Top 15 Christmas Movie Characters

If your family is anything like mine, Christmas movies are near and dear to the heart. It’s the only movie genre that is practically defined by its rewatchability, and being able to enjoy certain holiday classics (often times at very specific points in the holiday season) form some neat family traditions.

We can debate endlessly on which holiday movies are the “best”, but I had another idea. What Christmas movie characters are the best? Which ones are the most memorable? Which ones seem to transcend their particular movie and seem essential to the holiday experience by themselves?

This…is my list of the Top 15 Christmas Movie Characters. Enjoy!

 

Honorable Mention: Mr. Narwhal, Elf

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Talk about making your one line count. Mr. Narwhal, may we all have friends that encourage as you do.

 

Honorable Mention: Bruce Willis, Die Hard

Die Hard is a Christmas movie. Controversial? Perhaps, but it’s true. And if Bruce Willis is in a Christmas movie, he’s making the list.

“Now I have a machine gun. Ho-ho-ho”. Classic.

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Honorable Mention: Ted Maltin, Jingle All The Way

Phil Hartman is that perfect neighbor/friend that we all love to hate. They’ve got it all put together, and seem to enjoy watching the rest of us struggle (or so we imagine). Though Ted loses a few points for the creepy plays on Ah-nold’s wife, his smug character is still my favorite part of the movie. Anytime someone prompts the greatest Schwarzenegger line ever, they deserve recognition:

 

#15. Hokus Pokus, Frosty the Snowman

One of two characters on this list to get zero lines, Hokus Pokus starts the list at #15. My childhood was full of titular characters, who were blissfully ignorant of their sidekick doing all the real work. Scooby Doo, Inspector Gadget, Hong Kong Phooey…to name a few.

But in Frosty the Snowman, Frosty may have been the worst. He decided to take a school-age girl to the freezing North Pole, realized halfway there that it’s cold, and then melts trying to get her warm. Thankfully for Frosty and Karen’s sake, they have a third member of their group who saves the day. Not only does Hokus Pokus remind Frosty that Santa exists in the first place, but he also convinces a bunch of wild forest animals to build a fire. I mean…if you can inspire creatures to that degree, how do you not make this list?

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#14. Oogie Boogie Man, Nightmare Before Christmas

This movie may be the most controversial inclusion here, but I hold that Tim Burton made a good one here. It may not have the charm and the brightness of other holiday films, but it certainly has the heart. Halloweentown’s misguided attempts to celebrate and discover Christmas reminds us all of how we can sometimes “miss the point” too.

But who am I kidding? This movie is great because of the music. “This is Halloween” is the big standout, of course, but when Santa is kidnapped by the Oogie Boogie Man, his crazy entrance and introduction catapults him into my top 15 list.

 

 

#13. Mr. Duncan, Home Alone 2

Home Alone 2 is my favorite of the series. There is something mesmerizing about experiencing the grandeur of New York City through the eyes of Kevin McCalllister. As Darlene Love’s “All Alone On Christmas” plays, Kevin snaps Polaroids of the city and seems to be more and more impressed by everything he sees. However, it’s all large, impersonal, and seems too much for a kid to really understand and appreciate.

So when Kevin enters Mr. Duncan’s Toy Chest, we are all taken back to that point in our childhoods where we just felt lost in the anticipation of Christmas. When Kevin walks through the store, we gasp along with him, as he sees wall-to-wall toys, and are immersed right with him as the outside world fades throughout his walk through the store.

But Mr. Duncan himself deserves special recognition. It would be easy to just get lost in the lights and sounds of the store, but Mr. Duncan himself gives Kevin an amazing gift: two turtle doves to be shared with a friend. And it’s his words to Kevin that give him the courage to yet again stand up to those infernal Wet Bandits…or Sticky Bandits…or…you get the point.

 

 

#12. Tom Hanks, Polar Express

It’s Tom Hanks in a Christmas movie…of course he makes the list. But his multiple roles as the Young Boy, Father, Santa, and the Conductor make the decision even easier. It’s the Conductor role that I think is the most memorable (even if he does comes across as heartless at times). The overall story of the enduring spirit of Christmas prevails here, and the timeless charm of Hanks makes this an easy inclusion.

