Long-running sitcom “How I Met Your Mother” aired its series finale last night and the results were…mixed. NPR’s Linda Holmes called it “breathtakingly bad,” while Vulture accused it of “bailing on the entire show.” Slate had kinder words for it, saying the show had given viewers what they wanted all along. And what was that? Don’t read ahead if you haven’t watched yet, but Ted ended up with Robin.
Yes, the whole “mother” plotline was essentially a red herring. As was the relationship between Barney and Robin, which the show worked very hard to convince viewers was a real and meaningful relationship, only to reveal early on in the finale that Barney and Robin got divorced three years into their marriage. It was one of several bittersweet notes in the finale. An ever-expanding series of flash forwards revealed the gang slowly splintering over the years, due to a variety of factors including Robin’s career taking her around the world, her split with Barney, and Marshall and Lily and Ted and the mother becoming parents. Oh, and Barney. Yes, even the Barnacle ended up a parent, after slipping back into his old womanizing ways after his split from Robin. Upon the completion of a “perfect month”, wherein he hooked up with a different woman every day, he discovered that the final woman was pregnant. The show, oddly, never named or showed the woman on camera. She was just the 31st.
It was one of several moments that rang a bit false for the women of the show. For one, Robin’s life, previously kind of awesome, was revealed to be…not so great? She had a globe-trotting career involving living in destinations across the globe, but the finale never showed her enjoying it much. Instead, viewers saw her pining over Ted, explaining to Lily that she didn’t really want to hang out with a group composed of her married friends and their kids, her ex husband, and the guy she probably should have ended up with. Barney was also the third guy who ditched Robin over issues with her career and decisions about having children. Unfortunately, Robin couldn’t win either way. Earlier in the show’s run, she passed up a promotion to focus on her relationship with a guy, who then turned around and accepted the job opportunity instead.
Lily, the show’s other female lead, didn’t fare much better. Though much of this last season focused on her desire to follow a career opportunity to Italy, the finale didn’t suggest she even had a career. Instead, the focus was on Marshall’s return to corporate law before his eventual triumph as a judge. Also, she had to have a serious conversation with Robin while dressed in a ridiculous spandex whale costume, which rather took away from the solemnity of the moment. And the mother, after all that build up? She shuffled off this mortal coil at the end of the episode, clearing the way for Ted to head back to Robin. At least she got a name, Tracy McConnell, which was revealed in her very sweet, very cute first conversation with Ted, held under the infamous Yellow Umbrella.
Should Ted, after all those seasons, have ended up with the mother? On the one hand, revealing the show to be an elaborate ruse about Ted’s love life was a bit harsh. On the other hand, the show spent most of its run pushing Robin and Ted together and apart. If the show had to turned out, ultimately, to be about the mother, the rest of the run was awfully fixated on another woman.
For another look at that big final reveal, check out Melinda Taub’s take on why it had to happen.