Why I Liked the HIMYM Finale
It wasn’t until a couple of days ago, after I was done unpacking in my new place, that I was finally able to sit down, put my feet up, and watch the much awaited final episode of How I Met Your Mother. I must say, at that point, I was a little bit ruined by spoilers posted on Facebook (seriously, guys, I know you have strong emotions, but some people actually want to watch it without preconceived bias).
Though I didn’t know what I was about to expect in terms of story-telling, I knew a lot of my friends were disappointed by it. So, I braced myself, bought some strawberry sundae, and started watching.
And I must say I really liked it.
Before I delve into the why’s and how’s, let me preface this by saying this is my opinion. If you disagree, that’s fine. Doesn’t make me stupid, doesn’t make you stupid. We have differing tastes, and that’s fine. The fact that I have to put this disclaimer here is standing testament to how blatantly cruel the internet is to opinions against the norm.
I’ll begin with the most controversial part: the death of the mother, and Ted ending up with Robin.
In my opinion, it wasn’t just the best way to end it. It wasn’t just a good way to end it. It was the ONLY way to end it. It was sad, it was heartbreaking, but after digesting it, I had to nod and agree. There is no other way to end the show other than this.
The idea of a series finale, especially of a sitcom, is almost an archetype. Everyone moves on, but will cherish the past. Some members of the gang will move to a different state, a different country. Everyone’s really sad, everyone wants to hang on to the pleasant memories, but we now have different lives to live. It’s sad, but it’s life. Examples: Friends. The Golden Girls. Sex and the City. That ’70’s Show.
And this is exactly why fans are upset. They are upset that HIMYM didn’t end the same way these other shows did. Happy, neat, and with potential for fan fiction. But HIMYM, especially in its glorious early seasons, has something a lot of these other sitcoms didn’t have.
Balls and a shitload of ingenuity.
Let me a segway a little bit into why HIMYM is important to me personally. I was in high school when I first watched HIMYM (I think I marathoned seasons 1 and 2). I was blown away. The way the writers could weave three narratives into one spectacular twenty minute show that is so polished is just incredibly creative. (This was the episode with the spaghetti.) Yes, all sitcoms do the whole we have separate narratives but we come together trope, but HIMYM is just really clever, really layered, playful with time and space, without even trying. Such style of writing has influenced my own style as a Creative Writing major, and I will always look back at those early years with fondness and as inspiration.
And it is exactly that, in this case, that makes the HIMYM finale special. We remember the reason Friends will never have a movie or a sequel. The creator said that Friends is a time in your life when your friends are your family. After those ten years, you need to move on and actually have a family of your own. No one wants to see the awkwardness of seeing your friend after many years of not seeing him. Which, by the way, is the exact justification why Robin did not have as much screen time in the finale as the others.
But in HIMYM’s case, it wanted to push that boundary. In such a way that, yes, Ted did meet the mother, fulfilling the pseudo-contract created by the show’s title, but let’s lengthen the series timeline and show things that would normally be post-credits. The future, after a happy ending, is normally given to the audience to create happy memories on. But HIMYM says no. HIMYM says we will end this show on our terms. You do not get catharsis or even closure by getting a happy ending. You don’t. You sit down and you listen to our ending.
There comes that big question, however. Was HIMYM’s decision to extend the show’s scope past the requisite meeting the mother scene a good choice? Well, for the first place, fast forwarding and timing have always been crucial components of the show, especially in its ninth season. But perhaps more importantly, we look, not into pop culture this time, but way into the past: Aristotle.
The creation of a good narrative requires two very important components: Pity and Fear. We feel a little sad for the character, a good man who, through no direct faults of his own, goes from good fortune to bad fortune. But even more than that, we fear that such scenario could happen to us. These two components have always been the foundation of good drama, and let’s see how this applies to HIMYM.
Ted is generally the good guy, everyone can identify with. And after nine years of searching, wow, yes, he finally found the mother of his children. That’s great. That’s awesome. We feel happy for him. But happiness doesn’t stick with us. Happiness doesn’t make us rethink our choices. Happiness is an overrated concept meant to please the mediocre. We need to be disturbed.
Ted’s wife died, through no fault of Ted and that was tragic. And that made us feel bad. And that makes us question everything we hold dear. That touches us to our core, because if this show that argues on the importance of love can end up in death as quickly as that, what more could it hold for us? It makes us question life and love. It makes us question mortality. It makes us question destiny. Isn’t that, in all ways possible, the stronger ending than simply, “Hi, I’m Ted?”
“What if I find the love of my life after many years of searching and then she died and then I had to marry my ex?”
That’s a scary thought. Pity. Fear.
“OMG. Ted met the mother. I want to meet my soulmate too!”
That’s a very passive ending that would instill no lasting drive. It’s not Aristotelian.
In terms of fulfilling the promise of the series, it did. It showed Ted meeting his kids’ mother, even showed us a little bit about their married bliss. That part’s done and fulfilled. For all intents and purposes, the fan-wanted ending has been delivered. Now, their decision to sort of rip-off Definitely Maybe (which is, technically, a rip of HIMYM in the first place) simply layers it and not dismisses it.
The Barney and Robin divorce could be looked at from a similar angle. Just because they had a wonderful wedding does not guarantee married stability. It sadly ever does. But, as a lot of people seem to forget, those three years they had together worked for them. And, perhaps, that’s the most important part. A mirror to Ted’s relationship, it echoes, perhaps even more vibrantly, the importance of the now. For had HIMYM ended with Ted meeting the mother, Barney and Scherbatsky would still be going on good. Fans would be happy not knowing this couple is ending in divorce in three years.
In terms of character arcs, Lily and Marshall got the short end, as usual. They have always been the married couple to bounce off these single guys. Barney’s was fantastic with finally ending up with a daughter of his own. Robin’s is the most questionable, mostly because people argue she’s miserable. To be fair, we only see her when she’s with the gang, and, as she herself explains, that includes her ex-husband and ex-boyfriend. That would make anyone miserable. But she has her dream career. We don’t see her while she’s flying all over the world doing what she loves most. And, who says she’s been single the whole time? It was sad we didn’t see much of her, but that’s not really a deal-breaker.
As for the hipster musician chick? I’m honestly not even going to pretend she’s a character. She’s a plot device. Nothing more.
Call me a sucker for a tragedy and depressing endings. Yes, it may also be a factor of my training that you should let characters go through hell for the sake of the narrative. And perhaps, on a very shallow basis, I could not stand that annoying hipster musician chick.
But I honestly loved the #himymending for all those reasons. To each his own.