How I Met Your Wednesday

Last night, I decided to marathon my way through the last nine episodes of How I Met Your Mother‘s final season. I first discovered the show on DVD, and I’ve often felt, particularly in the last couple of not-quite-as-good seasons, that the show holds up a lot better, at least for me, in larger block viewing. There’s a certain momentum to watching it like that, and while it can sometimes throw a harsher than usual light on the show’s flaws — like, for instance, that this last season had surprisingly very little momentum of its own — it can also underline the show’s strengths and build up my investment in the characters. I’d watched most of this last season already, but I’d decided some two-thirds of the way through to take a break and let the remaining episodes pile up for one long, final watch.

And then I started hearing over Twitter about terrible the series finale was.

I should probably say that this post is going to contain some spoilers. Also, that the Twitter chatter was right. It was a very disappointing way for the show to end.

Todd VanDerWerff, who is one of my favorite TV critics, wrote a long post about the show, and the episode, and he sums it up I think nicely:

The ultimate takeaway from the final season is that series creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas were at once too good and not good enough to tell the story they ultimately wanted to tell.

The problem for me was this: for the show’s creators, the title was apparently just a misdirect, another joke nested within all the others. And yet for those of us watching, those of us who cared about these characters, it was the driving force behind the show. We wanted the love story, wanted that genuine — and moreover earned — happy ending, and, yes, we wanted to know how Ted met his future children’s mother.

VanDerWerff writes:

Bays and Thomas simply looked like shitty long-term planners, unable to understand that getting the audience so invested in the Barney and Robin coupling or in Tracy as a character would make it all the harder when the series finale abruptly dissolved the former and treated the latter’s death as an aside in the narration. That the show never seemed to suggest Ted mourned her feels like a vital betrayal of his character.

So they were telling a different story than they seemed to be, and the evidence suggests that they’d been doing so all along. (A scene at the end with the kids was clearly filmed very early in the show’s run, if not in the very first season.) But it’s the story they seemed to be telling that I cared about, and this other story, the one in which “How I Met Your Mother” is just a joke, was terribly disappointing. I don’t think it’s a story that could have worked when introduced like this, and after nine years with these characters.

So I don’t know if I hated the episode, but I did kind of hate where it ended the show, and what it decided to break in its attempt to get there.

One thought on “How I Met Your Wednesday

  1. I didn’t hate the ending, but I wasn’t satisfied by it, either. I’ve seen some ‘alternate’ endings on line that declare the umbrella scene to be the last one, and I have to agree: THAT is where it should have stopped.

    What bothered me most about the final episode was the implied solution that children are: that having them saves relationships, that not having them breaks them apart. Even childless Robin eventually gets children (implied by Ted showing up on her doorstep, saving her from a hapless existence as a single, bitter dog lady). I didn’t like how what was arguably the most complex character in the series was instantly transformed into a parent robot – it was too convenient, too easy to say that it was the total transformation. The scene of Barney with his daughter was beautiful, but I don’t think it played the right note. Children are not plot devices.

    If you stop the show right after the umbrella scene, where Tracy and Ted finally meet, it’s perfect and sweet, and tragedy is still implied but not exploited. Which is how life is.

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