How I…

…accepted the How I Met Your Mother finale.

How I Met Your Mother is a sitcom which started in 2005 and finished in 2014. Set in New York, the sitcom followed the adventures of Ted Mosby (and his friends) as he searched for love. These stories are told by an older Ted to his children in 2030. Over the last 9 years, we have watched Ted’s quest to find “the one“. We have witnessed the ups and downs of his dating experiences amongst stories of his friends and their lives. At the end of series 8, the Mother is introduced to the audience as she buys a train ticket. We learn more about her as series 9 progresses and in the finale, Ted meets her.

A still from the opening credits

A still from the opening credits

The finale aired on 31st March 2014 in America. It prompted fans to take to the internet and criticise the writers, episode and series. With angry American fans posting reviews and spoilers on all social media, I took the decision to avoid Twitter/Tumblr and binge-watch the majority of series 9 in a weekend (I’d seen the first few episodes on e4) to make my own mind up about it. Some parts of the finale did anger me but reading a balanced amount of reviews and thinking back over the programme made me understand WHY it ended like it did. It was by no means a “perfect ending” to the series but realistically,  as fans, are we ever going to be happy when one of our favourite programmes ends?

Below I’m going to examine some of the main criticisms of the finale and try to explain why/how I have accepted them. This is all completely from my perspective as a fan! My friend Kirsty who did her dissertation on fan reactions to television endings is definitely more of an expert on this than me and would probably be able to explain fan reactions/endings better.

  • The mother is barely in the programme and then dies in the finale. Hardly any time is devoted to getting to know her – I think this is the point of the whole of the programme. The title is indicative! The programme is about how Ted met the Mother not about the Mother herself. It took 9 years to meet her and the programme followed Ted’s journey. The programme had taught us about Ted’s characteristics and how each event in those 9 years shaped him. It is this character that we see mirrored in the Mother in series 9. We recognise that Tracey McConnell is the Mother by how well we have become acquainted with Ted. As for the character’s death, I think it makes sense. Yes, it is not a typical sitcom ending but HIMYM was not a typical sitcom. In its 9 years it dealt sensitively with a number of narratives that most sitcoms wouldn’t have dared to attempt: the impact of Marshall’s father dying, Robin’s infertility. There was also a lot of foreshadowing in series 9 itself and obviously through Ted telling the story to his kids. Would he have needed to tell them the story if she was still alive?
  • It’s all about how Ted wants Robin – This point I can understand even though the finale annoys me. As I’ve said above, the programme is Ted’s journey to meeting the Mother. This means that for the last 9 years we have followed the stories of Ted and his friends Marshall, Lily, Barney and Robin. It was made clear in the pilot episode that Robin wasn’t the mother but that Ted was attracted to her and that they’d be romantically involved. Ted, after hearing that Marshall and Lily were engaged, was intent on finding “the one” and settling down. “The one” doesn’t necessarily have to be the Mother. Whilst Tracey McConnell was the mother of his children, his wife and obviously an almost perfect match for him, Robin was the focus of the programme. Ted and Robin’s on/off relationship dominated HIMYM with Ted planning to move to Chicago in series 9 because he still had feelings for her. Looking back over the series, the programme does feature a lot of Robin with some very detailed accounts of their relationship as both a couple and friends. I think there has been a theme within the programme of Ted’s unrequited love for her. Whilst the Mother was ideal for Ted and fulfilled his desire to settle down, he always had feelings for Robin.
  • Despite being able to understand the writers’ motives for the finale, the decision for Ted and Robin to end up together annoyed me. Personally, I was more a fan of Robin and Barney together and was hoping that given the dedication of a whole series to their wedding that they would last longer than they did. I know that all the scenes with the children had been filmed 9 years ago so that they didn’t age and this ending had been planned from the beginning. However, I felt that it was rushed and just added on the end as an afterthought. The story of how Ted met the Mother itself had ended in a way that gave answers and provided closure despite her death. The scene where the kids give Ted their blessing to move on and try again with Aunt Robin just seemed a little out of place and out of sync with the rest of the episode, although the programme across its 9 series had been building up to this eventual conclusion. Allison Hannigan (Lily) has stated that she feels that the episode misses Ted’s life post-Mother and that perhaps his mourning would have helped fans accept the ending instead of the abrupt change.
  • Why did Barney and Robin divorce if the last series was dedicated to their wedding? Although I was really rooting for Barney and Robin, I can understand why they broke up. I think it conveys a sense of realism. If all 3 couples (Marshall and Lily, Ted and Tracey, Barney and Robin) had all stayed together and lived happily ever after, would it have been realistic? I think it shows that “love” is not a straightforward path and that different people do not have the same experience. Some couples may be in a monogamous relationship but others may go through several. Looking back over the series, despite my hopes that Barney and Robin would stay together, I can see why it ended this way. They both had issues with commitment and had volatile attitudes towards relationships. Concerns and cold feet about getting married were foreshadowed throughout series 9 and I probably should have expected that it wasn’t going to last. What I cannot accept about their divorce is Barney reverting back to his playboy ways and that it took a baby from one of his “conquests” to make him a better man. Barney’s character has developed so much over the last few series as he slowly renounced his old ways and became a man who was capable of loving a woman. Between the 3 years of him getting a divorce and fatherhood, I guess he had time to revert back to his previous character but I like to think that he had learnt something about himself when he was with Robin and that he wouldn’t be as invested in one-night stands as before. As for the baby, I just don’t believe that it would take that to change him. Barney’s character has probably had the most development and I think this would have had more effect on him than a baby from a fling.
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