How I Met Your Mother Series Finale and the Promise of Happy Endings #HIMYMFarewell

I wasn’t going to write a post this month. I curated our book recommendations for this month and had planned to leave it at that. Then two things happened: the series finale of my How I Met Your Mother and the deeply-emotional, polar-opposite reactions from fans.

HIMYMSeriesFinaleThere were those who felt that the finale was nothing like what they’d expected; yet the ending felt right.

However, many fans were absolutely livid. They felt betrayed. Like the writers had just taken nine years of their lives and then ended the show by giving them a big, fat middle finger.

I belong to the former camp. I was a crying mess. The show was funny and emotional. There were moments that were incredibly sweet and then at every commercial break it seemed we were delivered a WTF just happened moment. By the time we’d settled into this new, unexpected development there was another emotional moment that wrenched tears from our eyes that we didn’t even know we had left, followed by another “Oh my God, they did not just do that!” moment.

And the ending; I still can’t quite believe it.

I won’t be specific here, but if you haven’t seen it and plan to, you might not want to read the next few paragraphs.

HIMYM--TedMeetsMotherFirst, the story didn’t simply end with principal character Ted Mosby finally meeting the love of his life, “the mother.” Instead, we flash forward in time and get glimpses of their life together. But not just their lives, the lives of the entire group of friends: Robin and Barney (whose wedding weekend was the setting of this entire final season) and Lily and Marshall who were preparing to spend a year in Rome so that Lily could follow her dream, at the sacrifice of Marshall’s dream of being a judge.

The ending wasn’t what any of us expected.

The gang didn’t all ride off into the sunset and live enchanted, perfect lives. Yet, that’s what we all wanted. After all, hadn’t the writers created the expectation of a happy ending?

That, I believe, is what created the disappointment, hurt feelings and vitriol regarding the ending. People were left asking, Where is our perfect happy ending?

How I Met Your Mother Season Finale

The thing is, though, we were never promised a perfect happy ending. Just an ending. And though it wasn’t the happy ending I expected either, the characters experienced much love, joy and happiness. It just happened to also be tempered by pain, hurt feelings and sadness.

Guess what? So is real life.

Many fans have said they love the show because it reminds them of their lives and their friends. I’ve heard fans say over and over that the show taught them a lot about themselves and helped them deal with the changes, good and bad, in their own lives.

The finale was no different.

So while I was disappointed that the ending wasn’t what I’d hoped for, I respected that the writers chose to give us a realistic scenario of what happened in the characters lives and found a way to still give each of them their happy ending.

In romance novels a happy ending is guaranteed, at least a happy for now. How I Met Your Mother isn’t a romance novel. In fact, in lots of ways its category can’t be clearly defined. However, the show has always been about friendship, finding love, living in the moment, making the best of a situation and remaining optimistic through it all.

The finale of How I Met Your Mother managed to capture all of those themes. So while I didn’t get the ending I wanted, I got the one that deep down I’d always suspected–in the case of Ted and Barney. It just made sense and was true to what we’ve learned about these characters over the years.

Do you watch the show? If so, what did you think of the series finale? Rather reminisce about the happy times than debate the bittersweet end of the series? Check out my favorite episodes here.


How I Met Your Mother Series Finale and the Promise of Happy Endings #HIMYMFarewell — 7 Comments

  1. The show itself made two promises in the pilot: that Robin wasn’t the mother (“that’s how I met…your Aunt Robin”) and that at its core, the show was optimistic and romantic. These promises were widely understood and discussed at the time and they were what set the show apart. If the pilot had ended, “And that’s how I met your mother,” the show would have been much less interesting to me. And without Ted as the hopeless romantic that the show was assuring us would eventually get his HEA, I wouldn’t have watched at all.

    My problem with the finale wasn’t that it was unrealistic–as you point out, to end with three happy couples all living next to each other doesn’t recognize that many couples get divorced, friends drift apart, etc.–but that it violated the promises it had set up at the beginning and cultivated over the years.

    It also reduced the mother (Tracy) to an after-thought. We didn’t learn her name until the last 10 minutes of the show and structurally, she seemed to be there only to have Ted’s kids, since one of the fundamental incapabilities between Ted and Robin was that he wanted a family and she didn’t.

    Maybe I’ll feel differently in a bit. I liked the Lost finale better with time than I did when it first aired, for example, but HIMYM didn’t just contravene reader expectations, it went back on things that viewers (rightly) thought the show had promised them.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Emma! At various times throughout the series I couldn’t help going back to the thought that it HAD to be Robin. They kept the promise that it wasn’t her, since Robin isn’t the mother of his children. However, I couldn’t have imagined how they could keep that promise and he could still end up with her.

    Like you, I felt better about Lost after a bit of time had passed. I’ve been wondering if people will feel the same about this, or if I’ll begin to feel bitter about it. To tell you the truth, I’ve never been especially fond of Robin’s character. At least, I didn’t think she and Ted were right for each other. Tracy, on the other hand, fit him like a glove. So I’m sad they didn’t get the ending that I wanted for them. Yet, it felt like Ted was incredibly lucky to have had two great loves.

    The end being what it was, I wish they’d given us a lot more of Tracy during this final season.

    • I liked Robin very much in early seasons though I disliked what they did to her later on–which is true of pretty much every character on the show–but I absolutely agree that she and Ted did not have a healthy relationship. Their relationship only worked when they ignored that they wanted fundamentally different things and had totally different value systems. It’s avoidance romance.

      I would have been okay with Robin and Barney divorcing, actually. While I liked the idea of them together, the show did an excellent job of destroying that possibility. (Just as it did with Ted and Victoria, Ted and Stella, etc. Are we sensing a pattern?) But it is annoying that we spent an entire season on their wedding when in the scheme of things, their marriage evidently wasn’t that important.

      While the creators stuck to the letter of the title, I do think they violated the spirit of the thing, or at least what many viewers thought it was. At some level it’s ballsy to refuse to meet expectations, but I think it also speaks to an inability to let the characters change. Maybe this ending would have been okay earlier in the series’ run, but not after we’d watched Ted “get over” Robin about half a dozen times. Again, the mother herself was a plot device not a character, which I find troubling. And this isn’t even to get into how much I disliked Barney’s arc!

      At least the Lily and Marshall stuff was okay. ; )

      • Lily Pad and Marshmallow! I’m gonna miss them so much. Victoria was awesome. I really wanted her to be the mother, that is until they found the perfect person for the mother. Though I’m okay with the way it ended overall, I was rather disappointed that they crafted the perfect partner for Ted only to have him end up with Robin in the long run. I read that the DVD being released this fall will tie up some loose ends. Hopefully the mother of Barney’s daughter is one of them.

  3. Pingback: The Other Side of 40, Romantic Comedies, How I Met Your Mother Finale

  4. I’m sorry to say I haven’t been keeping of with the show. I was watching it faithfully at one time a year or so ago, but then fell off the wagon along the way. Not because I didn’t like the show, but because I got engrossed in other good shows and lost track of it. From what you said here, it seems like the finale was a bust for most. I’ll have to revisit the show in reruns.

  5. Hey Demetria!

    The show definitely experience some decline in the past year or so. In fact, I was really unhappy with some of the earlier episodes in this final seasons. The mother was always the bright spot. Then about halfway through it felt like they really picked it up. If you do get around to watching the finale, I’d love to hear your thoughts on it.

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