 

 

#11. Harry Lime, Home Alone

As a kid watching Home Alone 1 and 2 practically every year, I always thought of Joe Pesci as a goofy comedic villain. So when I saw Goodfellas as an adult…my world was rocked. Thankfully, there is this unbelievable gem just sitting there on YouTube to remind us all that Joe Pesci is the “wisest guy” we know. Even if he can’t outsmart a young boy given two tries, Harry is still the coolest burglar we all know.

 

#10. Susan Walker, Miracle on 34th Street

Natalie Wood knocked it out the park with her performance here. Susan Walker is a skeptical child struggling to reconcile the notion of a magical Santa with the commercialized world around her. She has to be taught the concept of imagination, and as she plays “zoo” with Kris Kringle, she reminds us all to never take ourselves too seriously. And that sometimes, having high expectations of those around you pays off (though I don’t think Santa will be bringing too many entire houses to kids this year).

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#9. Jovie, Elf

In an era practically defined by people being impossible to please, Zooey Deschanel is truly unique in that everyone loves her. Her sense of humor is so down-to-earth, and it’s as if even Zooey herself is unsure that those around her find her charming. Well, we certainly do…and her role as Jovie in the movie Elf is my favorite.

As the “down on her luck” girl in New York City, she is clearly too talented/gifted to be at the job she’s in worrying about paying her utility bills. But like so many of us, she struggles to find the courage to take action. Questions swirl in her head: Who could possibly find me appealing? Is this all my life will be? Is there a storybook ending for me or not?

Well, even if our lives don’t exactly take the sudden whimsical turn Jovie’s does, we can all take solace that there is someone out there who will make us feel this way:

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#8. Mary Hatch/Bailey, It’s a Wonderful Life

Donna Reid’s impeccable performance as Mary in It’s a Wonderful Life is truly remarkable. More than any other character on this list, Mary really makes the audience feel her emotions from their screens. We are dismayed when we learn that Mary (in a George-less world) has become an “old maid”. We desperately want to know Mary’s wish after she throws the rock during her and George’s first date. We are amazed when a bride suddenly deprived of her honeymoon makes the best of the situation, and makes a leaky dump into the enchanting “Waldorf Hotel”.

But really, it’s the human element that she bring to the film that makes her the #8 pick. She is effected just as much as anyone else by the events of the film, but unlike the other characters, she does not have much control (if any) to alter these events. Ultimately though, she reminds us of an absolutely massive truth: it’s the way you choose to react/view difficult situations in life that truly defines who you are.

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#7. Bernard, Santa Clause

This was the toughest decision as I made this list. As I looked at Bernard and the 6 characters that will follow, it was tough to decide which one would miss the Top 6. Ultimately, through no fault of David Krumholtz, I went with the 6 best movies to break the deadlock. So sorry Bernard, you’re top 6-worthy, but Santa Clause just isn’t as good as the Christmas movies that follow.

Bernard is like the “Boba Fett” of this series. He may not get the most screen time, he may not be the title character, he may not be the “cute kid” in the film…but he’s everyone’s favorite. His surly, yet enduring, personality is what makes him so memorable. And I think (maybe Zooey excluded) he’s the character on this list we would most want to hang out with in real life.

He reminds us of all the good that the Christmas season stands for, but manages to communicate it in a way that isn’t cliche. And in a genre that is practically defined by that, that’s no small feat.

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#6. Cousin Eddy, Christmas Vacation

Of all the characters in the top 15, Eddy is probably the most memorable. His grotesque character, combined with his incredibly misguided efforts to befriend Clark Griswold, remind us all of “that family member” that we see during the Christmas season. As he unexpectedly shows up during Clark’s greatest accomplishment, the film’s signature brand of humor is truly unveiled, and the movie never lets go until “The Star Spangled Banner” plays at the end.

