Sticking the Landing - Part Two

Last week, I started a discussion of two series that recently aired their final episodes, Psych and How I Met Your Mother.  I covered the Psych finale in the previous post (Which you can read HERE).  

WARNING: I’m not going to hold back on the spoilers for the rest of this post.  If you don’t want to know what happens, stop reading now!

The final episode of How I Met Your Mother had a bit more that it needed to accomplish than Psych’s.  As an audience, we had already met the mother, seen how she met the characters other than Ted, and gotten glimpses of her relationship with Ted after their initial meeting.  We even knew the when and the where of that first meeting (a rainy train platform in Farhampton).  We just had not seen in happen.  Beyond that, though, we needed closure on these characters.  Since the very first episode nine years ago, we have been listening to older Ted in 2030 telling his kids this story.  Now we needed to hear the ending and to learn what his overall point was in starting the story in the first place.

As the creators of LOST I am sure would agree, meeting audience expectations is pretty much impossible when it comes to wrapping up a series that has an overarching mystery at its core.  No matter what you do, some group is going to be dissatisfied.  LOST had a horde of characters and multiple island mysteries to wrap up.  Did they succeed?  My feeling was yes.  Others disagreed…loudly.  In many ways, How I Met Your Mother received the same reaction.  And in the case of both, I see the issue coming down to the question of whether or not you’re watching the same show that the creators are making.

The LOST finale was far more about the fates of the characters rather than wrapping up the mysteries of the island.  Yes, the answers were there (Mostly. Some others were resolved in a piece that was filmed for the final season DVD set.  It’s a fun extra and probably available on a video streaming site of your acquaintance), but the island story was secondary to what was happening with the characters.  For those watching a show about these people, that was fine.  For those watching a series about a mysterious island, the ending was far less satisfying.

In the case of How I Met Your Mother, I thought I was watching a show about Ted growing into who he needed to be to meet the love of his life.  Part of that was loving and then letting go of Robin when it became absolutely clear that they do not belong together.  That was really obvious to me back in Season 3, but the last two seasons really hammered it home and took Ted through the last stages of accepting the fact.  His speech to Robin in the next to last episode closed the book on it. 

That wasn’t the show the creators were making, though.  Instead, the series was Ted and Robin’s love story, a story that was interrupted for a couple of decades while Ted and Robin each dated many other people.  In there, they both got married, also to other people, and Ted met the love of his life and had a couple of kids before said love of his life died of…something. 

That story is perfectly valid, and I know there are viewers of the show who are quite happy that things ended with Ted rekindling his romance with Robin.  It just didn’t work for me.  Again, that says more about me and the show I thought I was watching than anything else.

I will, however, point out a few of the reasons I came to my conclusion about the show.  First off, Ted and Robin’s relationship on the show ended in Season 2, and while the attraction was still there (and expressed itself in many “friends with benefits” hookups), they weren’t officially together for the remaining 7 years of the show’s run.  In that time, Ted still pined for Robin on many occasions, but the show built up her relationship with Barney.  At the end of Season 6, we learned that Barney gets married sometime in the future, and at the end of Season 7, we find out that Robin is the bride.  Season 9 is set almost entirely over the weekend of Barney and Robin’s wedding.  Yes, we know that the wedding is where Ted first sees the Mother, but getting Robin and Barney to the altar is a huge focus of this season.  It also appears to put the issue of Ted and Robin finally to bed.  You can see why I thought the show was heading in a different direction that they actually went.

The final episode dispenses with Barney and Robin’s marriage in 20 minutes (three years of show time).  After four seasons of build-up, it is just over.  Then near the end in a 30 second voiceover, Ted sums up to his kids (and us) the entirety of his relationship with the Mother (Her actual name is Tracy, which I will use from now on), including her death.  The story we have been listening to since Season 1 is revealed to be taking place six years after Tracy’s death.  The kids point out that their mom is barely in the story and that this has all really been about Ted’s feelings for Robin.  They tell him to go after her, which he does, showing up outside of her apartment with a blue French Horn in a call back to the show’s very first episode.

And if you were watching a series about Ted and Robin’s relationship, you were probably very happy with that ending.  But, as I said, that was not the show I thought I was watching.  Moreover, I didn't see anything sweet or romantic about Ted showing up outside of Robin’s apartment in that last shot.  It was sad and desperate.  Tracy has been dead a long time, and he's lonely.  I get that.  Really, I do.  But going after Robin again?  At that point?  If it didn't work when they were in their late 20s/early 30s and were at kind of similar points in their lives, why would it work in their 50s?  Ted is a widower with two kids who lives a quiet, stable life in the suburbs.  Meanwhile, Robin is a globe-trotting city-dweller who, as far as we know, Ted has barely seen outside of special occasions in 15 years.  Yes, the kids obviously know her enough to call her Aunt Robin, but the show gave us no indication that she's any kind of regular fixture in their lives beyond coming over for the occasional dinner.  This is doomed, Ted.  DOOMED! 

Sorry.  I have a tendency to over-identify with characters sometimes, and Ted was one of those characters.  I wanted him to have a happy ending, and I loved what we saw of his relationship with Tracy.  Yes, bad things happen to relationships in real life, but this was the final episode of a sitcom.  After nine years, Ted and Tracy deserved better.

I suppose all of this makes it sound like I hated the How I Met Your Mother finale.  I didn’t.  Sure, I had some problems with the story’s resolution (Outside of the Ted/Robin issue, I felt the Barney storyline was rushed and didn’t really work.), but I love these characters and this show.  Just because I didn’t get the ending I wanted doesn’t mean that I will reject the ending that was presented.  That’s what happened.  Besides, if I want to see it go down a different way, there’s always the work of the editing geniuses who post on Youtube, several of whom have already set to work creating their own cuts of the finale.  

-Alan Decker

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