Spoiler Alert: this article discusses the plot of the series finale of “How I Met Your Mother.” If you don’t want to know what happens, don’t read it. Spoiler Five!
How I Met Your Mother
It ends the way it starts: with a blue French horn. The nine-season run of “How I Met Your Mother” closes just the way it should have, or maybe exactly how it shouldn’t have — how you knew it would, or maybe in a way you didn’t see coming. It’s all in the eyes of the beholder, the loyal fan who’s followed every slap, every play, every “bang bang bangity bang,” the interventions, the sandwiches, the legen-wait-for-it-dairys and the “haaaaaaave you met Ted?” s. This finale, much like the show as a whole, wasn’t perfect — at times it was poorly paced and messy — but it was bold and fun; it reminded us of all those great running gags from seasons past. In the end, it just wanted to do its characters, our characters, justice, and give them the happy ending they all deserved.
This two-part episode titled “Last Forever” moves quickly, covering a season’s worth of material in an hour, jumping back-and-forth through time. We see the end of Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) and Robin’s (Cobie Smulders) wedding and, three years later, the end of their marriage. We learn of the birth of Marshall (Jason Segel) and Lily’s (Alyson Hannigan) third child, and Marshall’s much-deserved judgeship. We witness the devolution of the newly single Barney into his old, womanizing self, only to finally mature at the birth of his daughter. And, in the middle of it all, Ted (Josh Radnor) finally meets the Mother (Cristin Milioti); her name is Tracy McConnell and she was the love of Ted’s life.
But the finale confirmed, as this season had hinted, that Tracy passed away six years before Ted sat his kids down to tell them his story. The kids call their father out, claiming (in a scene filmed nine years ago) that the story was never about their rarely included mother, but about Ted finally being in a place to be with their Aunt Robin.
Yes, it turns out that it was Ted and Robin all along, and maybe that’s a bit of a cop-out. If anything, the blame rests on Milioti for being too wonderful in every respect that seeing Ted with anyone else feels like a crime. But while we only saw a glimpse of their lives together, they did have a life together, and Ted had never been happier. So it’s not so much a cop-out, more like following the rules that creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas set for themselves nine seasons ago. They had a plan and they stuck to it, and, along the way, crafted a journey for five beloved characters with moments memorable, heartbreaking and hilarious.
Because as hyped and as great (or as disappointing) as this finale was, it was never the point: it was the MacGuffin. This was never a series about the mother, but about everything leading up to her. It’s about Ted measuring his own self-worth as he becomes less confident as he ages, about the trials of staying together as a long-time couple exemplified by Lily and Marshall, about Robin needing to weigh her romantic life with her work life and about Barney, well, being Barney mostly. It’s about losing out to guys named Sven, about crazy eyed-dates, lower back tattoos and other poor decisions made after 2 a.m., interventions, doppelgangers and Canadian pop star alter egos.
And it’s about the unpredictability of life in your twenties, the loss of loved ones, the fear of growing apart as friends and family. But it’s also about the comfort in knowing that, despite inevitable separations, those relationships are always the most meaningful because, in the end, we find ourselves through them and the stories we share. The finale tried to deliver a little bit of all of those emotions, and, for that, it should be commended.
“Do you have any idea what happened right here, in this very bar?” Marshall asks three unassuming patrons at MacLaren’s, only to answer his own question, “just … all kinds of stuff.” We should only be so lucky to answer in such a way. Sometimes we lose our way or lose sight of what’s most important to us; sometimes we’re lucky enough to rediscover all that stuff or find something new. But we’ll always have our stories, to remind us of who we are and where we’re going — that’s what “How I Met Your Mother” taught us.