother of Barney’s child, but I think that was a subtle parallel to the show itself. It didn’t really matter who had Barney’s children. Ellie was the love of his life. Number 31 can stay hidden.
I think that if you’re really upset about this ending, you should at least give it a few more days to process. Thinking this deeply about a fictional story says a lot about how well done it was. At the very least, it’s important to recognize the impact that this legendary show had on so many people. For me, it was a way to bond with the first apartment roommates I ever had. For you, it could be the show that you and your eventual spouse had in common to talk about. Whatever the show did for you, it’s time to reflect on what a great run it turned out to be…even though they probably should have finished it up a few seasons ago.
Regardless, I’m no longer confused about the show now that I’ve processed it more myself. I’m now just feeling the same emotions, but categorizing them correctly. I’m still sad that the mother died and that the show is over. I’m angry (in a good way) that the creators of the show managed to pull a 9-year April Fool’s joke on us. And more than all, I’m happy that such a great show exists and will exist for new fans to come.
And that everyone, is how I watched “How I Met Your Mother.”
Thanks for Reading! You can subscribe to this blog by email via the prompt on the sidebar. Otherwise, be sure to stay connected with me on Twitter (@JonNegroni). I’ll follow you back if you say something witty and awesome.