Tuesday, April 1, 2014

How I Grew to Resent Your Mother: My Thoughts on the Long-Awaited, Long-Winded Finale

I was about 20 minutes in to last nights hour-long finale of How I Met Your Mother when I knew that I was going to need to blog about it. I could not remain silent any longer, and this was my last chance.

I remember the first time I saw HIMYM. I was in University, at a sleepover with my (now) longtime friends Kally, Chelsea, and Justine. When they heard that I had never seen the show, they insisted that we put the Season 1 DVD in immediately and that my education begin. They had all fallen asleep by the time I had binged on the entire debut season of the show (and, as I recall, an embarrassing amount of Lays BBQ Chips...) Needless to say, I was hooked.

In the years that followed, I managed to miraculously hold on to both my love for that show, and my love for the friends that had shared it with me. In recent years, though, most of them stopped watching, giving up on the meandering and frustrating progression of the tiresome plot. The point of the show had become completely lost. The bread crumbs were getting soggy. Patience was waning, and so were ratings.

Still, I held strong. I had every hope that the writers would deliver, that all the hints and stories that we had been listening to Ted tell for 9 years would eventually pay off and give us a spectacular finale to one of the greatest sitcoms on television since Friends. Last night, and really since Season 9 began, my hopes for that satisfying conclusion were quickly squashed.

I've said this before: shows have an expiration date, but few observe them. We all may mourn the loss of Breaking Bad, for instance, but the writers made a creative choice to end the story when it was over, not when the popularity was gone. This is where HBO and AMC excel, for the most part: network TV is very different. HIMYM was the anchor to CBS's Monday night lineup, one of the most watched lineups on television. However, it became clear somewhere around Season 7 that they were running out of ideas. By the time they reached the final season, they were plum out. For the past few years, we have been watching televised chunky milk.

Fans were held hostage, unwilling to stop watching the final season of their once-favourite show, but also betrayed by incredibly lazy story-lines which were comprised entirely of flashbacks and the events that occur during the 3 days leading up to Barney and Robin's wedding. Talk about squeezing blood from a stone...

Then came last night's finale. Fair warning, spoilers incoming.

Robin and Barney are happily married, and Ted is sitting on a train platform having left the wedding early to prepare for his move to Chicago. The mother, yellow umbrella in hand, is standing meters away. An old lady encourages Ted to nut-up or shut-up. Then the flash-forwards began.

That's right: they spent TWENTY-TWO EPISODES telling us about the events of just 3 days, and they spent ONE EPISODE to tell us about two decades worth of exposition. These are incredibly important pieces of plot that include Barney and Robin getting divorced, Marshall and Lily having 2 more children, Ted moving to the suburbs, having 2 children, and getting married. Robin drifts apart from the group after she becomes a big shot journalist for Worldwide News... We learn of this all in the span of approximately 42 minutes, not including commercials.

And the mother? Tracy? The mysterious woman who's breadcrumbs we have been obsessively following for almost a decade? In the end, she is almost a complete afterthought. What's worse is that we know there's so much more to her story, but we'll never know more than the few minutes they chose to show us. She doesn't really matter, in the end, especially after they kill her off.

The writers giveth, and the writers taketh away 15 minutes later. This no-big-deal death is only hinted at once previously, when Ted tears up at his wife mention that "every mother should be at her daughter's wedding". She doesn't even really die, so much as she gets sick and then is no longer in any scenes...

If viewers didn't already feel betrayed by the nonchalance with which the mother is inevitably revealed, they will definitely feel betrayed by the fact that this story wasn't. even. about. her.

He's telling his children about how he met their (dead) mother, but really it's about getting their blessing/help to date... you guessed it... Aunt Robin. Oh, did you think this show about how Ted met his children's mother was actually about said mother? Oh sorry, no... it's been about the chick from the 1st episode all along.

All this time spent on Barney and Robin being made for each other, how Ted needs to get over Robin because the real love of his life is Tracy, who he hasn't met yet? PSYCH! That's not what was happening at all!

I'm not even upset at how Ted and Robin's story comes full circle. If you think about it, it actually makes sense. But it's the disingenuous, even hypocritical delivery that I, and many other fans, remain hung up on.

Which brings me to the only redeeming thing about this finale: Barney Stinson. Barney has always been a difficult character because of how unlikeable he is. He's a liar, a womanizer, a narcissist, and a white collar criminal. But there are tiny moments in the show, even in this terrible final season, where we see more from him. Neil Patrick Harris has a gift in his ability to redeem him again and again in the eyes of the audience. This is never more true than in the finale when, after a post-divorce-one-night-stand, he gets a girl pregnant. He doesn't want to be a father, but when he is reluctantly taken to the nursery to hold his daughter for the first time, the best moment of the entire show takes place, and I wasn't prepared at all.

Many will argue that "no one is ever happy with a show's finale", but I've never believed that to be entirely true. Although imperfect, I will always have fond memories of watching the last episode of Friends, Boy Meets World, Sex and the City, and Breaking Bad (to name a few). They were emotional, and gave me closure to characters that I've loved so much. They did it justice. Carrie and Big/Ross and Rachel get together. Heisenberg's legendary run finally ends with poetic beauty. Mr. Feeny delivers the teary final line: "class dismissed".

Sure, it's bittersweet. Sure, you can't please everyone. But still, creators have a debt they must repay to their fans when they end a show, if only because without those loyal followers they wouldn't have been able to last long enough to get a "series finale". They have a duty to honour the characters that millions of people have tuned in to watch for so many years. How I Met Your Mother has been jerking their fans around for quite some time now, but I guess I had hope that they would somehow redeem themselves for me in the end, just like Barney did. No such luck.

I'll have to settle for remembering the show as it was: a funny, heartwarming, original, and introduced to me by 3 of my favourite women in the entire world. I can only hope the story of our friendship has more staying power than that of Ted, Marshall, Lily, Robin, and Barney.

What did you think of the finale? I'm certain there will be many who both agree, and disagree, with my feelings about it. 

Tell me what you thought about HIMYM's farewell to fans in the comments below! 


  1. So sorry to hear about the HIMYM finale. I wasn't exactly a fan of the show; would tune in every few odd episodes coming across it on television but I knew how much it was popular and how many fans were looking forward to this. As a fangirl, I totally empathize your disappointment. I can only imagine that it must have felt like this other FRIENDS moment: http://i1282.photobucket.com/albums/a530/3girls1blog/joeywhy_zps4ae00546.gif

    Watching the clip of NPH and his little baby was so heartbreaking and sweet though! I understood hi character from seeing him here and there, and it was an amazing way to finish his story. There seems to be a trend with sitcom series finales after Friends to make them realistic or go way off course. The Will and Grace series finale is at the top of my lost of episodes gone wrong.

    1. Barney's redemption was huge for me. I mean, he was always just this big kid. He treated women like meat. The lead up to it is great too, you need to see the whole episode to get the full picture of how well that was done. I legit cried. It was wonderful. But then again, it's NPH and a baby, so it's like the holy grail for women.

    2. From the clips I've seen here and there, I gathered that feeling with Barney as him treating women like meat. I can truly understand how the final scene was a redemption; and what young woman doesn't hope to have a guiding relationship with her father (if he is in her life). Anything paired with NPH is a holy grail for all. :D