Undoubtedly, the finale of How I Met Your Mother divided fans into 2 camps, with the majority not liking how it ended. And while it is understandable to dislike the ending, especially with the emotional build-up and investment the fans had in the past few seasons, I see the ending as the most fitting one, given the circumstances of the entire fictional narration.
Let’s start at the very beginning: 2005. Ted begins his story by recounting to his kids how Marshall proposed to Lily, and in a way, it prodded him to re-think his position in life. Which then leads him into meeting Robin. Note how, here, Ted uses the premise of Marshall’s engagement as a way to introduce Robin to his kids (and to the viewers).
And it’s here where I start my discussion. While the title of the show is “How I Met Your Mother”, if we look through the whole course of the show, it is not just how Ted meets Tracy (the titular Mother), but how Ted is also hopelessly in love with Robin. And it shows from the very beginning. If we are to take the story Ted is telling his kids as a way for him to push the idea of him dating their Aunt Robin, as suggested by his daughter, then it all makes sense, because if it were truly a story of how he met their mother, he would have not started with how he met Robin and how his first date with her went. Rather, he could’ve started at any point in time. Heck, he could’ve started the story from Robin and Barney’s wedding. But he didn’t, because, like his daughter rightfully mentions, the story that Ted recounted, while attempting to tell how he met their mother, sorely lacks the existence of the mother.
If we listen closely to the narration over the course of 9 seasons, there is very little mentioned about the Mother. The entire narration, while full of stories of how the gang was once young and stupid and the lessons Ted learnt from those moments and is trying to impart to his kids, it was always a story of how big a part Robin was in Ted’s life. From his first breakup with Victoria to his left-at-the-altar moment with Stella, to Zoey and up to Robin’s wedding, Robin was always a factor in his story.
If the story was indeed about how Ted meets Tracy and not the fact that Ted wants his kids’ permission to date Robin, the narration would indeed have been very different, which I imagine would have Robin in the backseat and instead focus on how those events in his life prepared him to meet and eventually fall in love with Tracy (much like how the 200th episode showcased how the events of Tracy’s life prepared her into meeting and eventually falling in love with Ted), without tying in Robin every now and then.
Also, if we are to look closely at the events of the latter half of the season, where Ted accepts that he has to let go of Robin and convince her that she loves Barney, these is where Ted proves that he still loves Robin. This echoes the events of season 8’s mid-season finale, where Ted tells Robin to go up to the World Wide News Tower to stop what they think is Barney’s proposal to Robin’s hated colleague, Patrice. Barney, here, when describing his last play, also gets it right, that by telling Robin to go up, Ted gives his blessing to them, showing his love not only for the latter, but also for Barney.
Finally, if we are to look at the show in its entirety, there are many moments that show Ted sacrificing things because of love: his willingness for Victoria to go to Germany, his preparedness to move to New Jersey for Stella, him willing to give up his dream as a n architect for Zoey, him giving up the apartment for Marshall and Lily, him choosing to move to Chicago, him choosing to stay in New York for Tracy etc. Add his sacrifice of giving Robin to Barney to this list, and it exemplifies Ted’s ultimate show of love for the people that he truly cares about. And I’m guessing that his kids caught on to this trait during the entire narration (if they had not noticed this trait as they were growing up). And that is why his kids, after realizing that he sacrificed his love for their Aunt Robin to love their mother, is allowing their father to go and be with the woman the he loves.
In the end, the story of how Ted meets Tracy was never really about Ted meeting Tracy, it was about Ted going through all the trials and tribulations of his 20s and 30s with the people the he holds most dear, but above all, it is about the story of how a woman he loved so much made such an impact in his life that he told a story to prove his love for her to his children.