While the television show “How I Met Your Mother” ran for just over nine years and is considered one of the most entertaining sitcoms of our generation, there was quite a bit of backlash over the show’s abrupt and disoriented ending. The show is told primarily through flashbacks; the protagonist Ted Mosby tells his kids the story of how he met their mother through a series of entertaining stories involving his four closest friends living in New York City in their 20s. The show was able to fill the gap that NBC’s “Friends” left in the wake of its cancelation; it’s easy to notice the influence that “Friends” had on HIMYM. It seemingly had everything going for it, so why was its denouement such a letdown?
The creators of the show, Carter Bays and Craig Thomas, discussed the show’s lineage in an interview back in 2016 during a keynote discussion, stating that even though their intentions were not to copy “Friends,” “it felt like we had a lot to say about being people in our 20’s, and love”. Eventually, they ran out of things to say, and according to them, the show’s ending was a long time coming. Many of the show’s episodes began with Ted’s children on the couch listening to their dad tell a story, but since the kid’s got older over the years many of those scenes were silent shots filmed at the beginning of the show. For the same reason, the creators chose to film the final scene with the kids at the start of production, which ultimately did not account for the characters’ progression throughout the show’s nine-year run.
The vision was that Ted’s ex-girlfriend and longtime close “friend” Robin would be a perfect fit for Ted after the death of his wife, Tracy. However, Ted and Tracy don’t meet until the final two episodes of the last season, after which Tracy is killed off and Ted ends up with Robin. This left fans deeply disappointed; after all, the entire show led up to Ted and Tracy finally meeting, only for her character to be killed off an episode later. Maybe the show should’ve been called “How I Got Back With My Ex.”
When you watch a show for the better part of a decade, you get to know the characters like the back of your hand, and seeing them grow as people can inspire personal growth. When you watch Barney transform from a ladies’ man to a committed boyfriend (and eventual husband) or watch Marshall and Lily build a family after years of being together, you feel that they should be entitled to a happy ending. However, despite the momentum of the previous eight seasons, not everyone got the ending they deserved, especially Barney.
Barney was the ladies’ man of the show, every episode featured him using a different line or strategy to pick up a new girl at the bar. However, in season 5 Barney and Robin (yes, the same Robin from earlier) get into a relationship. It ultimately doesn’t work out, and they go back to being friends. Nevertheless, there are little glimpses of hope for the duo over the next few seasons, and at the end of season 7 Barney proposes to Robin (she says yes). Season 8 depicts the couple planning their wedding as they wonder if they are truly meant to be together, and features a number of not-so-subtle hints that Ted and Robin are a better fit. The final season is dedicated to Barney and Robin’s wedding weekend and closes out the show. The entire season revolves around their wedding, so it’s a colossal shame that the final episodes show them getting a divorce just three years later. To quote an article from Paste Magazine, “it’s a slap in the face to every fan who invested in this pairing and sat through every episode of the (admittedly, not great!) final season.”
However, some fans believe that the ending was not as bad as people remember, and that it overshadowed the overall brilliance of the show. Liz Miller at indiewire.com points out that over the past 40+ years, there have only been a handful of shows with beloved series finales. It’s hard to satisfy such a broad group of viewers, and the way a creator wants to end a show might not be the way the average viewer wants it to end. However, after massive backlash, Bays and Thomas decided to release the alternate ending, which gave each character the ending they deserved and showed Ted living happily ever after with Tracy, the mother.
“How I Met Your Mother” was one of the most influential shows of its time, and one of the last true sitcoms to be idolized in such a universal way. It’s a shame that it has one of the most controversial endings in TV, but that hardly takes away from the brilliance and replay value that the show holds. If you’re looking for a show to binge and have the time, it might be time to head over to Amazon Prime and start from the Pilot episode. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you about the ending!
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