Episode 436: Defending How I Met Your Mother’s Controversial Ending


Can an ending of a movie, television show or any long-running show ruin the entire thing? For a lot of people, including myself, that answer would be a resounding yes. I sometimes feel it would be better if the show got cancelled before getting a proper conclusion. At least when that happens, I can rant about how the network can be so irresponsible regarding cancelling such a great show before everything gets resolved. We’ve seen cases like Game of Thrones, Seinfeld, Lost, The Leftovers and The Sopranos where the writers purposefully wrote a climax to the entire thing but botched the ending so royally, people ended up hating the show they just loved for most of its runtime.

You may be asking why I didn’t include How I Met Your Mother in the previously mentioned cavalcade of TV programs that had terrible endings. That’s on purpose because, in all honesty, I didn’t think the finale ruined How I Met Your Mother. I was there from the very first episode when Ted Mosby threw the amazing curve ball, stating how he met his kids’ Aunt Robin, until the very end when Ted would once again surprise everyone with the fate of the mother.

I still love the show and, once in a while, I do like to rewatch episodes of How I Met Your Mother once in while. Recently, I did see the polarizing finale just to check if my opinion on it has changed or not. I wouldn’t say I loved it but I truly didn’t hate it as much as my friends would want me to. I felt it was an okay way to end the series. Perhaps it wasn’t the best way the series but it did have a nice way of wrapping everything up.

So, as I will be talking a whole lot about the show and, more importantly, how How I Met Your Mother ended, I’ll be putting up the obligatory SPOILER WARNING now. It seems weird since most on the Internet today is still very familiar with how the show ended because of how many people were upset by it and, because it is the Internet, they just had to express how upset they were! Then again, maybe this is being read by someone who’s been living under a rock or from way in the future so they’re unfamiliar with what a ruckus this caused. So… yeah. SPOILER WARNING.

Anyway, the general idea of How I Met Your Mother is its a sitcom about nothing. Yep, they basically copied Seinfeld and Friends. It’s basically about five friends: Ted Mosby, Marshall Eriksen, Lily Aldrin, Robin Scherbatsky and Barney Stinson. It’s all told under the backdrop of an elder Ted Mosby retelling the story of, well, how he met their mother. It’s all a sham anyway as it’s just an excuse for the characters to go on crazy adventures about life. The overarching story of Ted looking for the mother is there but it is shoved into the background for almost a decade until we get to the final season.

The final season focused on Barney Stinson and Robin Scherbatsky’s upcoming marriage to each other. The titular mother, Tracy, was originally part of the last minute replacement of the band who were to perform during the wedding. She was fired from the band but decides to travel to the wedding to confront the band leader. This leads to her getting a story arc for herself as a way for fans who have been watching the show to get to know her… which wasn’t needed because everyone already kind of knew her. Throughout How I Met Your Mother’s run, they did drop hints regarding how nice and angelic Tracy is. This might have contributed to the backlash but I’m getting ahead of myself.

At the final episode of the series, the story finally come full circle and Future Ted finally reveals how he met their mother as well as what other future events happened, such as how Barney and Robin divorced, how Barney got a kid with another woman, Ted and Tracy’s wedding and, to the shock of viewers all around the world, the eventual demise of the mythical mother from some unspecified illness. The kids, who have been listening patiently, realize their father is still in love with Robin and he was subconsciously asking them if it was okay to go date another woman. They’re happy with the idea as the mother has been dead for several years by then and they suggest he ask her out. He does so by showing her the same blue horn they stole during their first date.

A lot of people hated this ending! Why? It’s because the writers did such a good job of making the mother this mythical and angelic figure! It certainly didn’t help that they cast Cristin Milioti, who just managed to imbue this feeling to charm and, well, perfection into Tracy! They may have just cast her during the final season but Cristin Milioti hit it out of the park. People were already in love with the idea of how the mother was and she basically proved she was! So killing her off in such an off-handed way was an incredibly bitter pill to swallow.

Not only that, fans also liked the pairing of Robin and Barney together. They definitely had the best chemistry together so it did make sense they would end up together. However, like with how we were told about the mother’s death, hearing about their divorce in such a manner felt like a disservice to all of the character growth the two had to do to get to that point. We did get a quick blurb regarding how Barney stopped his womanizing ways after he got a daughter. Robin didn’t really get that luxury.

The outcry from the How I Met Your Mother fandom was deafening… on the Internet anyway. They simply couldn’t accept how callous the perfect woman known as the mother was written out of Ted’s life in such a few sentences. They certainly didn’t want Ted to get back with Robin because she supposedly got her happy ending when she married Barney. Their wrath was so much that, in the Season 9 DVD pack, there’s an official alternate ending included where none of that happened! True story.

So, why didn’t I join the bandwagon of fans who were upset with How I Met Your Mother officially ended? Well, it’s because, like real life, which is what How I Met Your Mother supposedly depicts, not everything gets a happy ending. Yes, even with a sitcom like this, the characters do have to deal with tragedies in life. Marshall’s dad unexpectedly dying from a heart attack. Ted being left at the altar. Barney wanting to know who is real father is. Lily feeling guilty because she’s so frustrated at being a mom. Robin learning she can’t have kids of her own. The show is meant to deliver the laughs but the way we knew we cared about these fictional characters is when we felt sad as well when they experienced tragedy.

I also feel How I Met Your Mother was a victim of its own success. Fans wanted a happy ending for everyone and they were expecting a certain happy ending as outlined by the story. Ted was going to meet the mother. Robin and Barney were to be together. Marshall and Lily were going to be happy as a couple. The end, right? That’s not what the writers envisioned from the start. You can actually see this during the last episode because they filmed the kids way back when the series started when they told their dad they’re okay with Aunt Robin! Sure, they could’ve altered the ending and make everything la-dee-da happy for everyone. They could’ve scrapped their plans, the plan they developed right when the series started, and rework it to have everyone blissfully joyful. Hindsight is 20/20 because they had no way of knowing fans would be so upset! I mean, if everyone loves what you’ve been doing in forever, they’ll also love the ending you wrote way back when, right?

How I Met Your Mother’s ending is a little disappointing, I’ll grant you that. However, the sadness and shock of what happens to the mother feels poignant and important as well. You realize it’s not really a story about how a man met his wife. It’s actually a story about a father asking permission from his children if he can move on. If you look at it from that way, maybe you can see why I’m okay with how it ended.


How mad were you at how How I Met Your Mother ended? Let me know in the comments section below!


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