Last night, like millions of others around the country, I settled down with some close friends to watch the final episode of “How I Met Your Mother.” After nine (at times, infinitely seeming) seasons, we were FINALLY getting to the end game: we were going to see how Ted met, and we would assume, fall in love with, and live happily ever after with the ever mythical mother (who by the way, is named Tracy, as we learned in the episode’s final minutes.)
And yes, Ted did met, and fall in love with, and marry, and have children with (the last two not necessarily in that order) this mother that we’ve waiting nine seasons to meet, but sadly, only got one season (and not even a whole season) to get to briefly know. But (SPOILER ALERT), the happily ever after part? Yea, that didn’t happen, it at least not in the way that I, and I’m sure, countless others, were hoping for. How do you ask? Well, let me give you the bullet points:
- Barney and Robin get divorced. Three years after getting married to be exact. Robin’s future success in her career as a World News anchor takes her and Barney around the world, but the travels take a toll on the couple’s relationship, and after being asked by his wife if he would take an “off ramp” if offered, and recounting his lone vow to always be honest with his wife, Barney and Robin decided to end their marriage, much to the groups’ (Lily and Marshall, who are expecting their third child, and Ted and Tracy, together with a child of their own) shock, but acceptance.
- Oh but Robin’s turmoils don’t end there. Regardless of a promise between the group to always “be there for the big moments”, as time passes, Robin’s career keeps her from being there for the these said moments (which apparently include a final rooftop Halloween party to say goodbye to Ted/Marshall/Lily’s apartment, and Barney’s promiscuous (and unseen) knocking up of Mrs. 31, who gives birth to a little girl that changes Barney’s world and lifestyle forever). But she manages to make it to Ted and Tracy’s wedding. And we think is the world is finally finding its place back to normal, right? NOPE!
- Ted and the mother had a romantic (albeit, unseen) courtship, got engaged, planned an awesome wedding, but then nixed it because she got pregnant. After two kids and a seven year engagement, they got married on a random Thursday. And we learn (via voiceover, this time NOT as Bob Saget, but as the Ted we’ve seen for the past nine seasons) that Ted really did love every second with his wife, every fight, every boring moment, and how even at the “hardest of times” when she got sick, he thanked “all the Gods” for the time he was privileged to spend with her, and loved her for as much as he could, for as long as he could. And, as he tells his teenage children Penny and Luke, “that’s the story of how I met your mother.” And just when I was hoping that the mother would pop into the picture and say something like “Hey guys, dinner is ready”, or “Hey guys, ‘The Big Bang Theory’ is starting”, we learn that his kids have put the pieces together, realizing that this ENTIRE story has barely mentioned their mother at all (damn right Penny) and that it just emphasized how much Ted is in love with “Aunt Robin.” And just when I’m hoping that Robin or the mother will pop in and laugh at the fact that there’s NO FUCKIN’ WAY this Ted and Robin thing is STILL going on, we learn that “it’s been six years since Mom died” (YEP, SHE’S DEAD!) and that his children want him to ask out Aunt Robin, because “it’s time”, and they are ok with it. So this great show, this show that filled the void in my TV life when ‘Friends’ went off the air, ends with Ted ringing Robin’s doorbell, holding up a blue French horn to declare his feelings for a woman who, FROM THE VERY FIRST FUCKIN’ EPISODE, I did not think Ted would EVER end up with.
So am I a little pissed? Sad? Disappointed? Confused? YES. A thousand times yes. But do I get it? Yes. Ted ending up with Robin (after a happy, but sad and short marriage to his PERFECT match) is such a slap in the face those of us who have watched Ted bang skank after skank, and go up and down this Robin elevator bullshit for the last nine years. I personally wanted this to end with Ted and his soulmate living happily ever after. They both went through so much heartache that we were all rooting for them to finally find each other, and realize that the universe does work in mystical, destiny driven, and at times, fucked up ways to get them to where they were supposed to be. And I guess it did. But it didn’t last. And I think that’s why I’m so angry and frustrated at the way it all ended. As Marshall said when his father died, “I’m not ready for this.”
“How I Met Your Mother” has always been a show that, regardless of the far fetched, but nonetheless, comedic anecdotes of its unreliable narrator, has never shied away from the heart strings of the real life tragedies that ultimately, and realistically, blind side us at times that we aren’t expecting them to. I was expecting an emotional final episode, but not in the way that it unfolded. I felt like the mother, whom the entire series was focused on and building towards, didn’t get her fair share. We as an audience only got a few key episodes with her. Yes, Ted got some very wonderful years from her, and created a family with her, but it feels like he (or even those of us watching) never got a chance to mourn her at all (saying “it’s been six years” and showing at least a portion of those “six years” is quite different.) The story of how Ted met the mother of his children ultimately only seemed like it was another story, in a sitcom based on stories, to explain how he ended up with Robin. It made Tracy seem like nothing more than a glorified placeholder.
But scattered throughout the final episode, there were inklings of how bitter real life ultimately turns out. Barney and Robin’s divorce; despite Barney’s apparent conquering of his previously nonexistent inability to settle down, and Robin’s acceptance of marriage after denying it for so long, showed that no matter how great you think that love is and how much you think you’ve changed, those feelings never last forever, and sometimes, it just isn’t meant to be. And there were a couple of times were both Barney and Robin mention how their group barely sees each other like they used to. Robin tells a tearful Lily that they are no longer “the gang” anymore, and that it’s “not necessarily a bad thing.” I think that part sucked the most for me because it’s true. It’s painfully true. As these friends have grown up, they’ve branch out and grown apart, and sadly, this is true for us all. Like Marshall and Lily, and Ted and Tracy, some of us get married and have children. Like Barney, some of us never really change (until life changes things for us.)
Any kind of story, I feel, is a type of wish fulfillment. Those who write stories write them to change on paper what they can’t change in real life. To get the girl, to save the world, to live happily ever after. And in those stories, our heroes go through the shit, but eventually come out clean on the other side. But not every story ends up happily. Some end up true, in a bittersweet kind of way. Some don’t end, they just go on to start another story. That’s what “How I Met Your Mother” did. Ted told his tale, but it wasn’t his last, and I think that’s the point. Just because one story ends doesn’t mean that a new one can’t begin.