The HIMYM Finale: Or, “How An Audience Gets A Fist To The Crotch”
…duhhhgrrrrrgh *poop noise*
Ahem. Spoiler warning.
You’ve been warned, like, for realsies.
Bridge is out.
Turn away now.
Okay, so, I’m still angry enough this morning to write a brief teeth-gnashing grr-arrgh post about last night’s finale to How I Met Your Mother, which as it turns out could’ve been a show with several other more suitable names:
How I Hate-Shit On Nine Years Of Good Storytelling
How I End Up With That Woman I Clearly Don’t Belong With
How I Use Your Mother’s Corpse As A Step-Stool
How We All Learn To Love The Mother Who Will Be Erased In A Moment’s Worth Of Screen Time Ha Ha Who Cares Because It’s Been Our Cylon-Like Plan All Along
How We Nihilistically Confirm That Nobody Ever Changes And Our Only Destiny Is To Continue To Repeat The Same Mistakes Over And Over Again Until The Credits Roll
So, just to give a quick scope on the entire timeline of the Ted portion of the show:
Ted meets Robin, falls in love with her super-fast.
Something-something Blue French Horn.
Robin is a free-wheeling Scotch-drinking bro-lady who wants to see the world.
Ted is a whimsical intellectual who wants to settle down.
Ted and Robin spend season after season orbiting one another. Poorly.
Ted continues to see artifacts of the future Mother-of-his-Children. They engage in several near-misses where he almost meets her, almost connects, but doesn’t quite get there.
Ted and Robin continue to be great friends, and bad at romance.
Over nine seasons Ted learns — and we learn along with Ted — that Robin is really just a dream he has to let go, a person emblematic of the Old Ted who was so desperate for destiny that he fell in love with every girl he met and invested everything in her. He literally has to let Robin go float away as if she’s his old Balloon-faced best friend on what is one of the cheesiest scenes ever put to film. This pushes Ted to a kind of personal edge where he decides to move to Chicago after the eve of the wedding between two of his best-bro-buds, Barney and Robin, both of whom seem almost freakishly suited toward one another (as if they are each the other’s wingman), but Ted is rescued from this edge by a final instance of true destiny: he meets the Mother in a beautiful moment underneath the yellow umbrella on a train platform in Farhampton just after the wedding.
Ted is grown up. Destiny achieved. Children had with a wife who truly seems his measure.
Barney and Robin get divorced because, ehhh, they are who they are, right?
Something-something the Mother — “Tracy Whoever” — gets sick. Er, “sick?” Is it cancer? It’s probably cancer but it could be like, Face Gonorrhea or a case of Butt MRSA or something?
She does not die so much as she is erased from continuity.
Ted’s kids figure out the con-job that the audience has yet to figure out and they’re all like haw haw haw, no, Dad, it’s cool, we know you’re really telling us this story because your obsessive boner for Aunt Robin has never actually wilted and here you are, about to step in that shit all over again, and we support that, Dad, and since we recorded this scene nine fucking years ago you better believe we’re going to use it even though this is no longer the ending we’ve really been orchestrating but who cares we have a plan and goddamnit we’re running with it.
Ted runs to meet Robin, who appears to be no longer a big part of the group and is now a famous world-travelin’ reporter-type and yet still lives in the same apartment (?) with the same five dogs (?!) and oh, hey –
Something-something Blue French Horn.
Epilogue: everyone is confirmed to be the same as they have always been. Barney’s a lech, Marsh and Lily are still the anchor of the show, Robin is still in the same life she’s always been in (just upgraded), and Ted’s still a mawkish simpering obsessive who just can’t discard the Robin card he’s been keeping in his back pocket this whole damn time.
Do I have that about right?
See, here’s the thing.
I’m angry on two levels about this show.
The first is the personal level. Like, Robin and Ted don’t work and we’ve just spent nine seasons being convinced why that doesn’t work only to be told PSYCHE HEY IT TOTALLY WORKS OR SOMETHING WHATEVER. I’ve invested so many minutes and hours into this show only to feel like they rained a series of middle fingers down upon me.
The second is at the storytelling level. I appreciate that they may be telling the story I don’t expect. That’s okay, but the problem here is — the ending they want is not an ending they’ve earned. You don’t orchestrate an ending so much as you have to earn it. You build a foundation and then you create architecture based on that foundation and the taller you go the more married to that design you are. You can’t build some fancy skyscraper and then put a giant ceramic clown taking a dump at the top of it. You don’t put a windmill on an igloo just because you really love windmills and hate igloos. THIS IS TED MOSBY 101, PEOPLE.
I’ve seen some suggestion that this was the more “real” ending because “hey, life is messy, man.”
Okay, I call donkeyshites on that one.
Let’s first forget that this is a sitcom and assume, perhaps correctly, that this is a show that has been brave with its narrative rearrangement and has been fairly face-forward with the tragedies it has portrayed (being left at the altar, the death of a father, not being able to have kids).
Now, let’s realize that the show — almost as if it had a mind of its own — REALLY REALLY WANTED TED AND ROBIN TO GET TOGETHER. Kay? And what happens isn’t “real” but rather, lazy, cheap, swiftly merciless short-shrifting of tragedy. The Mother’s death is so off-screen she might actually still be alive. The most we get is her being “sick” (but not looking sick) in a hospital bed. For a show that makes a strong point about “being there for the big moments,” this one sure shuffled some big moments away from the characters and the audience. We get no rumination on her death. No funeral. No wake. No mourning from the children. Just a NOW SHE’S HERE and oops NOW SHE’S GONE OH HEEEEY ROBIN WHAT’S UP.
This isn’t “real, messy life.” This is “pat, simplistic convenience.”
Robin still gets to “have kids,” in the long run.
Ted still ends up with his obsession.
The Mother’s presence is a non-presence.
The kids are all high-fivey about it — “Yeah, Dad, go bang our aunt!”
We get no sense that Barney is angry about Ted going after his ex-wife. (Bro-code?)
We get no sense that the specter of the Mother will haunt Ted and Robin’s relationship.
It’s all just over.
Nobody changes. Nothing matters.
I mean, I’ll give them credit that they brought it full circle. But that circle gets real bent along the way. If you want to sell me that ending, you have to do a better job than cramming it into the last five minutes of the finale. Convince me that Robin isn’t some ice queen. Convince me that Ted actually still carries a torch for her. Convince me that they reconnect and belong together, and that the group is somehow involved in this, and Barney isn’t going to consider this some crass heretical violation of his broligion.
Unearned. That’s the best I can call this.
I will now substitute my own headcanon, where Ted and the Mother meet on that train station, underneath the yellow umbrella, comparing their unseen-yet-intricately-tangled destinies.
That’s how this show is ending for me.
And oh, I’m totally not gonna even bother watching How I Met Your Father.
Because con me once, shame on you, con me twice…