Eddy and Clark’s interactions throughout the movie are the priceless moments: the scene when Clark realizes that Eddy has just shown up (“Eddy?…Eddy?…Eddy?), the scene when Clark offers to help Eddy out with his kids’ Christmas (“I’d like to get something for Clark, something…real nice”), and the list goes on. Suffice to say, Randy Quaid’s performance catapults an already-great Christmas movie into an instant holiday classic.

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#5. Max, How the Grinch Stole Christmas

As the Grinch’s faithful companion, Max remains loyal to his owner, even as we see Max’s unease with the Grinch’s plans. Ultimately though, as all good dogs tend to do, Max makes his owner a better person in the end. He is probably the “simplest” character on this entire list, but his devotion to his friend (even as we see him sadly look on as the Grinch hatches his grand scheme) is a reminder to the viewers to always keep faith in those we love.

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#4. Linus, Charlie Brown Christmas

“A Charlie Brown Christmas” is my single favorite Christmas movie. Grinch and Christmas Vacation are certainly close, but this is the only movie that I feel is required viewing every year. It’s a poignant reminder of how commercialism seeps into every fiber of Christmas…if we let it. As Charlie Brown tries everything to get in the Christmas spirit, we feel his frustration right there with him: how are we supposed to embrace the true meaning of Christmas in a world so noisy and busy?

And it’s in Charlie Brown’s best friend Linus that we find our answer. As the thumb-sucking, blanket-toting “baby” of the group, it’s Linus that actually has the courage to speak out. As he shares the Gospel message from the school auditorium stage, we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Linus believes what he is saying. Though many may not agree themselves, Linus’ conviction and faith is so refreshing in a holiday season marked by so much greed and stress. As he delivers his climactic speech, he finally drops his blanket and boldly stands between the secular (stage left) and the seekers (stage right)…and declares a better way.

 

 

#3. Old Man Parker, A Christmas Story

A Christmas Story just overflows with charm and nostalgia. Everyone who watches the film is instantly teleported back to their childhood, and to that Christmas gift we just had to have. Though Ralphie takes the center stage, I think it’s Darren McGavin as his father (who never even gets a name) that gets the title of “Best Character” in a movie packed with them.

His seemingly endless struggle with the furnace, his negotiating skills, his major award…the list goes on. Old Man Parker is the quintessential “Christmas movie Dad”: he does everything he can to give his family the perfect Christmas. Is he perfect? Of course not. Does he make his fair share of mistakes? Absolutely. But in the end, he works with what he’s got and comes through for his son in the end.

 

 

#2. Little George Bailey, It’s A Wonderful Life

I seriously debating putting Bobbie Anderson’s “Little George” character at #1. Think about it. It’s A Wonderful Life is one of the greatest Christmas movies ever, and for the beginning (practically 1/3 of the entire movie), it’s this guy that carries the film. We love George Bailey almost immediately…and it’s not James Stewart we’re falling in love with. It’s the charming, down-to-earth local boy who does numerous heroic acts without even really realizing it.

From saving his little brother from the ice to preventing a terrible poisoning from his alcoholic boss, it’s “Little George” that opens our eyes to the incredible small world of Bedford Falls. Despite the movie’s star-studded cast, none of it would matter if Bobbie’s performance in the first part of the movie wasn’t exceptional.

The director, Frank Capra, one said: “I thought it was the greatest film I ever made. Better yet, I thought it was the greatest film anybody ever made. It wasn’t made for the oh-so-bored critics or the oh-so-jaded literati. It was my kind of film for my kind of people.”

If this is Frank Capra’s favorite film, many peoples’ favorite Christmas movie of all time, and it’s “Little George” that is practically solely responsible for about 1/3 of its content…then how can he not be among the absolute greats of the genre?

 

#1. Lucy Moderatz, While You Were Sleeping

First off, if you just read the above name/movie title, and said “What movie is that?”. Then stop reading, close this browser, and watch the movie immediately. This is one of my five favorite movies of all time, and it is Sandra Bullock absolutely at her best.

