Major spoilers ahead. Read at your own peril.
I’ve been an avid fan of HIMYM since I discovered the show in 2007, while it was in its fourth season (I think.) To this day, it’s my favorite show ever. In my opinion, up till midway through Season 5, almost every episode is perfect. It’s everything I want in a show: it’s witty, full of inside jokes, likeable characters, and just enough reflection on life to keep me thinking after the episode ends. My favorite show before HIMYM was Scrubs, and I definitely see similarities between the two.
For me – my friends disagree – the show went downhill after Season 6, but I kept watching. Even at its worst, it still held a tender place in my heart. The characters slowly became exaggerated, overblown caricatures of their former selves. Ted, a bookish hopeless-romantic became a sad-sack. Barney, once witty, daring, and wild, overplayed every scene. Once full of flare, he just became dramatic. Robin, the loveable tomboy with a tender side, became screechy and sad. Even the darling Lilly started slipping, although she and Marshall always managed to remain adorable.
Nevertheless, the show still held a certain magic, and I watched every episode with unparalleled eagerness, although some, towards the end, were awful. Today, I saw the season finale. While the opening scenes were actually the best the show has offered in years, through the course of the 2 episodes, I found my heart slowly crushed to pieces. I’d like to tell you why.
I imagine there are two camps of people who are satisfied with the finale. There’s probably the (1) “not everything in life is happy, so get over it,” crowd, and also the (2) “Ted and Robin were meant to be all along, so yay!” crowd. I cannot argue with you. I can only tell you how I see things.
Probably the biggest heartbreak of the finale was how the Barney & Robin storyline was wrapped up. We have just spent a whole season painfully disassembling every minute of their wedding day, examining every reason they should not be married. In that time, we saw both Barney and Robin lose it, doubt, and almost run off. However, both characters slowly came to face with their vices and learned – little by little — that changing is okay.
Barney was a perfect man-pig through the show; you could love him, hate him, idolize him (I did, for a while,) but you can’t deny the fact that “daddy’s a playa” was in his blood. So, watching him slowly come to realize that he can love one woman – and is willing to give the core of his life for her – was heartwarmingly beautiful. I’ve been in places in my life where I both idolized Barney and saw the depraved dissatisfaction of his lifestyle. His transformation was the most important to me.
And yet, over the course of a few minutes, Barney and Robin break up. Barney goes back to his former ways, and The Playbook – the epitome of his former lifestyle, burned with such a profound sense of ceremony – rises like a phoenix the dead.
The fact that divorces happen is okay. What is not okay is that the writers choose to undo seasons worth of self-realizations, epiphanies, and genuine development in one swift blow. What’s the point here? That people don’t change? Even if that’s the case, the fact that a half an hour undoes seasons of growth abysmal. Robin and Barney break up with little explanation. They just don’t fit. Robin wants to travel, and won’t give up her career.
Oh, and let’s throw in a sudden baby-having epiphany, totally transforming Barney’s life with a nameless woman.
In the past season, we’ve examined and resolved every little thing that could have gone wrong with Barney and Robin. Did the writers just miss a fundamental rift in their characters?
My heart breaks for Ted. I didn’t like the Mother when she was first introduced (I always rooted for Victoria,) and what truly brought me over to her side wasn’t her – although I credit the writers to very nicely developing her character – but Ted’s genuine evolution of character. His conversations with Robin – both during the Wedding Weekend and in the seasons past – showed just how much it hurt him to let her go. Yet, let her go is exactly what he did. It broke his heart to see her marry Barney, but he accepted it.
The fact that the Mother died was terrible for several reasons. Obviously, there’s the fact that along with Ted, viewers finally started to believe in her, and the fact that she was his One. But, I can take a tragic ending. Had the writers elaborated on her illness, I would have followed the storyline with a heavy heart.
Instead, they wrote her off. “Your mother got sick. It’s been six years. I guess I’ll call Robin.”
What about Robin’s little quip about how she’s at the Halloween party with (I paraphrase) “the guy I should have probably married and the beautiful mother of his child?” Where is this coming from? Ted would have been no better than Barney about Robin traveling all the time, and not wanting (or able to have) kids.
Ted and Robin ended. This was established in the first episode. The writers spent NINE seasons convincing us that the relationship we wanted to believe in wasn’t right, wasn’t meant to be. And now, after finally making sense of everything for us, they throw everything away, and give us Robin and Ted again.
Robin wasn’t right for Ted. She wasn’t his first choice, and he wasn’t hers. What’s the lesson here? Clearly, it’s not fate, hopeless romance, or the whole “The One” thing. Ted didn’t need to marry the Mother to realize he wanted to be with Robin. Robin had seasons to realize that Barney wasn’t right for her. But she didn’t. Is that the lesson? That people are too stupid to see what’s right?
One of the most impactful quotes in the series was in the pilot: “I mean, I never thought I’d see that girl again, but it turns out I was just too close to the puzzle to see the picture that was forming.” What picture? Heartbreak, marrying another girl, losing her, and running back to your second choice without explanation?
Having been married to The Mother, Ted wouldn’t have wanted to get back with Robin. He – and we – spent nine seasons realizing they’re not meant to be. Once back with her, he wouldn’t be able to take her blossoming career willed with constant travel. Robin was never The Mother that Ted needed and wanted in his life.
The Gang slowly breaks up. We don’t see any Ted/Marshall chemistry in the Finale, and we’re shown that Lily and Robin drift apart. It’s just painful to watch. I know those of you who are all “life isn’t happy, man,” are ready to pounce, but I don’t buy it. It’s not because I want to remain eternally optimistic. It’s because the show spent NINE SEASONS giving us Lily’s “Front Porch” visions.
The Gang were supposed to grow old as the best of friends. Instead, the writers choose to throw in a grenade and show us that sometimes, no matter how much you believe, life rips your friends away.
On The Plus Side
On the plus side, by the end of the Series, I actually really liked The Mother. I can see why she and Ted would have been great together. I was still rooting for Victoria, though. Also, Marshmallow and Lilly-pad remained totally adorable. I guess we got at least a little bit of a happy ending.
So, yeah. I’m going to go eat a pint of Ben and Jerry’s, because all my growing-up lessons from a TV show were turned to dust.
P.S: FIVE DOGS TOTALLY DO NOT LIVE THAT LONG. OR, WHAT, ROBIN GOT FIVE DOGS AGAIN?