THIS CONTAINS SPOILERS. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED
If you partake in social media in any way, chances are you saw more than a handful opinions of HIMYM’s finale last night. And if your friends are like mine, the vast majority of the opinions were that the show was disappointing, stupid, or awful. It certainly was frustrating and disappointing in ways I’ll get to but I think it was a spectacularly fitting finale for the show and I’ll get to why.
First, it’s worth mentioning that the show has really never been as good over the past few seasons as it was for the first four or so. Waiver Wire author Vinny Ginardi touched on that in a bit he wrote explaining (perfectly in my opinion) that the show took characters who were funny and turned them into jokes, making them seem more like real life cartoons than they did in the beginning. Despite this, it was still a show worth following because, at the very least, Ted’s story had to unfold and we had to see if he became happy. One thing that never changed was that as bad as the jokes got, I never stopped wanting Ted to get what he wanted.
Taking a step back from the finale, it’s easy to see why people felt so let down. HIMYM spent 9 years based on the idea that each event in Ted’s life was really a step closer to finding the mother and since he found her, and was incredibly happy, all the tough times he had to go through in life were OK. So when we get to the final seasons and FINALLY get to meet the girl who this 9 year long story is about, only to barely scratch the surface of getting to know her, find out she died, and the story was “secretly” about Robin the whole time, we feel a bit cheated. And we should, after all if the show was really about meeting Robin, it could have ended a long time ago. Frustrating? Yes. Disappointing? Yes. But I think if we delve deeper than the idea of the show was building towards meeting the mother and she (in her use, not as a person) was a major let down, there’s a lot to like in the finale.
Before even addressing what happened with Tracy and later happened with Robin, the episode did a great job of punching you in the feelings. Only a few years removed from college, the scene where Robin tells Lilly how everything is changing and nothing can ever be the same in the empty apartment hit very close to home. After 9 years of the gang spending seemingly every free moment together, it was very sobering to see the idea that their dynamic wasn’t permanent, it was just a few steps in a very long path. They could have ended the show by showing that no matter how crazy their lives get, they do get together regularly, see all of the major life events, and despite new jobs, kids, and a divorce, they all keep getting together at the bar for years to come. And we would have loved it. We would have eaten up the idea that a dedication to friendship beats everything and no matter what comes our way in life, we will always be surrounded by our oldest friends. Instead, HIMYM took us to a place that’s all too real for many of us. Rather than give us a fan friendly ending, pat us on the head and say everything is going to be OK, the writers got to a place that’s important for the rest of the episode: life is struggle, life is change, and even when you get something you want, you may lose something else. Did we want to see the gang struggling just to spend time together? No. But man did it feel like something real.
All of this really hits home with the last 20 minutes or so of the show. 9 years of broken hearts and emotional breakdowns was supposed to lead us to Ted’s perfect, happy ending. Instead, Ted meets the girl of his dreams, gets everything he ever wanted with her, and she dies. Most people are left saying they wish we got to know her more, we just meet the person who the entire story was about and she’s gone. I imagine that’s probably how Ted feels too. And that’s the point. Life basically kicked Ted in the face but despite this ultimate let down, the show ends with him (presumably) ending up with the girl he fell in love with in the very first episode of the show. It’s hauntingly beautiful (like karaoke). HIMYM was funny, but the show was at its best when showing us the extreme lengths Ted would go for love. Who doesn’t remember the time he made it rain? Most people in his place would look back and see how hard he fought to meet the perfect woman, only to finally meet her and lose her. How many people in that position would look at the sequence of events and not just give up, figuring it’s not meant to be? Yet Ted keeps doing what he always does, fight. And the girl he ends up with is someone we’ve known all along. We spent 9 years getting to know Robin, seeing how much Ted will do for her and having him end up with someone that we, as a fan base, know so well and care so much about should be exciting.
I can’t argue that the whole premise of the show, the idea that this story was really being told about Robin so his kids would approve his choice to go after her, wasn’t misleading. It’s hard to look at the sequence of events and not wish Ted just ended up with Tracy and life was great. But for a show which got so out of touch with reality in many ways to bring it home in one of the most real endings possible, was perfect. Like Ted, we didn’t get exactly what we wanted, but maybe what we got was even better.