Lucy is a low-key, quiet, and alone subway worker in Chicago. She has no family, works all the time, and seems trapped in her own life. I won’t spoil the story here (as many of people reading may not have seen it yet), but Lucy’s journey to finding a family is truly one worth experiencing. She is shy and unsure of herself, and as you watch, you can’t help but find yourself rooting for her.

The movie is full of memorable characters and lines, but it’s really the aura of Sandra Bullock that makes the movie so captivating. Her sweetness and charm permeate every scene, even when she’s not in it. She makes everyone around her appreciate what they have more, challenges those around her to grow, and through her actions, she challenges even herself. The movie is an amazing ride, and should not be missed by anyone.

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And that’s it folks! Thanks for reading, and I hope you have a very Merry Christmas!

– Paul

 

 

Blessing or Curse: It’s Up to You

“The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law.”

– Deuteronomy 29:29

2016 has already been an immensely challenging year for me. I entered the year looking for a job, hit 30 a few months in, and generally struggled to feel contentment in my life.

Fast forward to April: I started my new job, found a new place to live, and really felt like the struggles of my 20s were quickly becoming a thing of the past. And yet…the insecurities still linger. To this day even. What if I’m supposed to be doing something else in my career? What if I had made different decisions during the last decade of my life?

And with these questions swirling in my mind this morning, God spoke such an incredible truth to me that I wanted to share with you today.

For the past year and a half, I have been waking up around 20 minutes earlier to make sure I spend time in the Word before I go about my day. During this year, I’ve been using this plan to read through the Bible during this time. This morning, the assigned reading (Deuteronomy 29 and 30) was like God was speaking directly to my heart and to my present struggles.

So it shall be when all of these things have come upon you, the blessing and the curse which I have set before you and you call them to mind in all nations where the Lord your God has banished you, and you return to the Lord your God and obey Him with all your heart and soul according to all that I command you today, you and your sons, then the Lord your God will restore you from captivity, and have compassion on you, and will gather you again from all the peoples where the Lord your God has scattered you.”

– Deuteronomy 30:1-3

A major theme in Deuteronomy is the idea of “the blessing and the curse which [God has] set before you” (30:1). Usually I read that and think of terrible things being pitted against very good things. And frankly, it’s tough to imagine why we would ever choose the curse with that mindset.

But it was today that it really hit me: God is speaking to our heart regarding how we choose to react to Him working in our lives. God is going to do what He has planned for us, and the idea of it being a “blessing or a curse” really boils down to how we choose to view His work. Are we going to focus on the negative? Or are we going to move forward in full confidence that “the secret things belong to the Lord our God” (29:29) and maybe we just don’t have the same perspective that He does?

“For this commandment which I command you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will go up to heaven for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe?’ Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will cross the sea for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?’ But the word is very near you, in your mouth, and in your heart, that you may observe it.”

– Deuteronomy 30:11-14

What an amazing passage to remind us of how God truly meets us where we are! But today, it really hit me that God is also saying that the commands He speaks of here in our life are not situational. They are not only applicable when we have reached the mountaintops of life. They are not only applicable when we have reached the other side of life’s greatest struggles. They are applicable today. And that means that it is our attitude and mindset that becomes paramount as we venture into a sometimes uncertain future.

“Moreover, the Lord your God will curcumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, so that you may live.

– Deuteronomy 30:6

As I pray to God for a “circumcised heart” this week, I will also be praying for the strength to cast aside my doubts, fears, and inner thoughts to react to situations in a way that pleases God. Whether it’s something at work or in my personal life, God is placing before us blessings and curses, and gives us the ability to choose which path we want to take. And even when it’s not a simple matter of “bad thing vs good thing”, my prayer will be that I will choose the path of life.

“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the Lord your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days…”

– Deuteronomy 30:19-20

Have a great week everyone!

-Paul

It’s A Magical World

In general, I do not think of myself as a “back in my day, things were better” type of person. I usually learn to appreciate how things change, and try to gain an appreciation for concepts/ideas that are not immediately appealing or nostalgic.

For TV, I enjoy this just as much as this.

