I thought the How I Met Your Mother series finale was excellent.
It wasn’t particularly surprising — we all knew the mom was going to die — but it was excellent.
At least for what it was, which was the wrap-up of a show that lasted longer than its destined shelf life for excellence.
This is not a popular opinion if the Internet is any reliable indication, but I think creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas wrapped up the show in the best way possible: with Ted Mosby ending up with Robin Scherbatsky. When I expressed as much on Twitter in the moments following the finale, I was inundated with responses vehemently disagreeing with me (though none of these people offered any alternate ending that would have satisfied them).
It’s the way the show should have ended, but after about four seasons instead of nine. A sitcom like How I Met Your Mother that is vaguely driven by a central plot fell victim to so much commercial success that it was allowed to go on and on. This is a very common malady among television shows, especially in present times. Shows are either canceled much too early (Happy Endings, Friends with Benefits, Party Down) or drag on for far too long (LOST, Dexter, Californication, That 70s Show).
But regardless, they must eventually end, and when you’ve dragged the central plot line along over nearly a decade, you have to figure out a way to end it on terms that best serve the lengthy and worn-out nature of the show.
The How I Met Your Mother was kind of realistic. And when you stop to think about it, the show itself—at least as far as Ted and Robin were concerned—followed a line of happenstance that is startlingly realistic to the way real life might work.
There are so many people out there like Ted who have an idealistic notion of what their lives will end up like: they will fall madly in love with someone — a soulmate, for lack of a better word — who they will marry and then have children with and then spend the rest of their lives with.
I know this because I used to be one of them.
I fell in love with How I Met Your Mother one spring when, during finals week at Penn State, I purchased the first two seasons on DVD. (I had zero finals.) It was my first experience with binge watching, and I fell in love with the show’s hilarity, and the plot. I envisioned myself living a life like Ted, finding that one special woman who I would chase forever until I finally got her, at which point we would commence a very charmed and romantic life together.
The show came into my life on the heels of a very bad breakup, so I was very susceptible to the notion that there was someone waiting for me somewhere down the line that was “The One.”
But life often doesn’t tend to work out that way.
Sometimes you fall in love with a woman and life gets in the way. You’re on and off for years. She dates many other people, one of whom is your best friend, who ultimately marries and then divorces her.
Then, eventually, you fall in love with another woman who you love with all your heart, with whom you create offspring.
However, she gets sick and dies, and eventually your children want you to be happy, so they encourage you to give it another shot with the old flame whose candle you’ve continued to carry through the years in spite of yourself: the old flame who married and then subsequently divorced your best friend.
So you do so, and you go from there. Because you can’t help remembering that your wife lost the person she thought was the love of her life before she ever even met you. (Tracy, the mother, lost a man she was madly in love with before she met Ted.)
This is not a fairytale ending, but life is not a fairytale.
And neither was How I Met Your Mother.