There’s an unwritten rule surrounding my work, and that’s to never write a reactionary article about a syndicated TV show. With that in mind, here’s a reactionary article to other reactionary articles about a syndicated TV show.
My distaste for “fans” who cry havoc about what they feel they deserve or the right direction for a show for which they have no creative input is well documented, so I’m going to skip through it here. The only people who have the right to decide what goes into art is the artists themselves. This isn’t an election, it isn’t a Chose Your Own Adventure, and it isn’t America’s Got Talent.
What I really want to do is answer some of the complaints that have sprung up around the finale episode of How I Met Your Mother.
Spoilers abound obviously, so turn back if you haven’t seen it and don’t want to know.
Beyond the main plot points, a chief complaint has been how the show spent an entire season setting up Barney and Robin’s wedding, just to have them divorce show-years/TV-minutes later. Many lament that Barney returns to his slaggy bro-bro lifestyle almost instantly, denying his character any development until an accidental baby grounds him.
Given that Robin and Barney handily never feature as a couple in any flash-forward to the show’s future, this shouldn’t really come as much of a big surprise, but the deeper truth is that this is exactly in keeping with Barney’s development. Barney thinks that marriage with Robin is the one thing for which he’ll finally change his ways, settle down and become a better person. He’s wrong, of course. Despite his best intentions, Barney is and always will be an inescapable misogynist.
You can’t treat women the way he does for so long without building ingrained attitudes towards relationships, or holding limited ideas on their value, or their ability to truly affect who you are. When it doesn’t work for Barney and Robin, it isn’t time to focus down and make it work, it’s time to quit. Add to that the fact that they have never actually worked before, and suddenly divorce is likely within weeks, never mind years. “The Robin” play was never about Barney playing Robin to convince her to marry him, it was about Barney playing himself in an attempt to make himself settle down.
But along comes baby. Many complain that this burden of responsibility that weighs Barney down appears out of nowhere and is irrespective of any development he’s been through, but that’s not right at all. A baby is the responsibility and love that Barney has been waiting for. He thought it was marriage, but it was parenthood. One need only look at his adoration of every parent character for evidence, and check out the way he instantly changes his opinion on his brother settling down when he hears that a baby is involved.
Crashing on to the meat of the episode, some viewers were surprised and upset to see that The Mother died, like it was tacked on as an afterthought just so that Ted could end up with Robin (more on that in a second). Nonsense. The inevitable death of The Mother (I’m not calling her Tracy, in the UK Tracys are invariably dull people who work in administration) has been telegraphed for a long time.
There’s the utter absence of The Mother in any future episodes or flash forwards, vintage future Ted’s stoned and teary-eyed “Where is my wife?” that everyone chooses to leave unanswered, Ted’s apology that The Mother won’t see her daughter’s wedding, and the season eight speech that pretty much signposts Ted’s desire for more days with his now-widow.
Anyone surprised by The Mother’s decline in health hasn’t been paying attention.
I have to agree with some criticism however. The scene itself was handled poorly, an unemotional footnote buried under quick dialogue to make way for the show’s final ending. Better story management would have kept a more emotional thread throughout, and let the audience decide which scene moved them the most. The death of The Mother’s boyfriend from “How Your Mother Met Me” is given more emotional weight that the death of The Mother herself, and the audience are right to be pissed off that they know and see so little of her after a decade of having her be made into such a big deal.
Still, like Vincent Vega in Pulp Fiction, if she’s alive the last time we see her, then she’s still alive to us.
If you think the end of the show is “Ted ends up with Robin” then you’ve missed the point entirely. Ted doesn’t end up with Robin, Ted turns up at Robin’s apartment with the horn (teeheehee) ready to romance her all over again. They don’t fall into each others arms and vow eternal love, they smile warmly… then we leave them, with just as much potential for failure as Barney and Robin, Ted and Victoria, or you know… Ted and Robin.
The ending isn’t “Ted ends up with Robin” just as much as it isn’t “Ted and The Mother go out for frosty chocolate milkshakes”. The ending is “Here we go again!” or “Once more into the breach..” Real life doesn’t come with nice neat endings and happy-ever-afters. People stay constant, or people change, people come and go, and we all carry on and do our best.
The show is How I Met Your Mother, not How We All Found a Happy Ending.
Really, the story is How I Met Your Mother (Who Changed So Many Lives Around Her. Although She’s No Longer With Us, That Brief Moment That She Was With Us Touched Us All, And Even Before We Knew Her She Was Shaping Our Fates For The Better. We’re Richer For Knowing Her, And Thankful For The Time We Shared With Her.)
Still though, it would’ve been nice if one of the kids had asked Ted why he kept doing a Bob Saget impression..