How I Met Your Mother – Finale

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The interwebz are ablaze with contempt for the ending of HIMYM (I can’t tell if this should be pronounced like it rhymes with “hymen” or “Him Yim”. Either will do. You choose.) In fact, I’ve never seen such hatred since the ending of Lost 4 years ago.  Seriously. Dexter’s ending was sooooo very much worse than either of them. Where was the contempt for that??
Let me get this out of the way: I loved the finale of “How I Met Your Mother” (or Hymem). Loved it. Cried through it. Laughed. But, more than that, I appreciated it. I am in awe of it.
I’ve always marveled at how HYMNYIMN got away with doing what it did without anyone knowing. You know what I mean?
You don’t?
Have you ever seen a Harold performed at Second City or any other improv group? It’s a long form of improv with call backs, time jumps, characters that slide in and out, jokes upon jokes and nothing ever seems connected until about 25 minutes in when everything magically comes together. THAT’S How I Met Your Mother’s template. Unlike any other sitcom. Ever.
If the show ended the way many of those who are angry wish it did, with the bow and the happy ending with the mother, than it would be “any other sitcom”. But this wasn’t. And that’s why it was brilliant.
The producers have always said that they knew how it would end and that they filmed the kids’ stuff 8 years ago. And many across the webz have been decrying that decision, the decision to stick to an ending that to the story that the producers wanted to tell. (Crazy, man) Going as far as to believe that the writers had written themselves into a corner and HAD to use that footage.
Well, they didn’t. Obviously, they could’ve changed courses at any time and wrapped everything up in a nice, little, neat, rom-com bow. It certainly seemed like they were headed for that. But, had they done that it wouldn’t have been the HimYim we’ve come to know and love. The out of the box, extreme, larger than life situation comedy that threw left turns every chance it could. A conceit they established in the VERY. FIRST. EPISODE. (“That, kids, was how I met your Aunt Robin”). Left turn.
And the finale did the EXACT. SAME. THING. Throwing us for a left turn and going back to Ted and Robin.  How can people be mad at a show for doing precisely what it always had done? And, predictably, would and should do?
Oh, right. Because we’d already been down that road and we thought the show was about the meet-cute as the end all, be all. But, it wasn’t. Had it been then we wouldn’t have been privy to so much with the mother all season.
“Well, we spent alllllllll this time at the wedding and then, boom, Robin and Barney say they’re divorced in a span of 2 minutes.”
Yes. Precisely.
Why did we stay at the wedding for an entire season? Because Ted is telling this story to his kids. I’ll repeat that: HE IS TELLING THIS STORY TO HIS KIDS. NOT. TO. YOU.
And that seems to be the thing everyone has missed.
When you tell a story, you exaggerate, your bend truth, you amplify and you augment. The “real” people in the story, the “real” Barney probably doesn’t act as nearly as misogynistic as he is portrayed in the game of telephone Ted is having with his kids. He’s probably a nice, single, relationship challenged, good looking guy pushing 40 who has no trouble getting women to sleep with him. We all know that guy. He has an ambiguous job. We probably know what he does but we don’t care because he is sort of magical in how he lives his life. But when we tell his story to other people, the magic becomes mythic.
But back to the “season of one day”: This is the day Ted met the kids’ mother. He is, of course, going to focus on every single issue, every moment, every nuance. Double that with his actual intent on telling the story and the need for precise detail (the locket, leaving for Chicago, everything) is even more important. I can tell the story of meeting my wife in a minute. But, if you really want THE STORY, it’s gonna take about 20 minutes. At least. Maybe more. And the lead up to our marriage? That’s gonna be a long night, my friend.
“But but but, they glossed over the next few years with such speed!”
Yes. (And I wish I had thought of this instead of some commenter named “Barbie” on another site) But, the kids were already alive for the rest of that stuff.
They KNOW that Barney and Robin are divorced.
They were there when their mother died.
They know about Marshall and Lily’s kids and successes.
If you were telling your kids this story, would you tell them stuff they already know? No. Ted’s goal is to explain to his kids what happened BEFORE they were born. Who he was. Who Robin was to him. What she means to him. Because he seeks their approval. Because that’s the kind of guy Ted is.
Another complaint: That he went back to Robin. “Ugh! Haven’t we had enough of that!?!?”
No. Not only was it the right thing to do for the show. It’s the TRUE thing for Ted to do.
Mind you, by the time the story is being told, Ted is 52. It’s 2030. It’s been 15 or so years since the friendships blazed with intensity. And we’ve all had blazingly intense friendships.
And then people have kids. Buy houses. Get jobs. And groups break apart. And you almost forget that you were in that group that seemed SO important that you couldn’t live without them at the time. Hell, I had a band for 6 years. We saw each other 3-5 times a week. We slept in a van together. (Okay, Ford Explorer) We ate together. Drank together. Wrote together. Played together.
I have not seen the drummer in 8 years. Nor the bassist. The lead guitarist and I see each other 2x a year. Same with the rhythm guitarist. And the back up singer I see even less. (Although I adore her child through the posts on facebook)
What’s my point? To explain it I have to tell someone else’s story. Albeit briefly.
There once was a woman named…Freda, say. She was one of the first teenagers. She went to college in the 60s. Mad Men is totally about her era. And she fell in love, to the deep consternation of her jewish father, with a black artist. It was a love for the ages. And her father swore he would kill the man because he was black. So, she broke up with the artist. She married another, someone her father couldn’t object to, whom she would later define as her “best friend” when asked by her son why she married his father. She loved this other man very deeply. And then he died. And she felt alone. Helpless. And then, a couple months later, what did she do?
She sought out the artist, her first love, now 26 years later. He was married to another. He wasn’t kind to her. He had been rejected by her, after all. But, the point is, she went BACK to that love.
This happens all the freaking time. But, you really kinda gotta be in your 50s, or 40s at least, to get it.
Of course, Robin would be alone. I was just commenting the other day about how amazed I am at the large number of unmarried, childless, 40 somethings I know. I didn’t know that many growing up. Why should I? My parents were married and my friends had parents so I knew adults who had kids, and were married or divorced. The one adult that I knew that was single and childless was an anomaly to me. It shouldn’t have been, though. It was just my perspective.
Of COURSE Robin is still single. She couldn’t sit still. She couldn’t have children and she didn’t want any. But, it’s not that she doesn’t like young people. She doesn’t like them when they are dependent and useless. She likes people she can talk to. Relate to. And Ted’s kids are now “those people”. I bet she would get along with them just fine.
Of COURSE Barney would become the best father. Remember, he’s not really the character we’ve been seeing. He’s a version told through the exaggeration of perspective. And sometimes, the best parents are the ones you never thought should be parents. Just like the ones you thought would be great end up flying helicopters around their kids and prevent them from being vaccinated, do their homework for them and never shut up about PTA or some school shit. Barney will be a great dad. Not because he was a lothario and will protect Ellie from the likes of him. But, because she was what he was looking for all along. She fills that hole for him. (It should not be forgotten that Barney was actually a nice, loving, granola earth boy at first. This is by design) And, no, I didn’t wanna ever see Number 31. Chances are Barney will be a part time dad and she won’t matter to him at all. Regardless, she won’t matter to any of the group, least of all Ted’s kids.
And that is who he is telling the story to. His kids.
Not you.
Not me.
How I Met Your Mother got the ending right. By being true to itself and not being what people expected. It never was. It was completely unlike anything that came before.
Endings are hard.
How I Met Your Mother got it right.

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