After nine seasons and eight slaps, Ted Mosby finally met The Mother. After digesting the finale a bit, even watching it again, my original dissatisfaction subsided. The episode in and of itself was great. “Last Forever” hit all of the marks you’d want from a series finale; laughter, tears, a retrospective, and a hint at the future. In this case we were given more than just hints; we saw a sizable chunk of our gang’s future unfold. With that, series creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas truly allowed us to fall in love with Tracy McConnell right along with Ted and the rest. We saw her integrated into their lives in such a way that it didn’t feel forced, or like a plot device, and that is truly what made the end so unsettling for me at first.
*Seriously, spoilers ahead*
HIMYM had dropped several hints this season that while Tracy may be The Mother, the story being told to these kids has a dark cloud over it. That dark cloud being that Tracy had in fact died sometime after marrying Ted. Fans have even joked about that possible ending years before, most opting that a TV sitcom wouldn’t go that dark. I thought the same thing. I kept waiting for the twist. Instead we received several other twists and turns. First twist, Barney and Robin had an expiration date. All of the reasons she once said she couldn’t marry Ted would ultimately be a huge component for why she and Barney would never work. Not a failed marriage, a successful one for three years. Over the past few seasons, HIMYM openly questioned that relationship, and as the wedding inched ever closer it became a running theme for someone to call out how much those two should not be together, Robin and Barney included, but life has to run its course. So while not totally surprising, it was a bit of a downer to see a relationship that we were coaxed into rooting for fall apart.
Next twist; Barney becomes a dad. Law of averages says this should have happened long ago, but hey it happened when it did. Before he held the “love of his life” in his hands, Barney regressed to the man he once was, even going so far as to create a new Playbook so that he could try out new gags and costumes on unwitting women of New York City. In a great moment with Lily, who addressed the sadness of a man well into his forties, or the Clooney Years as Barney put it, was still out tricking young women to have sex with him. “This is me, just let me be, me.” Barney needed the catalyst for change, and that is what his daughter became.
Yet another twist; Ted and Tracy take forever to get married. Ok, so that may not be that much of a twist but it was another moment that upon further review sets the theme for life getting in the way. We, along with Ted find out that Tracy is pregnant before their first wedding attempt. It’s a happy moment that put all of their well laid plans to rest for a bit. And there were some plans; apparently Ted was going to spend the gross national income on this wedding. Time goes on, and Ted ever the romantic says that there is a statute of limitations of five years on proposals. They have a rush wedding, and for a time things are good.
Last real twist; Time takes people away. As anyone who has said they’ll keep in touch with high school or college friends can attest to, sometime you drift apart. Again, HIMYM has addressed this in the past. Listen to Ted’s monologue at the end of the Super Bowl episode; he mentions how they come in and out of each other’s lives for years. It happens. Life happens. So whether it was Lily and Marshall going to Rome for some time, or Robin traveling the world for her job, or Ted and Tracy taking time to start their family, odds are the gang saw each other less and less. Sometimes that separation is more permanent. As we see the relationship between Ted and Tracy grow, along with Tracy’s integration into the gang as a whole, two things stand out; clearly this isn’t going to end well and Robin isn’t there. In hindsight, the anger towards Tracy being taken away isn’t just that she’s taken away from Ted, but from us as viewers. In just one season, of barely any real presence, we fell in love with Tracy. Her death causes the exact reaction intended; sadness and anger, possibly the other three stages as well. It also helps to build toward what so many of us already knew from the beginning.
Ok, one more twist; this was ALWAYS Ted and Robin’s story. This part gets a little “inside baseball” so bear with me. How I Met Your Mother lasted nine seasons, and like any long running sitcom, we could all see the wheels chugging. Making matters worse was the “end game” for this HIMYM was the driving plot point. The show was about how a man met the mother of his children. There is only but so much time an audience will give to a show that doesn’t address this. Early in the series, it was truly one of the better crafted sitcoms on TV, hitting a lull around season 5 and 6, as most sitcoms do. It was at those times we were teased with bigger and bigger revelations about the mother’s identity. Bays and Thomas have stated many times that the ending was already set, they knew how their story would resolve, and this is evidenced by the final scene of the finale. The kids’ lines were shot 8 years ago. Ted was ALWAYS going to be with Robin, they knew that. As the kids pointed out “You said this is a story about how you met mom but she’s barely in it.” I would have loved more time with Tracy, and less spent on the wedding weekend, and even though the cast wanted out, CBS was throwing the bank at them, so more seasons we got, the story was stretched, and it always had to circle back to what the story really was.
Every close call, every reconsideration, every declaration of love, and then stifling of that same emotion led to this moment. Life doesn’t have a neat bow tied to it, and HIMYM is one of few sitcoms that addressed that over the nine years they’ve been on the air. Take into consideration when Ted and Robin broke up early in the series; Ted wanted a family, and to settle down. Robin didn’t know what she wanted, but it wasn’t that, at least not yet. Cementing that was her inability to bear children. Although she was with Barney at the time, she literally could not give Ted what he wanted. So fast forward to the year 2030, and Ted stands arms open with the blue French Horn in hand outside of Robin’s apartment, life was no longer in the way. They had both accomplished what they wanted and there was no reason for them not to finally be together. Ted and Robin ending up together doesn’t take away from what he shared with Tracy, right up until her final moments, and their meeting on the train platform was truly touching. Watching every hint and nugget fall into place as they realized how close they’d come to meeting each other so many times. It was a great payoff.
This may have not been the picture perfect finale people wanted, but how often do shows actually try something different? Bays and Thomas stuck to their ultimate vision and didn’t waiver in the face of divisiveness. You have to respect that. I’ll take divisive over boring any day. Cards on the table, I LOVED the ending to LOST so, take that into account. I’ll always remember the great things How I Met Your Mother did. As the little show that dared to be different, and rewarded those who came along for the ride. It may not have been perfect, but it was legendary.