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
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
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.