Kids, I know you're all riled up about The Mother possibly being dead on How I Met Your Mother. And I know Cristin Milioti calling the idea "insane" and "so crazy" hasn't really helped since she didn't actually debunk the theory to The Hollywood Reporter.
I understand why you're mad. You've invested nine years in this show and if Mrs. Mosby has been sleeping with the fishes all this time, as it was heavily implied last week, it feels cheap, disappointing, lazy and manipulative. I get it. But I'm also OK if she were dead.
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Let me preface that I don't want her to die and, at this point, I don't think series creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas, who've had the ending in mind since the show's conception, would do it (but talk to me again in three weeks). If there's one thing Bays and Thomas love more than suits and musical numbers, it's fake-outs, misdirection and red herrings. From the end of the pilot to Robin's (Cobie Smulders) "pregnancy" to Lily's (Alyson Hannigan) "smoking" on Monday's episode (from which The Mother was predictably absent), these two are all about the sleight-of-hand rug-pull — some better executed than others, most notably in the early years.
Last week's clues — culminating with Ted (Josh Radnor) crying after The Mother asks, "What kind of mother would miss her daughter's wedding?" — all seem so heavy-handed that there must be another twist. (Another theory that I could see being plausible: Robin is dead, which is why Ted started the story with "Aunt Robin.") Plus, Ted's kids, Lyndsy Fonseca and David Henrie, filmed a scene for the series finale in 2006, and Bays and Thomas have repeatedly mentioned how the two had no idea what they filmed and have known the ending when they brought it up recently. You would think one would remember The Mother being dead, right?
But does it matter if The Mother were six feet under? Would it really be so terrible? Would it actually ruin the show? Some would say the show has long gone past its own expiration date already. I certainly would be sad if she were dead, but I wouldn't feel cheated. (This is purely from a plot perspective — the execution is vital.)
While other genres have more or less free rein, sitcoms tend to feel forced to wrap up with a neat bow and rainbows and kittens because God forbid what would've happened if Rachel never got off the plane. We've been conditioned to expect and crave happy endings from them. The Mother being dead would be a refreshing detour from the usual sitcom punctuation. Happy endings are not assured in life. Some love stories are tragic — hell, the most famous ones are, and I think Ted, the hopeless romantic that he is, would consider his and The Mother's an epic love story — and there's no reason why a sitcom cannot reflect that. (To its credit, HIMYM has never shied from confronting, sometimes brilliantly, life's more difficult moments.) We might want and presume a happy ending from HIMYM because of the very conceit of the show, but I don't think we're owed one.
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You can argue that the whole point of the show is about Ted finally meeting The One after years of heartache and close calls, and getting his happily ever after. But the show is not called How I Met Your Mother and Lived Happily Ever After. Introducing The Mother during this final season and then killing her by 2030 would not betray the series or invalidate everything we thought we knew. Ted's journey through the nine seasons would not be a waste (though it definitely could've been shorter). On the contrary, it would give the show and Ted's meandering tales far more poignancy. The lead-up to his story is so long and great because it's all building to the moment he meets his one true love... who might now be dead. There's something beautiful, bittersweet and cathartic about that.
And as much as the show is a romantic comedy, Ted's love life has been tinged with sadness and loss. He got left at the altar and has watched his best friends all pair off. He kept losing Robin over and over again, he lost Victoria (Ashley Williams), he lost Stella (Sarah Chalke) and dozens of other women (some deservedly so). Who's to say he can't and won't lose his wife? Ted has never had good timing. If The Mother is dead, I would think he would invoke the age-old adage to pass on to his kids: It's better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all. Ted did meet The One, they had two kids and at least 11 years of unmatched bliss together, during which he told her all his stories. He got his happy ending, albeit briefly. Nothing lasts forever. (The series finale is titled "Last Forever.")
Of course, this is all moot if The Mother is alive and, as also speculated, falls ill but survives. I would be more frustrated with that twist than if she were dead — not to mention Section 1A of the Dead Mother theory: Widower Ted will end up with Robin somehow. Now that would be cheap and manipulative.
Bays and Thomas' teases about the finale have ranged from promising a "happy ending" in 2006 to cautiously warning us in January that we might hate the finale. "You might see it and hate it, but I think we forget that there is this mystery and that there is this sort of feeling that there's something unanswered, because we're just also telling these stories about all five of these characters and the rest of their lives," Bays said at the show's on-set Television Critics Association event.
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And then there's Smulders, who told IGN that she "immediately started weeping" and had to excuse herself after learning the ending, which she finds "very beautiful and very true to life."
Whatever Bays and Thomas came up with way back when and carried out, I will reserve full judgment until I see it. They could theoretically screw this up entirely, but right now, a Dead Mother won't be as fatal a blow to the show as the outrage is making it out to be.
How I Met Your Mother airs Mondays at 8/7c on CBS.
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