Why The How I Met Your Mother Series Finale Was Actually Pretty Great

Firstly, I'll be upfront and say that I enjoyed the finale, despite the show doing what pretty much all of us, myself included, were worried that Carter Bays and Craig Thomas would do. I for one thought that they just did it so well that you can't deny its charm and feel ultimately satisfied. Not to say the finale, like the show as a whole, was without its flaws. To put it another way, my continued thought during the episode was, like that of Ted and his beloved red cowboy boots: "Pulling. It. Off." Many are already comparing the finale to that of LOST (which I loved), in a negative way (don't even get me started...if you still think that the finale means they were "dead the whole time" then you're a bigger idiot than I can describe and simply don't understand what factually happened on the show).

Rather than perform a full analysis of the HIMYM finale, I've decided to address certain specific moments or aspects of the finale that need some extra attention.

On actually meeting the mother:

First and foremost, when Ted finally meets the mother of his children late in the episode, I don't think any diehard fan or casual viewer can disagree: they got this moment just right. Meeting under the yellow umbrella was that fated, adorable moment we'd all been waiting for. They figured out the story of the umbrella, that she was Cindy's roommate, and that she was in the economics class Ted accidentally started teaching. Ted also learned her name: Tracy McConnell. They even have the same initials. The fairytale ending promised by the title. Legendary.

In real life, however, fairytales and happy endings don't last forever.

On the fate of Barney and Robin and staying true to the characters:

Barney and Robin's divorce is undeniably the most frustrating part of the finale. The reason this is so problematic is that it undermines the rest of the final season, which was so focused on their relationship. I liked the idea of the final season taking place over the weekend of Barney and Robin's wedding primarily because the show is best when under creative pressure. Although the final season was slightly uneven, I think it delivered on some of the most heartfelt moments of the series (saying goodbye to the supporting characters in the third-to-last episode was my personal favorite). In retrospect, however, this may not have been the best decision. The finale undoes the growth of both Barney and Robin that we spent the last two years becoming invested in. Having said that, the divorce is in keeping with the finale's central theme of reality. Shit happens. Not everything does work out the way you want it to. I think most people will also agree that the series as a whole went on for about two years too long and Bays and Thomas really had to stretch things out more than they probably would've liked. Maybe they could've tried harder to foreshadow that their marriage wasn't going to work out. I just don't know.

With all that in mind, after the divorce, the finale stays true to the origins of the characters. Robin is passionate about her job. Barney's the ladies man. Marshall and Lily are still crazy about each other. With each, however, things aren't great. Robin is traveling all the time. Barney (finally) gets a girl pregnant. Marshall spends years waiting for the opportunity to become a judge again. For once, it was nice to see Ted as the one without any problems. By this time, he already has his family and is happy. It's everyone else's time to mope around.

It is impossible to show the entire lives of a group of friends in the course of a series, let alone nearly fifteen years in a one-hour series finale. As Lily wanted, however, they were there for the big moments. One of the more poignant scenes was when Barney held his baby girl for the first time, in a scene that resonated well not only for the audience but I'm sure for young father Neil Patrick Harris.  It's just unfortunate that so many other moments were so sad. Robin leaves the group. Marshall and Lily's financial problems. The passing of the mother. Many of the fans I feel, like Ted, expected a more happy ending.

On the death of the mother:

When we first learn more about the yet-unnamed Tracy, she's getting over the loss of a boyfriend named Max. This is one part of her story I have yet to see mentioned when dissecting the final episode of the series, despite being perhaps the most brilliant use of foreshadowing and the strongest connection between Ted and Tracy. In "How Your Mother Met Me" we learned how much Max meant to Tracy and that they were deeply in love. It takes her a long time to get over losing him. At the time, I thought this was a strange subplot, but the finale brings it full circle. Max died before the show began in 2005. Years later, in 2014, she meets Ted Mosby. For Tracy, Ted is her Robin. He's her second chance at being happy. And she takes it. After they have a family and are happy together, she too passes away. Then, years after her death, Ted goes to see Robin. Between their multiple loves, Ted and Tracy met in the middle.

