The Internet exploded overnight when the final episode of How I Met Your Mother aired. Blogs, forums, and message boards flooded with angry fans claiming they wanted the last nine years of their lives back. I sympathize with these people. I really do. I’ve been a die-hard HIMYM fan for the last near -decade as well, and the finale was certainly not what I expected.
But I loved it.
Flawed as it was, I think the finale of HIMYM was perfect. And I’d like to respond to the five major criticisms of why it was not.
1. But Tracey was “The One” for Ted!
Tracey was perfect for Ted, so much so that it became borderline unbelievable by the end of the series. But everyone complaining that Ted and Tracey were destined for each other are forgetting one key factor: Ted was never Tracey’s “The One.” Max was.
If we believe that Tracey can move on after Max and love Ted, then we have to believe that Ted can move on after Tracey as well. Ted and Tracey getting together in itself proves that there isn’t one person for everyone. Max was the one for Tracey until he died. Tracey was the one for Ted, until she died. How I Met Your Mother has consistently highlighted the role of timing in relationships.
Tracey and Max eventually ended up together. Robin and Ted eventually ended up together. The timing wasn’t right for either of these relationships when the show started, but it was right in the end.
2. Ted and Robin were never right for each other.
Ted wanted a family and Robin wanted to travel. These passions split them up more than once throughout the series and remained a prevailing force in their lives until the show’s end.
This too goes back to the theme of timing. Ted didn’t just want a woman in his life: he had that and more in Robin. He wanted a woman who would start a family with him, bear his children, settle down with him, and be his wife. He found all of that in Tracey. For years, he experienced those joys with her and she alone filled the role of the woman he wanted to marry.
When Ted went back to Robin, he wasn’t looking for another Tracey. He’d found her, he’d lost her, and all he wanted now was someone to love. Robin’s love wasn’t enough for him initially, but time changes what we need out of relationships.
In the final episode, Ted has his kids and his family and his memories of the perfect marriage. Now, an independent, career-focused woman may be exactly what’s right for him. And a settled down, humbled Ted may now be exactly what’s right for Robin. Robin and Ted will never be the perfect couple Ted once wanted them to be. But now he may just want them to be the flawed, imperfect couple they were all along.
3. The characters developed and then regressed.
There has been a great deal of backlash over the character development of Barney Stinson who went from a womanizing prick to a sensitive, mature man who was ready to settle down… back to a womanizing prick holding the playbook.
Except the series didn’t end that way. We saw Barney develop into a person who was ready to love — first Nora, then Quinn, and then finally, Robin. In the final episode, it became obvious that Barney wasn’t capable of loving anyone in a romantic way. We got closure on this when he tells the gang that he’ll never be the guy who meets a woman and immediately decides he loves her and will share everything with her forever.
Except that’s exactly what happened when he met his daughter. All the complex character development we saw throughout the series with Barney came to a cumulative point right there and then: he was capable of love, just a different kind of love than we’d expected. His baby changed him in a way a woman never could.
Barney’s character didn’t regress, he just transformed in a way that we didn’t expect. What he wanted wasn’t a wife, it was a child — which was something Robin could never give him.
Similar to Barney, Ted didn’t snap right back into being a hopeless romantic. His character developed into a calmer, more rational man who realized that the perfect love might not last forever. That’s why he let go of Robin and married Tracey. It’s also why he moved on from Tracey. Because the final development of his character was learning to not be the man who lived in his stories: The story of how he met Tracey finally ended, and the rest of his life began.
4. It’s a contradiction to the title.
Okay, well, the series DID technically end with Ted meeting the mother. But I get your point, and here’s my response.
While she wasn’t present for most of the series, the Mother functioned as an archetypal ideal for Ted throughout the nine seasons. Tracey took a while to show up but she was present in the show for years before we met her. Ted’s quest for love was eternally driven by her absence.
Only by meeting the mother could Ted finally get the hell over her. He could never have ended up with Robin had he not met Tracey first and lived out that dream with her, just like Lily couldn’t have married Marshall before moving to San Francisco and Robin couldn’t have ended up with Ted before traveling the world.
While it may have been perfect and ideal for Ted to have spent the rest of his life happy with Tracey, life is neither perfect nor ideal. This is another theme that HIMYM has endorsed from the beginning. The characters have always just done the best with what they had. And that’s what they did right until the end.
5. If Ted and Robin were going to end up together why did it take nine seasons?
This one’s easy: Because if How I Met Your Mother has taught us anything, it’s that if we want to see something legendary happen, we’re going to have to wait for it.