How I Met Your Mother: Last Forever

“I kept this story short and to the point."

Life is tough. As we grow up, we watch our lives and those of our friends change. Not always for the better. The people who were our closest friends when we were in our 20s disappear as their lives take them to new cities or the suburbs to raise their kids. If we are very lucky, we keep a few of those friends and they become the bedrock of our lives. Ted Mosby is very lucky.

Not only does he keep his closest friends around well into adulthood, but we learned last night that he has not had one great love. He has two. For a show titled what it was, was Tracy (we finally learn The Mother’s name) simply a MacGuffin? For nine years and over two hundred episodes, we have been waiting for Ted to meet the mother, only to have her not be the end of the story.

What is now crystal clear is that writers intended for Ted and Robin to end up together from the start. Lyndsy Fonseca and David Henrie, who play the kids, filmed that final sequence years ago and both are now far too old to successfully film another.

The foreshadowing of the end was not subtle, especially in this last season. Ted found the locket; Robin knew he did and very nearly called off her wedding. If you didn’t see Tracy’s death coming, you weren’t paying attention. There were a myriad of other clues, too numerous to list here.

It is possible to be completely pissed off about the end. Many other reviewers and Tweeters are. To be fair, I was not entirely happy with it the first time through the episode. The more I thought about it, and as I watched the episode again, I changed my mind. Like life, it is messy and, therefore, somehow real.

Finally, however, what made this episode work was not the woman with whom Ted will grow old. It was the moments of heart, the moments that these five (six?) people we have come to care so much about share as their lives unfold.

Lily and Marshall are one of the most realistic couples ever written for television. Their marriage is not perfect, but they are committed to it and to each other. Throughout all the shenanigans of the past nine years, they have been the steadying influence, the anchor, for the entire group. Lily, especially, is the one who almost always gets it.

And, she did here. It is she who understands that this time will be different for Ted. It is she who understands that Barney and Robin’s divorce will change everything.

Barney and Robin’s break-up was hard to watch; I wanted them to live happily ever after. Putting aside the fact that the plot required them to fall apart, the aftermath was honest and true. Both regressed to where they had been before they married. Barney created a second Playbook; Robin became emotionally distant even from those she loves the most. Until, of course, life catches up.

I cringed when Barney announced that he had gotten number 31 pregnant. Although, if we think about it, it’s astonishing it hasn’t happened until now. But, happened it has and Barney treats it as he does everything else he doesn’t want to think about. Until he meets his daughter and truly falls in love for the first time in his life. For me, the scene where he expresses his love to that gorgeous little bundle was the highlight of the episode. It’s the one scene that made me cry the third time through the episode.

For the ultimate romantic, it seems ironic that Ted and Tracy were together for seven years before they got married. The point, I believe, is that Ted learned that marriage was not the endgame; the relationship is, even though the road is long and difficult.

Long and difficult it is. Friends and spouses come and go, some by choice, some not. Best of all, sometimes it is the kids in our lives, those just starting out on the long and difficult road, who have the clear vision of what is right, or at least what is right, right now.

This was not the perfect finale, but it worked for me. So, goodbye Ted, Marshall, Lily, Robin, and especially Barney. You will be missed.

Final Words and Thoughts:

Lily: “There’s only one way I’d let either of you have sex with her… The only way you’re allowed to hook up with her is if you marry her.”

The goodbye at the wedding, complete with the ET goodbye, made me laugh as the tears flowed.

Ted: “Lady, it’s been a really long weekend.”

Marshall: “My boss only called me three words that meant vagina today.”

Yea for the final appearance of the cock-a-mouse.

Robin: “Do you know who the gang is to me, Lily? Here’s what the gang is: the gang is a married couple who I never see anymore about to have their third kid; it’s my ex-husband, hitting on slutty cops right in front of me; and it’s the guy I probably should have ended up with with the beautiful mother of his child.”

Judge Fudge and Fudge Supreme.

Barney: “Can I please just be me?”

Barney: “Shots? Before lunch on a Thursday? It’s like you’re trying to make bad decisions.”

Ted: “And that, kids, is how I met your mother.”

The end credits were wonderful. How young did they all look nine years ago?

ChrisB is a freelance writer who spends more time than she ought in front of a television screen or with a book in her hand.

12 comments:

Jess Lynde said...

Chris, I'm glad you covered this one, because I probably would have just written an angry screed. Your thoughts were much more pleasant and forgiving.

There were parts of the hour that I quite liked and found genuinely moving --- I did cry a couple times --- but I really reviled that ending. I feel like we've spent ten seasons watching Ted get over and let go of Robin, so that he'd be in the right place to meet the true love of his life. And this season they got me completely invested in his relationship with the Mother. It was nearly the only thing about the season that worked for me, and I was rooting for them. The show always felt to me like it was taking us on this arduous journey to get Ted to the point where he was finally ready to find what he'd been looking for, and to show us that she was worth the wait. Then they snatched it away from him and us, and we didn't even get the chance to grieve before they were throwing Robin back in our faces.

