How I Met Your Mother
[WARNING: The following story contains spoilers about Monday's series finale of How I Met Your Mother. Read at your own risk.]
Nine years ago, after we learned how Ted Mosby met Aunt Robin on How I Met Your Mother, we just wanted him to meet his future wife. He finally did Monday, but his wife, the love of his life and who he ends up with weren't one and the same.
This story started with Robin (Cobie Smulders), and so it only makes sense for the finale to begin in September 2005, when the group welcomes Robin into the gang.
How I Met Your Mother: How it broke the mold -- and how will it all end?
Skipping through time post-Farhampton nuptials — with a ton of callbacks and "Murder Train"! — we learned that Barney and Robin got divorced in 2016 due to her globetrotting job; Marshall (Jason Segel) and Lily (Alyson Hannigan) had their third kid that same year; Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) had a daughter, Ellie, by "No. 31" in 2019; Ted (Josh Radnor) and The Mother (Cristin Milioti) went seven years and two kids before tying the knot in 2020, which is also when Marshall became a New York State Supreme Court judge (Fudge Supreme). During that time, Robin, phased herself out of the group, her feelings for Ted still percolating.
But, making good on her promise to Lily to be there for each other in the "big moments," she shows up to Ted and The Mother's wedding. Future Ted, now in Radnor's voice, launches into another romantic monologue about having the guts to walk up to The Mother on that train platform in 2013, where she took him under her yellow umbrella and we finally found out her name — Tracy McConnell — and how he knew he had to love her as long as he could. "I carried that lesson with me as long as I can," he says. "And I carried it with me when she got sick."
Sick. Yes. As suspected, The Mother dies in 2024. And when Future Ted finally finishes telling Penny (Lyndsy Fonseca) and Luke (David Henrie) how he met their mother, they're not buying it. "That is not the reason you made us listen to this," Penny says. "You made us sit down and listen to this story about how you met mom. Yet mom is hardly in this story. No, this is a story about how you're totally in love with Aunt Robin. And you're thinking about asking her out and you want to know if we're OK with it."
How I Met Your Mother: A chronological timeline of craziness
They are, and Ted does, with a blue French horn outside Robin's apartment, where she's living with her five dogs again. And that is how he ended up with Aunt Robin.
I said a few weeks ago that I didn't mind if The Mother died, but I would if Ted ended up with Robin. It's too easy, predictable and isn't in line with the spirit of the show. And after seeing the lovely chemistry between Radnor and Milioti, especially their long-awaited meet-cute on the train platform, I'm upset that Robin had been the endgame all along. But as I consider the romantics that co-creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas are, it's obvious they would bring this long, winding love story full circle back to the person Ted wanted to be with when we met him. And The Mother — excuse us, Tracy — is reunited with her first true love, Max, too.
Was The Mother just a cheap plot device to get Ted and Robin back together? Yes, in a way. But Ted's time with her also taught him nothing lasts forever, nothing's perfect. And he needs to move on with his life, but that doesn't make his relationship with The Mother any less important. I don't think the Ted of 2005 would've done the same.
How I Met Your Mother: Meet the real mother — director Pamela Fryman
Was this a legendary finale? No. The last 10 minutes were rushed, and the kids' reactions were sort of bizarre. It's en vogue to complain about HIMYM these days, or rather, the past several years. The show wasn't perfect. No show that lasts almost a decade is. Parts of its later seasons were bumpier than Ted's collision with Bump Girl. And I don't disagree that nine years might have been too long for a show with such a focused conceit that was just asking for complaints. But the drawn-out reveal of The Mother, and her and Ted's meeting never bothered me, and the finale doesn't bother me.
HIMYM, to me, wasn't about The Mother, but about storytelling — not the what, but the how. How did Ted find that lucky penny? How did Crazy Eyes think a hunchback was following her? How did brunch with Ted's folks — my favorite episode — go awry? How did Ted meet The Mother? How did we get there? Any other show would tell a linear narrative and cut to the chase. HIMYM told it in a way no one on TV had before: the way we tell stories. We interject. We correct something we had just said 30 seconds ago. We throw in asides. We get distracted and start another story when someone asks us about something we had just said or because we realized you needed this extra detail to appreciate what we're telling you now. We tell a follow-up story two days later because something sparked our memory. We tell stories that we find interesting but others might not.
How I Met Your Mother: Ranking Ted's girlfriends
HIMYM brought how we tell tales to life. Three weeks ago, The Mother told Ted that he lived in his stories. We all do. We're made up of them. They shape who we are. That's how we get to know each other. You go into work on a Monday and ask your coworker how their weekend was. You go home and tell your family how your day was. You go on Twitter when something ridiculous happens and figure out how to explain it in 140 characters.
So Ted took a little longer than usual telling his. And he ended up with someone we might not all want him to be with. In the end, that's OK with me. Because Bays and Thomas told the story they wanted to tell, and I can respect that. Was it worth the wait? Like Ted's road to The Mother and Robin, sometimes it's about the journey, not the ending.
What did you think of the HIMYM series finale?