But let’s face it, one has to only open a newspaper to see the most glaring entertainment drop-off in the past few decades: the comics. Although I still read Dilbert, it has been a long time since anything like this has been made:

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As much as I love the Far Side though, it is Calvin and Hobbes that will forever stand as the high watermark of my childhood entertainment. There will never be a strip like it, and I wish it could have gone on forever. However, when Hobbes when asks “if good things lasted forever, would we appreciate how precious they are?”, I think he was really on to something.

So, in a tribute to the greatest comic strip of all time, I have assembled a list of really profound quotes that showed how meaningful and poignant this comic was (and still is). After each quote, I will include a different strip that was the first to pop into my head after I read the quote.

 

“I suppose if we couldn’t laugh at things that don’t make sense, we couldn’t react to a lot of life.”

Kazam

“Sometimes I think the surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us.”

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“It’s hard to be religious when certain people are never incinerated by bolts of lightning.”

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“I’m yet another resource-consuming kid in an overpopulated planet, raised to an alarming extent by Madison Avenue and Hollywood, poised with my cynical and alienated peers to take over the world when you’re old and weak…Am I scary or what?” (Halloween strip)

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“There’s never enough time to do all the nothing you want.”

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“The problem with being avant-garde is figuring out who’s putting on who.”

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“I wonder I wonder why we can think faster than we speak? ..Probably so we can think twice.”

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Do you believe in the Devil? You know, a supreme evil being dedicated to the temptation, corruption, and destruction of man? …I’m not sure man needs the help”

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“I should always be saying, ‘My life is better than I ever imagined it would be, and it’s only going to improve'”.

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“Without an appreciation for grace and beauty, there’s no pleasure in creating things and no pleasure in having them!”

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“It’s not denial. I’m just very selective about the reality I accept.”

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“Do you think babies are born sinful? That they come into the world as sinners? ..No, I think they’re just quick studies.”

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“It’s not the pace of life I mind. It’s the sudden stop at the end.”

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“We seem to understand the value of oil, timber, minerals, and housing, but not the value of unspoiled beauty, wildlife, solitude, and spiritual renewal…We need to start putting prices on the priceless.”

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“The problem with you, Hobbes, is you’re always at a loss for words..I’ve found that saves many a friendship.”

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How I Met Your Mother Finale

This post will include full spoilers from the series finale of How I Met Your Mother. 

 

After nine seasons, “Last Forever” kept millions on the edge of their seats awaiting Ted and the Mother (revealed to be named Tracy) skipping happily into the sunset. We all waited expectantly for Tracy to come down the aisle, for both to say “I do”, and to witness an old Tracy to step in the frame with narrator Ted and share a kiss in front of their children.

Only that’s not quite how it went. HIMYM was not going to fade into the sunset. Nor was it going to give us the perfect ending we wanted. Ultimately, it was not going to leave us with an incomplete picture of the ups/downs of life.

Simply put, the Mother turned out to be a giant red herring.

From day one, the audience was constantly waiting for Ted to meet his future wife. But the major clue really could be found in the show’s title: How I MET Your Mother. Not How I Got to Know Your Mother. Not How My Marriage with Your Mother Went. It taught us the valuable lesson that life needs to be enjoyed in each and every moment. If we are just always looking ahead to the ultimate goal, we may not be able to appreciate all the steps needed to get us there.

From the pilot episode all the way to Episode 201, the point has been repeated over and over: Robin is not Ted’s true love. And the finale did nothing to change that. Ted’s long story about how perfect Tracy was did not change. His feelings for Robin at the end do not take away from the love he and his wife shared.

The big issue of the finale was obviously how much was crammed into a single hour of television.

The biggest shock of the episode was the inclusion of Barney/Robin getting divorced after only three years of marriage. After an entire season dedicated to their wedding weekend, it seemed crazy that it would end in divorce 15 minutes after we saw them happily dance at their reception. However, what has always made HIMYM such an enduring show is that its characters always remind us of our broken selves: we are imperfect, we make mistakes, and the way we choose to respond is what makes us who we are.

