Defending the “How I Met Your Mother” finale

how-i-met-your-motherSeems the How I Met Your Mother finale has upset a lot of fans. While it wasn’t a perfect episode, I thought the ending made perfect sense, and I appreciate the motivation and subtext it brings to the whole premise.

Yes, we’re entering SPOILERS territory here. One more spoiler-free paragraph as a buffer, and then it’s spoiling time.

I started watching HIMYM at the end of the second season, loved it through the fourth, went back and got the DVDs of the episodes I had missed, and I eventually lost patience with it sometime in the sixth or seventh season but returned for this last season. The show went on far too long; this was a four-season premise, maybe five. Not nine. And that’s the real problem with the finale.

In hindsight, the running question of “Who’s the mother?” didn’t really work as a mystery. She would have had to be someone the audience had met early on — maybe a coworker of Robin’s or Marshall’s or part of another group of friends Lily had that seldom crossed paths with Ted.

The “clues” — the yellow umbrella, the roommate, etc. — didn’t really feel like clues because we didn’t have suspects for them to point to. They did, however, enhance the moment of the meeting and helped sell the idea that these two characters felt fated to be together.

After all these years, the mother had a lot of expectations to live up to, and the character came across as almost saintly, which makes sense. If a man is talking to his children about their dead mother, he better speak only wonderful things about her.

Two essential tools for writers are motivation and subtext. If the ending was, “And that’s how I met your mother, and we lived happily ever after,” then why did Future Ted decide now was the time to give his kids such a long, meandering talk about the nine years leading up to meeting their mother? And would there have been any significant subtext to the voice-over narration we’d been listening to for all this time?

There could have been other motivations and subtext, but given where Ted started his story — “And that’s how I met your Aunt Robin.” — the idea of him working up the courage to ask his children for their blessing to date an old friend works — and it almost sort of justifies how long it took him to get to the point (well, nothing could justify the length, but it comes as close as probably anything). This ending adds some depth to what’s gone on before.

I understand the frustration with spending a full season on Robin and Barney’s wedding, only to undo it in the finale, and that’s probably a symptom of the show having gone on too long. Had this finale occurred at the end of season four or so, we would’ve seen less character regression here (really, it’s statistically shocking it took Barney that long to get a woman pregnant).

So, yes, it’s not a perfect finale, but it would have been a rather on-the-nose one if the story had turned out to be nothing more than “I’m telling you how I met your mother because I think it’s important.”