Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that How I Met Your Mother ended this week. And you probably also know that while some hardcore Ted/Robin fans really enjoyed it, most people felt entirely unfulfilled after watching it. I’m one of the latter. I started watching How I Met Your Mother in 2010 because nobody would stop talking about it. I knew half of the recurring jokes before I even started watching, and yet they were still funny to me. HIMYM was a good show I often praised for its excellent continuity and perfect blend of touching and humorous moments.
My one major complaint throughout its nine-season run? Why do they keep making Ted go back to Robin?
To me, the Ted/Robin romance was a complete waste of time. We’ve known since the very first episode that Robin was not the mother. We’d spent the final two seasons building up to a Barney/Robin wedding. The writers were conditioning me to hate the relationship, because it seemed so obvious that Ted would never end up with Robin, no matter what, and the story was getting so played out and repetitive. It was starting to become so boringly redundant, because the show was How I Met Your Mother, not How I Kept Obsessing Over Your Aunt Robin Even Though She Rejected Me Like Five Times.
Regardless of the countless times I rolled my eyes about Ted falling back to Robin, everyone grew up since we’d first seen them in 2005. Marshall and Lily showed us marriage doesn’t get any easier, but its worth it when its with someone you love. Robin was still committed to her career, but was letting someone care about her. Barney was finally acting like an adult. The Barney/Robin relationship was proving that these two could make it together, and could put their selfish pasts behind them and start working towards a real, adult love. We were finally going to meet The Mother, the one this whole story had been leading up to, the true owner of the yellow umbrella and Ted’s soul mate. All of Ted’s efforts were finally going to be worth it, and he was going to get the two kids he wanted and finally spend time with someone who cared about him and who fit in with the gang. The point of the show was always, to me, about how Ted finally did meet the mother and all the roadblocks that every twenty- and thirty-something encounters. And we were finally going to see that.
Enter the finale. All of that development and growth that we’d seen over nine seasons disappeared in an instant. Barney and Robin get divorced. Robin completely stops hanging out with the gang. Barney, after begging his friends “can I please be me?,” has a child with a woman who’s name we never even learn. Marshall and Lily… what do we even get for Marshall and Lily? No mention of Italy, Marshall depressed at his new job, mentions of their third kid and a briefly celebrated moment where Marshall finally gets to become a Judge. The writers may have been shooting for “real life,” which I respect. Lily’s promise that “We’ll always be there for the big moments” felt genuine and you can’t expect or want the group to spend the rest of their lives sitting in MacLarens Pub. But, it felt out of character; I started to really hate Robin throughout the course of the episode, and after the Barney/Robin divorce, an entire season focused around their wedding day felt like an enormous waste. The only saving grace was Ted’s moments with The Mother. She fit in perfectly with the gang, even dropping in on Robots vs. Wrestlers (a nice touch), and being the absolute perfect match to all of Ted’s quirks. I was unhappy with the way every other character was being treated (even Ted- there’s no way he would skip out on a huge, creative proposal and wedding), but The Mother and Ted were perfect for each other. This was the ending I wanted.
And we almost got it. A sweet exchange about how The Mother had Ted’s yellow umbrella, and we even found out her name- Tracy McConnell. And that’s where it should have ended. Call me naive, but after nine years of waiting for Ted to meet this mysterious Mother, I’d be fine with that ending. After all that struggle there was someone out there who cared about Ted and we as viewers could see and respect that.
But no. In a matter of seconds, Ted casually tells of Tracy’s death. No funeral, no tears, just Ted left alone with two kids under the age of nine. With some footage shot back 2005, the kids prepare us for the ending that nobody will forget: “You’re thinking of asking Aunt Robin out.” What? This is neither the story I wanted nor the story I was prepared for. The Mother didn’t get what she deserved, we didn’t get we deserved- Ted certainly didn’t get what he deserved. We see Robin (since when is she settled down in NYC?) coming up in her apartment with her dogs that Ted made her get rid of 25 years earlier. We see Ted, gray hair, two kids sitting at home, outside her window with the classic blue french horn. And as a fan who cried over the line, “I would have stolen you a whole orchestra” after Ted and Robin’s breakup in Season 2, this was just too much. Suddenly, The Mother felt like nothing but a plot device. After all this time, Ted could be with Robin, who he’s been infatuated with since he was 27, AND still have the two kids he always wanted, even though Robin couldn’t have children.
I don’t know what makes anyone think Ted and Robin can make it work this one last time. I don’t know why Marshall and Lily were static throughout the entire episode. I don’t know why Barney and Robin lost any and all development and were reduced to their Season 1 identities. And I don’t know why Ted couldn’t get the one, final happy ending he deserved. It was a great run, HIMYM, but I think I’ll stick with Ted meeting The Mother under their shared umbrella. That’s the ending I wanted.