By Stacey Gillard with Mieke Trudeau
After 9 seasons of wondering, of teasing, ups and downs, laughter and tears, How I Met Your Mother came to an end, finally revealing the whole story of the woman Ted Mosby married, the love of his life who gave him the perfect ending to the love story recounted over the years. Or did it.
This season has been a slow one. All 22 episodes prior to the 1 hour finale were set over the 56 hours leading up to Barney and Robin’s wedding. I’ve had my issues with various points of the season, particularly the re-hashing of the “will they/won’t they” conversations between Robin and Ted. Barney and Robin always made much more sense to me and my love for Barney as a character made me root for the success of that relationship much more than I ever did when Robin was with Ted. Of course, now I understand why Robin’s doubts needed to be voiced: we were being subtley prepared for the big bombshell coming our way.
Barney’s evolution throughout the 9 years of the show was one of my favorite aspects. When we first saw him he was in his early 30s, enjoying his philandering ways, and the outstanding performance of Neil Patrick Harris made us fall in love with him despite his lecherous tendencies. Over the years we saw him develop into someone who put his friends first and who could fall in love so hard and so completely that we never even questioned his intentions. His marriage to Robin was a thing of hope and the fact that it fell apart was hard enough to take. It was Robin’s commitment to continuing her career that was the catalyst for the divorce, not a change in Barney, and yet all it served to do was throw Barney back into his womanizing ways; which frankly, at the age he was now, became unappealing to watch. His statement that it was who he always was invalidated the affection we’d formed as we watched him develop into someone who could stand at an altar with tears in his eyes, watching his bride walk towards him. Where was that Barney, the one we invested 9 years believing in? The moment when he met his daughter for the first time was perfect, so well acted and so emotional, it teased us horribly that if maybe the story had gone differently, the entire finale could have tugged at our heart strings with that much power.
Lily and Marshall were severely under-utilized in the finale. Their story seemed rushed, almost an after-thought, just to give the actors some final screen-time. Their enduring love story has been wonderful to watch over the years. There’s such reality to it, almost a counter to the idealization of Ted’s desires. The friendship between the three guys, one that the trailers for the finale constantly reminded us was akin to brotherly love, didn’t feel like it had been addressed, and Lily’s relationship with Robin just dissolved completely.
Many viewers were left with a very sour taste in their mouths after years of commitment to the show. I, for one, feel as if I was the victim of a cruel joke from the show’s creators, Carter Bays and Craig Thomas. They promised us at the end of that very first episode that “Aunt” Robin was not the mother then proceeded to show us time and again that not only were Ted and Robin completely wrong for each other, but their relationship was toxic if it ever elevated to more than friendship. Now we are led to believe that the beautiful stories he had been telling his children, the portrait he painted of the romance of his perfect meet-cute with Tracy at the Farhampton train station, were just a means for him to justify chasing Robin. Again. Why then, dedicate one whole episode to showing how Ted metaphorically and literally let the ideal image of Robin (represented by his childhood imaginary friend, a balloon) go? It appeared he was finally ready to move on, to accept a real love, with ups and downs, illness, and even death.
As we grow up, our lives evolve. Things change, people move away, friendships dissolve, love fades, ideals adjust. This is a fact and none of us are blind to that; but this has never been what How I Met Your Mother was about. Ted’s pursuit of a perfect romance, knowing he had his idealized view of how his relationship should go, who his one true love would be, was fantastical, sure, but it’s what drove the show. It is television after all, it doesn’t always have to be true to life. We were led to believe for 9 years that through all his heartbreak and failed relationships he was going to find that happily-ever-after with someone other than who we had already met, that the marriage he was telling his children about was everything he had dreamed it would be. The story of “The Mother” was never what this show was about, according to Bays and Thomas, so what precisely was the point of even having her mentioned?
At the moment, all I can think about is the iconic and perfect ending to Friends, which still affects me emotionally so many years later. I can watch old episodes of that classic show without feeling betrayed, knowing that the storylines that meant something to me came to fruition, that in the end, everyone was where they needed to be. I don’t think the same can be said of How I Met Your Mother. If I ever feel like I’m in a place to revisit old seasons I’m fairly sure the bitterness of being deceived for all these years will still seep through. I don’t see myself wanting to rewatch the story of “How I Ended Up With Robin Anyway” any time soon.