On Ted, real life, and the very end:

What really bothers me is when people oversimplify the end of a show into 130 characters or less, such as "they were dead the whole time" or "he ends up with Robin." This is taking a theory that you clearly already had and are applying it to the show without acknowledging the actual events that took place. People say they "feel cheated" from the ending because there wasn't enough of the mother (I can see the argument here, it would've been nice for the adorable Cristin Milioti to have a bit more screentime) or that Ted simply ends up with Robin. Ted didn't end up with Robin. He ended up with Tracy. They were in love. They had kids. She died. Then, after several years, Ted found Robin again. That's it. The Disney fallacy that you live happily ever after doesn't apply. Over the course of one's life, who's to say you can fully love more than one person? When Ted was married to Tracy, he was fully in love with her and never looked twice at Robin. Like the ever astute Lily said, there's something different about this one.

When Tracy's gone, Ted looks back and reminisces about being in his dumb and optimistic in his twenties, the same age his kids will be in less than a decade. Ted, now middle-aged, sees Robin with open arms and clasping the same blue french horn he stole for her when he was young. In the last few seasons of HIMYM, after countless heartbreaks and being left at the altar, Ted changed from the eternal optimist who believed that fate would bring him to his one and only true love to a man beaten down by love, just trying to get by. Then he met Tracy and his faith was restored. When she's gone, Ted tells his kids a long story not only about how he met their mother, but about the ups and downs of life, the messiness, and the imperfections of getting to where you are now. So when Ted, blue french horn in hand, shrugs his shoulders outside Robin's window, he's not making a big romantic gesture like he did at the beginning of the series. He's looking to someone from his youth whom he deeply cared about with mature eyes and simply asks, without any predestined fate in mind, "wanna give it a shot?"

At the end of the day, people like what they like and don't what they don't. Take it as you will, but I enjoyed the journey. And HIMYM was, really, all about the the long, messy journey. As far as series finales go, not every show can break bad and be perfect from start to finish. Take solace in the fact that they weren't dead the whole time (just like on LOST) and that at least it wasn't Dexter.


  1. I also liked the finale (despite many friends' protestations). I would have preferred the fairy tale ending for Ted and Tracy as well (they wanted to get married in a castle, for god's sake), but this was a more realistic look at marriage. Between the three marriages between main characters, we see one that succeeded through the hard times (MarshLily), one that fell apart (Barney and Robin), and one that was torn apart by circumstance (Ted and Tracy). I don't like people saying that him going back to Robin cheapens his relationship with Tracy. I think he fully got over Robin (in the admittedly terrible Robin floating away scene) and that he fully loved Tracy during his marriage. Just look back on his speech at the end of Time Travelers (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d9Q-rW433l0). This is how he felt in 2030, as he's telling his kids about this story and debating whether to ask Robin out again. He's still heartbroken and wants her back. I think the big failing in bringing him back to Robin was that they never showed the 6 years following Tracy's death. We don't see his pain and suffering, so instead we're treated to a light-hearted scene where he goes from Tracy to Robin in the span of about 5 minutes. Like you said, it wasn't that he got back together with Robin, the final scene was him learning to move on, to stop living in his stories and trying to find happiness again.

    1. Totally agree. I think that clip makes a good point. He obviously loved both of them very much. It would've been nice to see a little more or the mother and some of that time after she died like you said. The pacing and editing was a little strange and made that sudden shift to him wanting to ask Robin out a little jarring. I felt they were a little rushed and tried to cram a lot in. But still, I'm pretty pleased. And to be honest, having predicted that she was gonna die after the episode where Robin's mom shows up to the wedding, I didn't expect to. They pulled it off well.

  2. Thanks, Curtis.
    For people who wanted to see more of Tracy and Ted together, remember the story was for Ted's kids. They don't need to know every detail of Tracy's life. She's their mother; they were there for the big moments.
    And to people who think Ted just took Tracy as a runnerup choice so he could eventually get Robin again, look below the surface a little bit. From the moment he met Tracy, she was the girl. Robin became a "Scherbatzky sighting." They were absolutely in love for 11 years, and Ted would trade anything for 45 more days with her. They got two children who care about their father's best interests in the end.
    And then we see Robin, who spent 12 years on the sideline regretting not choosing Ted because of hangups that don't matter when she's in her 50s.

    Yeah, maybe the finale was too packed with stuff, but part of that might have been not having Jason Segel to work with for half the season.

  3. One other point. It made the whole series premise make sense. Why is he telling the story of how he met their mother yet the mother is never in the story? For people who actually watched the series as it aired, the constant frustration of never seeing the mother until the last season is resolved. I accept arguments about execution, but the end point of why this particular story is being told to the kids the way it was told is completely in character for Ted.


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