Barney’s subsequent relapse into his old bachelor ways left me frustrated. But it had the same effect on his friends. And ultimately, I think that was the point. We were supposed to be tired of his old habits. We were supposed to watch his new “plays” unfold while sadly shaking our heads. We were supposed to be disappointed that his daughter was coming from another conquest. We were supposed to be outraged at the thought that he would leave the hospital without even seeing his daughter. But we were also supposed to believe that his entire life could be instantly changed by just holding Ella and looking into her eyes.

Even though Robin became the world-renown journalist she moved to NYC to become, she was the one who found herself on the outside of the group. The absolutely brilliant Halloween party on the rooftop was really the hidden gem of the episode. We see Robin at her most vulnerable and honest when she, upon seeing Ted and Tracy kiss, flees the party.

 As Lily and Robin share a teary farewell in the empty apartment, Robin admits that Ted is the one she should have ended up with. But what caused Ted and Robin to fail time and time again? They wanted different things in life: Ted desired a family and Robin was all about her career. Robin’s reaction to seeing
Ted/Tracy at the party was not just simple jealousy, but a sudden overwhelming
realization of a life she had spent nine seasons running from. Did it mean that
her life had been a giant mistake? No, but the life she had spent the whole
series scoffing at was becoming more and more appealing.

Therefore, when Ted’s kids encourage their Dad to pursue Robin, it indicates
that Robin has changed. She is no longer recoiling at the thought of spending
time with children, and has even become a beloved part of their lives. Even
though Ted and his children had six years to deal with Tracy’s death, the
audience only had a few moments. So even though the kids’ suggestion initially
came across as apathetic towards their dead Mother, viewers need to remember that the grieving process had run its course for Ted and his family, but not for us.

Speaking of Tracy, her very minor role in the final season was probably the
biggest reason many fans will not remember the season fondly. Simply put, Tracy
was charming, funny, and unlike every other significant other (looking at you
Kal Penn), she immediately fit in with the rest of the gang. She had “The Joker
Effect” from The Dark Knight: even when she was not on the screen, you were
always thinking of her. Tracy ultimately left us with the same feeling she
ultimately left Ted: we loved her, remembered all the precious moments we were
able to spend with her, and wished we could have had more. But at the end of
the day, we had to learn to appreciate that some of life’s great things do not
last forever. Just like Ted, we had to learn to let go and be content that were
able to share our story with someone so special, even if it did not last as
long as we would have liked.

Marshall’s relationship with Lily was really the complete love story that the audience always thought we would get from Ted and the Mother. We watched them
fall in love, date, break up, get married, have kids, and grow old together.

However, Marshall definitely took a backseat to the rest of the gang in the
finale. He underscored an important lesson that really did not manifest itself
much in the others: love requires sacrifice. As we sadly watched Robin and
Barney’s marriage end, we also watched as Marshall again took a job he hated to
support the ones he loved. In that juxtiposition, we were really shown why some
marriages work and some do not: are both spouses willing to sacrifice each
other fully for the other? Marshall, time and time again, proved that he was
not “50/50” when it came to Lily. Rather, they were both “100/100” in their
committment to one another. In the finale itself, Marshall’s role was really
just to voice our objections and provide stability as we watched the imperfect
future unfold.

At first glance, Marshall and Lily seem to both be very peripheral to the main
story. This is certainly true, but that is because their role in the finale was
to be the voice of the audience to the characters on screen. And though neither
were really given their own special scene, the real star of the finale was
Lily.

As Marshall provided the reasonable and logical voice in the turbulent future,
Lily gave a voice to the audiences’ emotions. She cried as we cried. She was
speechless when we were speechless. But above all, she felt paralyzed and
heartbroken as she realized that the end had come, whether she (or we) were
ready or not.

As the credits rolled, I stared at the television trying to process what I had
just seen. My questions were answered (well, except for the Pineapple
Incident). I knew how Ted had met the Mother of his children. I knew how each
character had changed throughout their life. Ulimately, though, I knew that I
could move on. I knew that a great story had been told, and even though it did
not end in the perfect way I may have liked, I felt priviledged that I had been along for the ride.