Finally watched the end of How I Met Your Mother tonight — I’d managed to remain completely unspoiled on exactly what happens in the final two episodes, although I knew that quite a few people were a bit cheesed off about it when it originally aired.
How do I feel? Well, I don’t necessarily feel that it was a bad ending as such, but it did feel like it was somewhat rushed.
Spoilers ahead, obviously.
As Ted’s kids point out in the final moments of the final episode, Ted’s ten-year long story about how he met their mother actually wasn’t about how he met their mother at all: instead, it was about all the other things that happened over the course of his life — events that happened to culminate in him meeting their mother Tracy, having children with her, marrying her and eventually having to say goodbye to her as illness took her from him and the world. (This latter aspect was glossed over disappointingly quickly; there was the potential for some gratuitous but nonetheless effective tearjerking here, and the show blew it somewhat — though in the process it only proved Ted’s kids’ point that the story really wasn’t about Tracy at all.)
In particular, it was a show about relationships. Not just the extremely rocky Ross and Rachel-style “will they, won’t they” nature of the relationship between Ted and Robin — which ultimately reached a somewhat hasty resolution in the very last moments of the last episode, but which nonetheless provided some closure on the overall story — but also the dynamics between the various elements of the whole group.
Marshall and Lily are presented as the most grounded members of the group; they’re already in a relationship when the show begins, and the other characters clearly look up to them as some sort of “gold standard” of what to strive for when seeking a successful relationship with another person. They’re far from perfect, though; they fight, they’re often unreasonable with one another and, in the last couple of seasons in particular, they keep things of such magnitude from one another that it puts the very foundation of their marriage at risk. They always manage to come through, though; ultimately, their role is to provide the stable basis for the rather more chaotic other members of the group.
Barney and Robin’s relationship was an interesting case. Barney falling in love with and eventually wanting to marry Robin was an abrupt about-face for the character, but it demonstrated a certain degree of personal growth on his part, and it was fun to see him struggling between his old life and his new, one-woman future as the final series depicted the last few hours before their wedding day. While their subsequent breakup and divorce in the final episodes acknowledged the fact that even the most fairy-tale of relationships don’t always last even a couple of years — believe me, I know that all too well from firsthand experience — it was a tad disappointing for this aspect, again, to be glossed over somewhat hastily.
As for Ted and Robin, the tension over whether or not they’d ever end up together formed the backbone of the show to a certain degree. While it all being wrapped up neatly with them coming together in the final moments — and, presumably, living happily ever after — was predictable and, to a certain degree, satisfying, I can’t help but find myself wishing that things had gone just a little bit differently.
The ending, I feel, would have been a lot more effective had we seen more of Tracy’s final moments. It’s abundantly clear that, although Ted loved Robin, he genuinely loved Tracy too, and even though she wasn’t directly involved in much of the overall story until towards the end — the fact his kids point out — the show generally did a good job of teasing a few tantalising pieces of information about her as it progressed — the yellow umbrella; the fact she was always out of sight for the longest time; the fact we never found out her name until the final episode. The show did a great job of building up their relationship, of making the audience feel that everything that had come before had somehow led Ted to this moment — Destiny, Fate, whatever you want to call it — and then squandered it somewhat with a throwaway comment about her getting sick, and Ted ending up with Robin.
I’m a sucker for a bittersweet, borderline tragic ending, but I feel it would have made a fitting end to the series; although ostensibly a “sitcom”, the show had more than its fair share of genuinely heartfelt, emotional moments, and the passing of Tracy at the end of the final episode would have proven a fitting finale — and perhaps a way of bringing “the gang” all back together in shared grief after they all go their separate ways following Robin and Barney’s doomed wedding.
Still, I didn’t write the show so it can’t be changed, and overall, despite my criticisms above, I enjoyed the whole thing pretty consistently. It’s definitely one of the strongest American comedies that has been on TV in the last few years; while I’m not sure it’ll ever quite occupy the same place in my heart as Friends does, I’m certainly glad I watched it, and I’m glad it managed to come to a conclusion, even if it wasn’t quite the one I would have gone for. It’s just a pity the two-part last episode felt so utterly rushed; while it’s not enough to spoil my memories of the show as a whole, I can understand why some people felt it was a letdown.
Onwards, though; I guess now it’s time to find a new show to watch!