I understand that Future Ted has had ample time to grieve, but the audience didn't. Many of us were heavily invested in Tracy at this point, and we didn't get appropriate time to grieve the loss of that relationship for Ted before the show treated it like it was no big thing. Just a speed bump on the road back to Robin. WTF?! I know the writing was on the wall after 'Vesuvius,' but even then they were a bit cagey, so we didn't really have the opportunity to process it until the kids basically laughed it off as so 6 years ago.

If Robin and Ted back together was the ending they were going for, I feel like they could have gotten us there in a much more organic way. And given us more of a chance to process why Ted would be ready to give it another go. To me, this closing felt like a quick upending of everything we've been building to, especially this season. One last twist for the sake of having a twist. A "ginormous middle finger to the fanbase," as Alan Sepinwall put it. Sigh.

I guess I'm not really surprised to be disappointed, after so many seasons of increasing disappointment. But I was still foolishly hoping for better. I'm glad that it worked for some, but I'm not one of them.

(Man, will I ever like a finale again? In recent years, it seems like every finale seems to land with a thud for me. There are finales that I love! Seriously!)

ChrisB said...

You're not wrong, Jess. There was a lot about this finale that didn't work for me -- especially the first time through.

After posting this review, I went back and re-watched the pilot. As many other reviewers have pointed out, Carter and Bays wrote themselves into a corner with the "that's how I met your Aunt Robin" line. They had no choice but to make someone else the mother.

The second, and bigger, mistake was feeling that they had to stick to the ending they filmed eight or nine years ago. There was no reason the kids' final reactions couldn't have been left on the cutting room floor. They could have even brought them back aged as they are now, which could have been a very funny visual gag on how long the story lasted.

I agree that we should have had more time with the idea of Robin and Ted together. It felt forced and rushed, the result of another iffy decision -- to place the entire last season at the wedding. If we could have spent these past six months with Tracy and Ted as a couple, seen their problems as well as their happy moments, mourned Tracy's death with Ted, seen Barney and Robin struggle and ultimately fail to keep their marriage together, I think the ending would have gone down better with many.

For me, however, I have chosen to see this series not as a romantic comedy with a couple living happily ever after. I choose to see it as the coda to nine years of these characters' lives, the tragedies and the triumphs. The scene with Barney and his daughter alone was worth the price of admission for me.

Juliette said...

I liked it, and it was signposted in Vesuvius (and a little a couple of years ago when Marshall refused to pay up on the Ted/Robin bet - though it was nice to see that he did at Ted and Tracy's wedding) so I was more underwhelmed than upset about it, since The Internet guessed it years ago.

I think the ending is especially problematic for some episodes I really liked during the run. I loved the episode in which Robin turned Ted down once and for all and he looked out on a sea of yellow umbrellas, which was a gorgeous symbol of how many other women were out there, which the ending kind of negates. Overall, though, there've been finales I've been far more annoyed by in the past!

Colin Peabody-Verteuil said...

For me, this was truly something different. I'm 22, so you can imagine how young I was when I started watching it, with my best friend. I grew up with these people. When they were at their closest, I was at my closest with my friends, when they were "eating sandwiches", I was watching the episodes "eating sandwiches" with my best friend and crying from laughter. And when the show started being less in quality, I graduated, my friends started moving away and now, I am Robin in this episode, everyone's moving on and all I can do is work. I watched this episode alone, not "eating a sandwich", bitter and angry but in the end, it was worth it. In the end, I truly don't care if the rug was pulled from under us multiple time, I don't care if they negated this entire season by having Barney and Robin divorce, I don't care if they negated the entire show by killing the Mother.
This show was the best of times and it was the worst of times. And now there's nothing left. So I'm not exactly crying because it ended. I'm crying for the boy in me who just died when it ended.
These were the five best years of my life followed by the four worst. These were the five best seasons of a sitcom followed by the four worst.
How I Met Your Mother was life.

sunbunny said...

Scribbled this down last night: Honestly, my problem isn’t with the HIMYM finale. It’s with the last few seasons of HIMYM. Obviously they ran out of things to do with the characters a while back and they’ve just spent years killing time (don’t get me started on what they did to Ted). The stuff with Ted’s kids was filmed during season TWO going from their ages and their costumes. So. If the writers knew this was how they wanted to end it seven years ago, why didn’t they spend their time progressing towards it instead of taking constant detours? Why make Robin and Barney a thing then not a thing then a thing then not a thing if they ultimately meant Robin to end up with Ted? And, above all, why did they stretch three days to cover an entire season and then spend an hour on almost twenty years? The finale should’ve been two hours at least.

GREAT point about not getting to mourn Tracy enough, Chris. I wish we'd seen her with Ted for more than two minutes. :(

As someone who's always loved Robin and Ted together and never thought Barney deserved her (casually points out the episode he reveals he SOLD A WOMAN for a car) I liked the ending. I also liked the frequent references and in jokes. The hanging chad costume. The cockamouse. The blue French horn.

