Spoilers for How I Met Your Mother below.
The headline is a question more for the Internet, not myself. I’m okay with the ending of How I Met Your Mother. More than okay, in fact.
Nonetheless, HIMYM’s finale on March 31, 2014 forced people into two camps: those who wanted Ted’s happy ending to be, well, happy; and those who were okay with the final season’s depressing reveal. Here’s how it breaks down:
Camp 1: The Mother dies?! Seriously? Ted’s emotional endurance, as Lily called it, should have been rewarded with a fairy tale ending. The Mother was just out of the shot the whole time while Ted was talking to his kids, waiting to politely jab him with her (or his) renaissance fair jousting lance.
Come on guys, time for bed. Oh, you want me to sing “La Vie en Rose” to you as you fall asleep? You’re way too old for that … okay, fine.
That’s how it should have been. That’s what we were promised, and those bastards Carter Bays and Craig Thomas pulled the rug out from under us. We were told Robin was out of the picture. How many times can we go back to that well?
Camp 2: Well, yeah, except The Mother’s death was foreshadowed in season 8 and again in the final season when, in the future, Ted and Tracy — we’ll call her Tracy from now on — are back at Farhampton and it’s strongly suggested something is wrong with The Mother — dammit, I mean, Tracy.
And considering how much Ted talks about Robin to his kids, well, come on. Your wife’s been dead for six years, Robin is still around, she was the biggest love of your life before The Mother — sonofabitchImeanTracy … maybe you’re thinking about asking her out now, and you don’t know how to test the waters to your kids. So let’s just bring Robin up in, like, every memory.
It makes sense, doesn’t it?
Camp 1: Refer to this again.
Camp 2: I got you. If you want to make the argument that it’s simply a dumb way to end a show, that after the writers realized they weren’t going to get canceled they should have been dreaming up another way to satisfy Ted’s (and therefore our) desires, I can see that. But Bays and Thomas were always going to go with this ending, if they had the chance. Their pitch came to the plate, and they swung.
Camp 1: And it was a weak grounder to second. Seriously, I can’t even re-watch the show now because of how it ended. All of the good episodes and seasons are ruined for me.
C2: But HIMYM was a messy show. Flashbacks, flash-forwards, unreliable narrators, several notable deaths, breakups that hit hard … it wasn’t your average sitcom.
We knew Ted would one day meet the mother of his children. But we didn’t know how, or what would happen in between for the gang. The fulfillment in watching this show was in the discoveries, not the expectation that everything would be alright in the end.
C1: But there’s a scene where Ted is saying goodbye to Stella, and Stella tells Ted a joke about an officer pulling over a speeding woman. He says he’s been waiting for her all day. She tells him sorry, she was trying to get here as fast as she could. Stella says Ted’s woman is getting to him as fast as she can. It’s implied that after Robin, Victoria and Stella, Ted will find his true love, and therefore a happy ending.
And Tracy was amazing. She captured our hearts in the final season. We didn’t deserve what happened!
C2: You could argue, though, that Tracy is one of the most tragic figures in TV history, and that’s pretty cool. Fans had visions of what she would be and look like for eight years. She was like Oz, great and powerful, and we couldn’t wait to meet her. And then we did meet her. And unlike Oz, she was perfection. But she also carried around a tragic backstory. Her true love had been taken away from her years before. Finally, she had learned to love again. She had children. She married.
Then she got sick. And as Ted says, in those worst of times, he still thanked God, any god there is or ever was or will be, and the whole universe and anyone else he could possibly thank, that he had the courage that night at the station to walk up to a girl under a yellow umbrella, and say hello.
For a time, Ted knew perfection, before it was taken away. It’s heart-breaking, but it’s beautiful.
Because that’s life. Ted knew he had to love Tracy for as long and as much as he could, and to never stop, not even for a second. Anything can be taken away from you, gone in an instant, and the world doesn’t even have to give you an explanation.
I’m sorry, I lost myself for a second. Where was I?
C1: Okay, yeah … but Robin? Again?
C2: The ultimate best ending I could come up with is fade to black as Ted and Tracy talk under the umbrella. No need for Ted in his middle-aged makeup to talk to his kids, and we could cut the Robin pursuit out. It doesn’t need to be shown. At this point, the show has done what it promised: established how much Robin means in Ted’s life, introduced The Mother (screw it, we’re back to that), foreshadowed she would die, have them raise a family as a happy couple, and then sent The Mother off. That’s really all there needed to be.
But showing Ted go after Robin again doesn’t tarnish anything. What’s old is new, full circle, you know the drill.
C1: You make solid points. I have, though, one last rebuttal.
C2: Sure, what’s that?
C1: I rest my case