In its final season, we’ve cried and laughed with How I Met Your Mother all 203 episodes (208, once the season concludes) and it looks like we’re going to be crying more than we’re going to be laughing because this season, fans were treated to an unforgiving shock.
The mother may be dead.
But — what — wait — how?
Jenna Mullins of E! Online wrote this spectacularly convincing article about the mother being dead all along.
The show’s creators, Carter Bays and Craig Thomas, have said time and time again that the ending of the show was decided early on and they never changed their minds regarding the series finale. The mother being dead is the kind of ending they could keep while still changing other plotlines in the series, such as when we meet the mother, if we see Ted date the mother, and so on. No matter how the journey changes, the destination can remain the same.
The episode in season eight which led us to really think about this theory was “The Time Travelers.” At the end of the episode, Ted imagines himself running to his future wife’s apartment and giving her an impassioned speech about how he will meet her 45 days from now. Most viewers focused on the fact that we finally got an exact timeline of when the mother comes into Ted’s life. But hearing the speech again raised some red flags.
Where is she? We have seen every episode of HIMYM, and it’s possible that we’re wrong and missed something, but we don’t believe the mother has ever been referred to in present tense in the flashfoward when Ted is talking to the kids. Not even a simple: “I better hurry this story up because your mother will be home soon.” Sure, the show is called How I Met Your Mother, so the focus is always on the flashbacks and Ted’s life before meeting her. But still, where is she in the present day that she never interrupts the story or is never referred to as in the next room or something?
Now, let’s focus on the latest episode, “Vesuvius,” and that one scene where the Mother asks Ted, “What mother is going to miss her wedding?” Ted cried. Why? We’re all asking it. We want answers.
SPOILER ALERT: I knew it! I knew the Mother is dead when Ted is telling the story of how he met her! I called that a long time ago! #HIMYM
— Jason Kaplan (@JKaplan) March 6, 2014
I’ve never watched How I Met Your Mother but somehow am upset that the mother is probably dead.
— Matthew Zapruder (@matthewzapruder) March 4, 2014
I swear to god if I went through 9 seasons to find out the mother is dead I WILL KILL SOMEONE #HIMYM
— Alexa Padula (@alexapadula) March 4, 2014
IF THE MOTHER HAS BEEN DEAD THIS WHOLE TIME I WILL MURDER A PUPPY I SWEAR TO GOD #HIMYM
— OllieWollie (@ItsOllieWollie) March 6, 2014
Tons of entertainment blogs reeled at this hypothetical outcome. “Ted’s mother’s death is going to be such a low blow to us fans!” At least, that was the general opinion on this. And so some writers (and Tweeters) have been throwing tomatoes at this theory.
“Kids, remember your dead mother? Well, let me tell you a story about all the women I slept with before her.” #HIMYM
— Ed Giles (@SenseiGiles) March 4, 2014
So wait, if it does turn out the Mother is dead, isn’t it EVEN WEIRDER that Ted’s been telling his kids about all the girls he used to bang?
— Eric Brown (@ericbrownzzz) March 4, 2014
There’s a theory that the mom on HIMYM is dead because “Ugh, hurry up, Dad!” is how children respond to stories about their mother.
— Scott Beggs (@scottmbeggs) March 5, 2014
Going back to the “Vesuvius” episode, Sharon Kennedy Wynne of the Tampa Bay Times argued for this entire theory to be just that — a theory. She explained,
..the word Vesuvius appeared in the flashforward of the episode “Coming Back,” earlier this season when Ted incorrectly assumed one of the words on his crossword puzzle is Vesuvius. I still had the episode from September on my DVR and checked and sure enough, Ted does say that word out loud, but then discovered that the word didn’t fit. – Tampa Bay Times
Erin Strecker of Popwatch suggests that the whole “The mother is dead” thing is a red herring. After all, what producers would subject the viewers to such a terrible ordeal? She reasons that if the mother is dead, then that would kill off any “desire to re-watch the show in syndication.” But, would that be true? If the mother is revealed to be dead, would it ruin the show for me? Ultimately, with all of the little inside jokes and events that happened to get to the mother, maybe someone can argue that, “No, it doesn’t matter if she’s dead or not, because the show is ultimately about friendship and the bond that forms between friends and lovers.”
When I think about it, we’ve had 9 seasons to “form” a “connection” with Marshall, Lily, Barney, Robin, and Ted. We get a little over a season with the mother. To me, HIMYM is more about the road to happiness and not the result. And that’s what this show is. About loss and getting back up on your feet. It’s been preparing us for the finale from the beginning. Just off the top of my head: Marshall and Lily’s engagement in the pilot, their brief break up, Marshall’s father’s death — both bleak and sad; Ted breaking up with Victoria, losing Robin, getting left at the altar; Barney getting hit by a bus, losing Nora, losing Quinn, getting together with Robin, accepting his father; Barney and Ted breaking their friendship, but becoming friends again; Lily coming to peace with her father, pursuing her dreams; Lily and Ted having a falling out, but gets back together again; Robin’s father issues, becoming a Canadian pop sensation, avoiding Ted, but becoming friends again, they all in one way or another reflect both happiness and sadness, and the frailty of our lives, but also the ability to repair what was lost.
In the end, it’s tragedy that brings people together, and as perverse as that sounds, it’s true. And although I’ve rewatched past series over and over again, I have no problem if the mother is dead. It might just be that Carter Bays and Craig Thomas have been telling us — for 9 seasons — that it’s the journey that really shapes you, and so, when the outcome happens, whatever it is, you’ll be prepared for it. But will the finale be sad, the mother dead or not? Oh hell yes.