Tonight, I had to say goodbye to some of my favorite characters on television, and while it wasn’t (much) of a tear-jerker, and it didn’t go exactly as you might have expected, I think How I Met Your Mother found the right mix of sweet honesty and nostalgia to finish with a heartfelt and charming kind of realism.
Let’s face it: endings are very, very hard. In the history of TV–especially the last two decades–there have only been a handful of really great sitcom finales. To this day, Cheers is still a classic, and Friends didn’t do too badly either (personally, I also consider Lost a high water mark for drama, but I know everyone will not agree with me there), but beyond a few others, the list is incredibly short, and that’s for good reason.
After spending years doing a series, how do you sum it all up in 30 minutes, or an hour? How do you bring that momentum to an end? Or, more to the point, how do you finish on the right emotion as the credits start to roll? Even feature films have a tough time with this question.
So, I give credit where it’s due to the cast, the writers, the producers, and the directors of How I Met Your Mother for making it nine seasons and carrying us all along for the story. The series is not likely to make it onto the list of the best finales of all time, but for their faithful and honest approach to the characters, and for bringing real life into the story on some level, I think it worked.
(For those of you wondering how the show did end, I’m not going to spoil it here, just to be safe, but it finished off a lot of story threads over the years. Like many of these sitcoms though, it probably could have used more time to close things out. A four-part ending might have served this particular story better, without rushing things, but that’s not something that happens for sitcoms.)
To accept the ending, at least emotionally, I think you have to face the fact that How I Met Your Mother broke some hearts over the years, and the show did it while trying to bring reality to the lives of the characters. For everything it did, I think it worked in heartache more than most sitcoms–coming closer to being a dramedy than most other shows on TV too.
Lily left Marshall to follow her dream. Marshall’s father died. Ted had his heart broken time and again. Robin and Barney came together and fell apart before they came together again. Even Tracy, the mother, lost her first true love and had to turn down a marriage proposal before she met Ted. The show constantly showed us how, when one thing ended, something else sprang up in its place a little while later.
As the show did its dance with the characters, and the story, they brought the ninth season together in a perfect jumble that was eloquent in small ways, fresh, funny, and carried that sense of sweetness that I think most fans have come to identify with over the years.
Where the finale failed is that it took on way too much for even a one-hour finale. There were constant jumps in time, as we caught up with all sorts of goings-on between the friends, and sometimes it was a little hard to catch up with the timeline, emotionally at least. The episode felt like a bit of a race, and, about half-way through the finale, it became fairly obvious where things were headed, too.
The events felt true to the group though. Barney has one of the sweetest moments in the finale, and it’s also one of his best moments of the entire series. The scene between Robin and Lily in the empty apartment–where we practically lived with the characters over the years–was heartbreaking. Even the epic high five between Barney and Ted feels right, despite the fact that the goodbye itself felt like it came a little early.
As far as Ted’s ending goes, I had a pretty good idea about how it might wrap up back in 2010, which ended up being pretty close to what happened, and I think the writing was on the wall the whole time, even if the plot itself wasn’t obvious. For that reason, the finale worked for me, because it paid off on years of promises, but it also stole some things away from us as well.
Was it fair, how it worked out? Probably not entirely.
Does it make sense? Absolutely.
I’ll probably always be a little torn up about HIMYM and its ending, but however you look at it, the series had an amazing run, and it will be a while before I love a cast–or even another sitcom–like I did this one. The show may have ended with all of its faults showing, but the characters held up the entire way.
The only thing we have left to wait for now, HIMYM fans, is the eventual DVD and Blu-ray release of the final season. As it turns out, apparently there may be a little more story to tell when that comes up, but according to EW, we won’t know exactly what that is until the Blu-ray comes out.
So, what did you think of the finale? Share your thoughts below–I’d love to see what more people thought about it.