Over 22 minutes per episode, from 2005 to present. Almost 80 hours of time invested in nine seasons. It all came down to the finale, and fans tensed for what they considered to be a make or break to the series.
On March 31, the nine-season series of “How I Met Your Mother” (HIMYM) came to a close at last, with the final appearances of the main cast: Ted Mosby (Josh Radnor), Robin Scherbatsky (Cobie Smulders), Barney Stinson (Neil Patrick Harris), Marshall Erikson (Jason Segal), Lily Aldrin (Alyson Hannigan) and “the Mother,” Tracy McConnell (Cristin Milioti).
While the episode was one of the most anticipated of recent TV airings, most fans, at best, left the episode feeling conflicted. For the vast majority, the conflict was centered in their utter disgust in the way all of the story arcs were resolved.
For fans of the Robin-Barney relationship that emerged in the later seasons of the show, the most upsetting part of the finale was their divorce—shocking, only ten minutes into the episode. While there is something to be said for it being representative of the finale’s attempt to mimic real life, rather than a packaged happily ever after, it fell back on archaic character stereotypes from seasons one and two.
In fact, the only part of the final episode that did a better job expunging character development was the atrocious last-minute turn-around when Ted’s children with Tracy condone his desire to ask Robin out.
Sadly enough, the only character resolution that gave me any joy was Barney’s, and even he was shortchanged. Harris, without a doubt, carried HIMYM through many dead ends and filler episodes, and his end state of fatherhood, and accompanying final line, “Daddy’s home,” although grimace-inducing, was marginally better than the rest of the main cast’s fate.
What was primarily the problem with the episode wasn’t the style it was filmed in, or any of the writing or the main casts’ acting skills. At its core, season nine was a downhill trend from the earlier seasons of HIMYM where comedy intertwined with actual emotion, resulting in a mélange of episodes that frankly were a waste of money to produce.
However, one amazing aspect of the final episode of HIMYM was how closely it aligned to many fan theories that bubbled in the year prior to its release. Some of the most important plot points, such as the Mother’s name being Tracy, and her ultimate demise; have been common points on online discussion forums for years. However, these similarities are not something to be celebrated.
Fan theories are fan theories for a reason—they shouldn’t really happen. They tend to be strange, gimmicky creatures that take the literal word of the series’ canon and attempt to tie all ends together in a way that comes off as entertaining, but fake.
Then again, that is what the entirety of the last few seasons have been, anyways.
HIMYM’s fans have remained admirably and adamantly loyal over the years, but for many, the mockery of a finale was the final straw. The tipping point, years ago, was most likely the producers’ venture into Robin’s medical condition that prevents her from having children, because after that, all serious moments of the series have been marred by an immature cop-out.
While the final minutes of the episode were emotionally rousing, and the dramatic parallelism between the first and last episodes were astounding, the sheer knowledge that this has been in the works for over a decade was a painful stab in what used to be a highly regarded television show. According to recent reports, in the DVD box set being released this fall, an alternative ending will be offered, but even that seems like a cheap trick for more sales.
No, the finale didn’t ruin HIMYM—it just happened to be the literal last straw after a string of injustices. The show is even still worth watching, and the earlier seasons are skillfully crafted, but because of its ending, HIMYM will never stand as a complete and memorable whole.
Did the finale wipe away almost a decade of work? That’s to be determined, but it certainly accepted the challenge.