SPOILERS. SPOILERY SPOILERS!
“Angry” is not a word I’d usually use to describe my emotions after an episode of a sitcom.
But after Monday’s final episode of How I Met Your Mother, I am, two days later, still using it.
The best way I can describe it is this: for nine years, they gathered these beautiful tiles, slowly and sometimes painstakingly constructing a mosaic. It wasn’t always perfect. Sometimes it was sad. Sometimes things got painful. Sometimes they got frustrating. Sometimes they were joyful and hilarious and wonderfully wicked. Sometimes we’d see pieces of the larger image appear, fleeting and tantalizing.
And then, when all the tiles were placed and the keystone was all that remained to bring it all together, they jammed it into its spot, and before you had time to thrill at the beauty of its completion, chucked it off the top floor of Goliath National Bank where it then smashed into a million jagged pieces.
Which they then doused in gasoline and set upon it with a flamethrower.
It was that bad. So bad that I think this is the first ever finale to retroactively ruin an entire series for me.
Bravo, HIMYM — you fucking broke it.
Before I detail everything that went wrong, here’s the good. I can count on one hand what I liked.
Thumb: Cristin Milioti. Just in general. She was everything. She just was.
Index finger: Neil Patrick Harris’s acting at the exact moment Barney saw his daughter.
Middle finger: Alyson Hannigan’s crying. She’s still perfect, as per usual.
Ring finger: Tracy getting a name. At the very, very, insulting least, they did her that service.
Pinky: The exact moment Tracy and Ted meet.
That’s really it. Notice this is all the actors being awesome at their art. Had they been given something better to work with, this finale could have been something truly spectacular.
But it wasn’t.
Which brings me to the first item on the shit list.
1. So. Much. Wasted. Potential.
Any time they came to a point with any real possibility of emotional impact, they looked at it and went, “Nah.”
I heard that the finale was 12 minutes too long, so they had to cut a bunch of stuff. Well. The whole season could have been trimmed by half, and they would have had plenty of time to end it well. And better.
Even with the choices they made, they failed. If they absolutely had to make the choices they did, they could have done it well. Made it believable. Sold it. Want to give Barney an accidental child? Show that he’d matured before he ever laid eyes on her. Show that changing him the moment he hears about it. Show that even if he tried to go back to his old lifestyle that it doesn’t fit now. Show us the nine years of his development actually meant something. And don’t call his baby mama “Number 31.”
Want to have Ted and Robin as the endgame? Show us the pair together after Tracy’s death. Show Robin helping Ted cope, even just by her presence. Show us the reality of messy grief. Laughter at odd moments and tears when you think you have none left. Show us that Ted actually gave some inkling of a shit for this wonderful woman Tracy McConnell who was a mother to his children.
Show us that her death affected his family, because holy shit, it should have. Show us Robin changing. As it is, Ted and Robin diverged years ago, and their paths were so far apart that a stupid blue French horn couldn’t come close to bridging that gap.
Some people have been arguing that the finale was realistic and that people wanted a fairy tale. That’s not the problem. And honestly, there’s nothing that realistic about two people who have grown apart as much as Ted and Robin, who live completely different lives, suddenly deciding that differences don’t matter and wheeeeee, relationship time! Yeah, people do die. Yeah, sometimes people go back to old flames. Sure. But there’s a way to do that artfully, with affection and emotion and humor, and there’s the way they did it…which was anything but.
Do something — anything, for the love of pineapples — with Lily and Marshall.
Even with keeping the big choices they’d apparently carved into diamond in season two, they missed just about every opportunity to give us a believable finale and a fitting farewell to characters we loved.
And knowing they could have, at any time in the past few years, adjusted course and chose not to — that may be the biggest sin committed by this finale: the inability to let go of something that no longer worked. Like Ted, standing on the beach with that balloon. Forever.
2. They effectively trolled their audience.
Oh, Cristin Milioti as Tracy. She was so wonderful. Witty and smart, funny and wise. Pretty much perfect, dammit.
They took this lovely character, Tracy McConnell, and turned her into barely more than an incubator for Ted’s kids and, as a commenter mentioned on one of the myriad reviews I’ve read of this finale, reduced Tracy to the level of one of Marshall’s masturbatory fantasies wherein he’d have to kill off Lily before thinking of anyone else.
What they did to Tracy was a crime. She was given no goodbye, no ceremony, no pathos. Nothing. She was stripped down to nothing but a cruel plot device. It’s actually heartbreaking to me. Cristin Milioti did such a spectacular job. Her character should have been given the respect of being treated like the complex human being they’d made us love instead of the bait in a nine year long bait and switch.
Used and discarded. It actually makes me feel a little sick.
3. Who the hell is this Robin?
The Robin Scherbatsky I’ve known for almost a decade doesn’t want kids. She has a successful life and dreams and motivations of her very own. How is it remotely likely for her to pine away for Ted for what basically amounts to almost 25 years? How are we supposed to believe that Ted’s kids will not be any kind of obstacle, even as teens? How are we supposed to buy that after 15+ years of travel and her dream job taking her around the world — including the six after Tracy’s death — that Robin would just be…waiting? That she never found anyone in all that time, in all her adventures, to revel in her just as she was? If we’re talking realism, she probably would have found someone in another country and had a successful relationship in which both parties had their independence. Couples like that exist.
So instead, they erased her personality and the last several years of telling us how wrong Ted and Robin are for each other, killed off a woman who is right for Ted, and ruined the marriage they literally spent 22 episodes this season leading up to. Yeah, there was a way to do this. This finale was not it.
There isn’t enough NOPE in the world.
22 200 episodes undone in 20 minutes.
I can think of about ten different things they could have done that would have made the finale less utterly maddening.
They could have:
But they didn’t.
Instead they put Marshall in a car for half the season and drew out Barney and Robin’s wedding for 22 episodes, only to destroy it 20 minutes later.
Instead they took that awesome, legendary mosaic to the top floor of GNB, spit on it, and smashed it into ten thousand pieces.
And because of that, all I can do is point at the rubble and say, “You broke it.”
You broke it.
Nine seasons of loyalty.
Your audience’s trust.
The last season of carefully built love for Tracy.
You broke it.
Good luck with that spinoff.
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