“How I Met Your Mother” aired its legend-wait for it-dary series finale on Monday night. With Ted Mosby (Josh Radnor) finally telling his kids how he met their mother, it was the end of an era, one that has fans conflicted with its unexpectedly heartbreaking conclusion.
Since 2005, viewers have rooted for Ted as he searched for his soulmate. The hopeless romantic, with the support of friends Lily Aldrin (Alyson Hannigan); Marshall Eriksen (Jason Segel); Barney Stinson (Neil Patrick Harris) and Robin Scherbatsky (Cobie Smulders), navigated New York City in his 20s and 30s for “the one.”
Thankfully, the finale was heavy on the nostalgia. Season one’s “cockamouse,”the half-mouse half-roach hybrid in Lily and Marshall’s apartment, made a return. Flashbacks, including one from the memorable “Slutty Pumpkin” episode in which Robin commiserates with Ted over relationships, should have been the first clue to fans who were blindsided by the revelations made in the last minutes of the show.
The final episode begins in MacLaren’s, the bar that is essentially the gang’s second home, in September 2005, which is when the show premiered. Then-newcomer Robin is welcomed to the group and Lily sets the condition to Ted and Barney that they can only sleep with the new addition if they marry her. Cut to Barney and Robin’s wedding in present day, likely the longest wedding in television history with it monopolizing the entire final season.
As the layers of Ted’s first meeting with his future wife were peeled through the past nine seasons, viewers knew the long-awaited moment would take place at the wedding. Finally, after more than 200 episodes, Ted sees the future mother of his children for the first time. Realizing she’s perfect for Ted, Barney tries to coerce him into talking to her and for the last time ever, we hear his famous pickup line of “Haaave you met Ted?”
Ted refuses as he’s planning on moving to Chicago the next day. After tearful goodbyes, he goes to the train station where a delayed train provides him with the opportunity to meet the mother. The infamous yellow umbrella connects the two as they realize how their paths have been intertwined. In typical Ted Mosby fashion, he is immediately smitten. Atypically, so is she.
As the years go on, Robin becomes a famous traveling reporter, causing resentment from Barney as his absentee wife pursues her career forcefully. A scene previously shown as a vacation for Barney and Robin sadly proves to be the end of their three-year marriage.
After divorcing Barney, Robin becomes estranged from the rest of the group leading a pregnant Lily to ask, “Our whole friendship is just over?” in an honest moment, showing the growing apart that all too often ends friendships.
In a surprising twist, Barney, the eternal womanizer, meets the only girl capable of changing him — his daughter, Ellie. “You are the love of my life. Everything I have and everything I am is yours, forever,” he says while holding the newborn. Barney’s vulnerability and shift into fatherhood was perfect.
Ted and the still-no-name mother do not get married right away. Instead, they are together for seven years and have two kids before they wed. Robin rejoins the group at the event in an emotional reunion.
The mother, who was introduced in the last seconds of season eight’s finale, remained one dimensional. She was nameless until the last few minutes before the show ended for good. Finally, her name is revealed to be Tracy McConnell (Cristin Milioti). And then, the eponymous at the center of this decade-long search, dies.
Yes, the mother has been dead all along as Ted tells this story to his children. After nearly a decade of waiting for Ted to meet the mother of his children, viewers learn she dies of an undisclosed illness in 2024, six years before the storytelling takes place. Fans didn’t have enough time to recover from that jarring discovery before Ted finally said the words they had been waiting to hear for almost 10 years: “And that, kids, is how I met your mother.”
Astutely, his daughter Penny points out that the whole story had little to do with how he met their mother. “You made us sit down and tell us this story about how you met Mom, yet Mom is hardly in the story. No, this is a story about how you’re totally in love with Aunt Robin,” she says.
Ted admits he wants to be with Robin. With his children’s blessing, he is free to try to win her back. In yet another nostalgia-inducing moment, Ted brings the blue french horn that he stole for her during their first date and raises it above is head outside her window in one of his grand gestures which Robin accepts.
The “Say Anything”-esque final scene would have been better received had viewers not spent nine years waiting for Ted to meet the mother just to have her die. Or watched an entire season dedicated to Barney and Robin’s wedding only to have them divorce three years later. It wasn’t a perfect ending, but it was never meant to be one. The show was always unapologetic about the messy factors of life. Still, despite the shocking ending, “How I Met Your Mother” left behind lessons for 20-somethings that no other television show has been able to do with the same finesse. And for that, Ted, Robin, Lily, Marshall and Barney will be missed.
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