I thought what they did with Barney was PERFECT. I'm not exaggerating when I say I cried over that scene between him and his baby girl for four hours.

I know nothing about How I Met Your Dad, but the fact that we never got 31's name made me suspicious. Could HIMYD be her story?

drnanamom said...

I actually enjoyed the finale. It was clear that Robin should have ended up with Ted but I was glad that Barney and she at least tried and the scene with Barney and his daughter was priceless. He loved Robin but she loved her career more and Barney couldn't sustain the doting husband role. It probably took Robin many years to get to the place where she would be good for Ted. And Ted got the love of his life. He loved Robin but she is his second love, not his real first and that makes sense too. Shit happens in life and the finale showed that. I liked that they spent so much time on the wedding - not because of the wedding but to examine the changing relationships among the characters. I agree they needed more time for the finale but boy did they pack in a lot of life in that one hour.

Morgan India said...

I will probably remain very grumpy about this finale for a while but I am starting to get over my anger towards the writers. A little.

At least they didn't pull a complete Gossip Girl with it. At least Barney and Robin got to be married for a while. At least we got to meet the mum.

Also, drnanamom, I love what you said about Robin being Ted's second love after Tracy, and that is what has made my anger lessen a little.

sunbunny said...

It just occurred to me that Ted was Tracy's Robin. Tracy had a boyfriend who she loved more than anything who tragically died young and it took her years to get over it an love again. I don't know why, but the mirroring of the situation makes me feel better about everything (not that I was necessarily feeling bad about it before…).

Juliette said...

Colin, I totally know what you mean - for me, that show was Friends, which finished not just the year I graduated from uni, but (in the UK) on the actual day of my last exam. It's forever associated with a particular period of my life. and I find it interesting that I am actually of an age with the characters from HIMYM, not Friends - but ten teen years are spent identifying with characters at least 10 years older, more than with teenage characters. Looking ahead I guess?!

Henrik Bennetter said...

Being someone who's seen only a few episodes in the very first season and then absolutely nothing until this finale - I have to say I really really liked it.
Yes, Tracy only brushed by and yes it's a comedy show so not much time for tears.
But a very good finale, I felt connected to the characters and felt their love for each other without me ever being a part of their lives.
Could also be because I'm exactly where they are, both in age and personal relationships.
So, very good stuff, even though I probably missed 99% of all the in-jokes. The blue horn at the end for instance. I have no idea what it meant but realized it meant something to them and that was enough.

Billie Doux said...

After ignoring this series the entire time it was on the air, I finally got around to it and just finished it tonight. The "mother" tease just drove me nuts, especially since the answer was out there on the internet (and here on the Doux Reviews site), so for most of it, I knew what ending was coming. This series might work better when you binge watch it and know the ending in advance, because I enjoyed nearly all of it, and cried through the finale. I probably would have felt more like you guys did if I'd had to wade through nine seasons to get to the end.

We do grow apart as we get older, and I loved how they did that. I also thought how they resolved the Robin/Barney relationship was realistic. He's a dog, and it was always unlikely that he would change enough to make anyone a good husband. I was happy that he and Robin loved each other enough to try. Neil Patrick Harris was terrific. He somehow managed to make me like Barney most of the time, even when I couldn't stand him. (I hate guys like Barney.)

When you watch the whole thing (or most of it) knowing Ted will end up with Robin, it's obvious. Especially in the last season when he went to such lengths to find her locket. I do think the last season had a lot of charm, although I really, really wish that they hadn't spent so much time leading up to a wedding that ended in divorce and spent that last season with Ted and Tracy as a couple. Although if they'd gone into it more in depth, her death would have possibly been way too heavy for a comedy.

One last observation. I loved all of the Whedon-related guest stars -- there are a lot of them -- and I really wish they'd found a way to give Lily a scene with Sandy Rivers. Another observation -- Lily and Robin were so guy-like, weren't they?

Great review, Chris. And I enjoyed reading everyone's comments. I'm glad I finally watched this series.

Marianna said...

I had the ending spoiled by the internet before I watched this so I was expecting to hate it, but I actually liked it! Ultimately Tracy was THE love of Ted's life and Robin was another love of his life rather than the other way around. I did find it sad that they waited so long to get married. (And where were any of Tracy's friends at their wedding?)

I was more disappointed by Robin and Barney's divorce, mostly because I didn't feel like Robin in particular put enough effort into saving the marriage. She probably could have arranged to not travel as much for work, but I suppose that wouldn't have been Robin.

Side note: Someone pointed out to me that in the first season there was a scene when Ted met a stripper and asked her what her real name was and she said "Tracy." The exchange in the future timeline followed:
Ted: And that's how I met your mother!
Kids: What!?
Ted: I'm kidding!

So... actually they did tell us the mother's name early on. =)