Seriously, spoilers ahead. If you haven’t watched the last episode of How I Met Your Mother, and have any intention of watching the show, just skip this post. Or, better yet, go watch the show and then come back.
Yes, the whole show. Oh, sure, there were some bad episodes, and season 7 as a whole is a bit weak—but how many shows make it 9 years without a few duds? And, in the context of the rest of the show, season 7 is still better than most seasons of most shows—you usually have to go to serious drama to do better than that. I’ll still be here in 76 hours.
Back? See, wasn’t that worth your time?
Well, except the last hour, which is why I’m writing this.
Let me start by saying that it is unlikely that any final episode could’ve made fans of the show happy. The fanbase is too big to all agree and HIMYM changed direction enough times that there was no one, clear direction for an ending to go in. And the buildup has been so high, that it seems likely nothing could’ve lived up to it. It’s like The Phantom Menace: yes, it was a very bad film, but worse films have gotten better receptions, because they weren’t trying to satisfy a decade of pent-up demand from fans of one of the best film series ever. How I Met Your Mother has been so good, overall, and the bar for the Mother set so high, that she was almost certain to disappoint when she finally showed up, as was how they met.
Surprisingly, Mom cleared the bar, and both her introduction and the various meetings (not just of Ted, but of all his friends) lived up to expectations. Some even surprised along the way. As did the few other scenes she was in. You could believe that not only was she pretty awesome, but she was a better fit for Ted than all the other women he had pursued—even Buttercup.
More importantly, people were (are?) too invested in How I Met Your Mother to be satisfied by any ending, I think. I know I certainly was conflicted about the show ending at all. On the one hand, it has dragged for a couple seasons now, and the titular question is overdue for an answer. On the other hand, I’m not tired of the characters, and would love to keep watching them.
However, the fact that a perfect ending may have been impossible doesn’t mean that all possible endings are equal. The one they gave us was wrong on just about every point.
Killing Mom off isn’t the problem. I might even have settled for it only being revealed in the last episode (and pretend that we didn’t suspect this for a while). I might have forgiven you for cramming basically their entire relationship into that last episode. But putting Robin & Ted together, without any bulid-up, explanation, or justification? Nope. Just doesn’t fit. Doesn’t make sense, and it wasn’t even explained. Sure, the kids said something—but a couple statements by characters that we haven’t seen for years, and whose total screen time for the entire series is around 10 minutes, just doesn’t outweigh 9 years of screentime and fan ruminations—it’s no explanation.
They just spent 9 years showing us, repeatedly, that Ted & Robin don’t belong together. Friends? Sure. but he wants a completely different sort of person than Robin for his wife, and she wants a completely different sort of relationship than Ted does—and that’s even before you get to the questions of kids or guns. And you just spent 3+ years convincing us that, despite his womanizing ways, Barney belongs with Robin. Is perfect for her, in fact.
Someone else said that they stretched what should’ve been 2 episodes (Robin & Barney’s wedding) out into a season, and then crammed what should’ve been a season (Ted’s life with Mom, and his evolving relationships with everyone else) into 2 episodes. I definitely agree. If they wanted to have real courage, they should’ve let Ted and Mom meet in the 3rd or 4th episode of the season, and then stretched out all those interesting moments and relationship developments of the next 20 years—along with some of the flashbacks and other shenanigans that were shoehorned in by using the wedding itself just as a frame—over the whole season. Give us more than 10 minutes of shared screentime between Ted and Mom, so that we can believe their relationship, and believe that he cares when she dies. And why did they mostly “show” us Ted’s relationship with Mom by showing us his relationships with Marshall, Lilly, Barney, and occasionally Robin, instead of with, you know, his wife?
This wasn’t a “twist”, this was just bad writing. A twist is when you throw something completely unexpected at the audience (Felicity, I’m looking at you) or provide a new fact that significantly changes everything else (hello, Memento & Fight Club). And it wasn’t even jumping the shark—they didn’t so much turn things up to self-parody as undermine what had gone before. And neither Robin & Barney or Ted & the Mom getting together turned out to be a Moonlighting moment.
And, what’s more, this “twist”, in addition to not being a twist, did real violence to the character of Robin, undermining a strong, independent, knows-what-she-wants character and turning her into a caricature. They also undid nearly a decade of character building by returning Barney to where he started, for no good reason. That is, if it had improved the episode, or the show, or served any purpose except to produce an ending that didn’t actually fit the rest of the series, maybe it would be acceptable. But for this? Ptooey.
I could go on, but I won’t. Suffice it to say, the series is good enough to survive this, but if this was the best Thomas and Bays could do for an ending, they should’ve just cut to black when they met on the train platform, and let our imaginations fill in the rest. So I still recommend you watch it. I think you’ll enjoy it. But you might think about hitting “stop” when they get to the train platform.