Very few serialized shows have their end game mapped out before the first episode airs. Oh sure, we were told the Cylons had a plan in Battlestar Galactica and it was only when Lost was given a finish line that the show was able to stop treading water and really begin moving toward answers*. In my memory I can think of only two shows that probably had the finish line in sight before the first episode was aired — one was Babylon Five, where the final hour of the show was written before the series took off and then there’s How I Met Your Mother — a series that had its final moments dictated by the name of the show.
Of the two, one of them was successful in sticking the landing and giving us a finale that offered closure and wasn’t a complete mess. And it wasn’t the series that concluded its nine year run last night.
*It’s debatable whether we got them or not. But that’s another post for another time.
How I Met Your Mother always had an end game in mind. The show was the journey of Ted Mosbey to meet the mother of his children. In the pilot, many of us assumed that it would be Robin. But instead, the producers pulled the rug out from under us and told us that Robin wasn’t the mother, but was instead “Aunt Robin.” At the time, I recall a friend saying that meant he never needed to watch the show again because the twist “was stupid” and it was a “waste of time” since Robin wasn’t the mother.
Looking back on nine years of faithfully watching the show, I can’t help but feel that initial assumption was correct and that I’d just wasted a lot of time (close to 100 hours), waiting for Bays and Thomas to bring us back to where it all started — Ted and Robin and the silly blue French Horn. I’m guessing that the creative team got too locked into the notion of having Ted and Robin end up together (since the scenes with kids had to be filmed close to when the show began) and couldn’t find a way to get around it. Just as the show was talking about destiny and pushing Ted toward the mother, I couldn’t help but think that destiny might somehow be used to somehow justify getting Ted and Robin together in the end.
And wondering just how silly that would be. Or how it might leave a bad taste in my mouth after watching all these years.
Of course, the finale itself was a bit of a hit or miss affair. In many ways, it showed us why and how the show could have worked had they not done the lame trick of having the entire final season take place in the hours leading up to Barney and Robin’s wedding. The few glimpses the show offered us of the mother interacting with Ted and the rest of the gang could easily have carried much of the season and looking back, maybe it should have. Did we really need to have the episode were Ted discovers bacon? Or could we have, instead, been treated to a bit more time with some of the “big moments” the finale showed us?
The only moment that really worked in the finale was Barney meeting his daughter and finally making the promise to her that he could never make to any other woman. And I think a lot of that can be chalked up to Neil Patrick Harris and not necessarily the writing.
The fact that Carter and Bays killed off the mother — after Ted had worked so hard to find her — seemed like a cruel joke and a bad punch line. It was not, in any way, legen — wait for it — dary.
And don’t even get me started on how we spent twenty or so episodes building up to a wedding that was undone within ten minutes of screen time.
It felt like the show was mocking me for being so loyal all this time. For tuning in faithfully, even when things weren’t quite as good as they used to be. It made me wonder if had not been for the hook of meeting the mom and seeing where that all goes, would I have kept going.
The ending also makes me wonder if and how this will impact repeats of the show. Serialized shows can be a difficult sell in syndicated repeats and I can imagine that the bad taste that many have as this show ends might discourage some from taking the plunge and trying the show. After all, why invest time into a show that gives you an unsatisfied feeling because of a lame ending?