Oh HIMYM. You poor, misunderstood show.
As has been noted here before, I am a big-time TV buff. I love to watch every episode of my favorite series and dissect it for story arcs, character development, and the ebb and flow of writing. I also just enjoy committing long term to characters. And one of my favorite television shows of the last ten years has been How I Met Your Mother. So it should come as no surprise that I have a pretty strong opinion about the series finale.
I loved it.
And that apparently puts me in the minority of HIMYM fans. But I’ve got to say, I feel like the majority is (how do I put this nicely) smoking some wacky weed and treating HIMYM like it’s a Disney Channel show or something. It’s not. A television series has the potential to be a long-form art piece, and HIMYM came as close as any TV series to accomplishing that.
So, without further ado, I’d like to address the complaints presented against the finale (at least the ones I’ve heard) and give a rebuttal. (OBVIOUSLY, SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS)
They crammed too much into one episode.
a. This is probably not the most damning of complaints, but it is the best one to introduce what will be my most common rebuttal: The name of the show is “How I Met Your Mother.” Not “How I Lived My Life With Your Mother.” The show is framed as a story Ted is telling to his kids. His kids who, since we already know Ted likes to tell stories, have probably already heard about the life Ted and Tracy had after they met and fell in love. Plus they were there for a great deal of it all. It’s not really important, from that perspective, for Ted to give anything other than the bullet points.
We’ve been anticipating the mother for nine years, and then they go and kill her off.
a. Yeah, life sucks like that, doesn’t it? And yet, the outrage you feel is exactly the outrage that a person would feel in Ted’s situation. He’s been waiting his entire life to find “The One,” and then, after only ten-eleven years with her, he loses her. You are experiencing empathetic pain for a fictional character. If that’s not good art, I don’t know what is. (And, again, this story is “How I Met Your Mother.” Not “How We Lived Happily Ever After.”)
But they didn’t even tell us what she died from!
a. Because that would have made it better? Remember, the kids already know what their mom died from. And if they’d have put forth some disease or illness like cancer or something, it would have taken away some of the mysterious beauty and romance of her death.
Yeah, but the kids were awful eager to have Ted run after their Aunt Robin. Shouldn’t they be sad/grieving/etc.?
a. Well, no, it’s been six years. And these kids have been raised by two of the most romantic people in the history of the universe. They want their dad to find happiness again.
But why would Ted even tell them this whole story if all he wanted was to go after Robin?
a. That’s what you do when you’re a widow/widower and you have kids. You need to know that they’ll be ok with you moving on. And, for Ted, king of the yellow legal pad/over-thinking-life/etc., he probably needed to make sure HE was ok with moving on as well.
But Robin? Really?
a. Who else? The whole series has been about Ted and Robin and what it would take for them to finally be together. From the beginning they wanted different things. Through marrying other people, they got their different things (he got kids and a house in the suburbs, she got to travel the world as a reporter). Now that they’ve both gotten their dreams out of the way, they’re perfect for each other.
Yeah, but he’d moved on from Robin. She even blew away like a balloon in the weirdest scene over.
a. And well he needed to move on, or else Tracy would have merely been slappy-second and Ted wouldn’t have been truly happy with her.
Ok, but it still feels like an out-of-nowhere slap in the face.
a. It shouldn’t though. Ted’s favorite book is Love in the Time of Cholera, which ends with the death of a spouse and the reuniting with a former flame. His favorite President is Teddy Roosevelt, whose wife that he loved immensely died and then he married a long time friend and flame. Tracy herself had the exact same thing happen to her, the love of her life died and then she moved on to Ted. The clues have been there throughout.
What about the Barney-Robin season long wedding that ended in divorce. What’s up with that?
a. That’s life, man. People get married and have beautiful weddings and then eventually get divorced and it’s tragic and disappointing. Again, you’re feeling empathetic disappointment. Which means the art worked.
Ok, but where the heck was Bob Saget? Why the heck was it his voice all the way until the end, then he became Josh Radnor?
a. Yeah, ok, I’ll give you that one.
Any complaints I didn’t mention here? Any other insights into the nature of all thing HIMYM? Let me know in the comments!