So the long drawn out How I Met Your Mother has come to an end.
And I have to say, I hated the way it ended. 1
Because quite frankly, I’m sick of Ted’s long drawn out obsession with Robin. I was relieved when Robin and Barney got engaged because I thought that at last, the question of will-Ted-ever-stop-loving-Robin had been laid to rest.
We’ve seen all too often that early-on-in-the series relationship that quickly crashes and burns, primarily dormant for years, only to be rekindled in the series’ conclusion.2 As Neil Drumming states on Salon:
“The events of the finale felt like a series of contrivances created to bring the main characters to an inevitable conclusion that probably should have been avoided … The best sitcoms escape the gravitational pull of their initial premise.”3
How I Met Your Mother, sadly, did not, staying one hundred percent true to its pilot.
And yes, I will grant that the ending in many ways makes sense. Looking back at the series and the pilot in particular, it’s clear that this show is a love story about Robin. That said, it adequately explains why it took so damn long for Ted to reveal how he met his children’s mother. Because How I Met Your Mother is not actually about the title story at all, but rather, it’s about Ted’s unending love for Robin and his timid attempt to convince his kids’ of his unending love in order to obtain their permission to pursue her.4
But it sucks that the show ended with this trope, especially because the show framed itself as one long fateful journey leading Ted to the Mother. And purporting to be about fate, so many pieces of this “puzzle” just really don’t seem to fit:
- I don’t see the point in presenting Robin and Barney’s love as the answer to one another’s previous inability to commit to another person if their relationship was ultimately going to crash and burn.
- The only purpose Robin and Barney’s rather abrupt, bizarre engagement and subsequent marriage seems to serve was for Tracy to play bass at their wedding so she could meet and marry Ted. Yet, I don’t see the point in Robin and Barney marrying for this greater purpose, if Tracy was just going to die prematurely and lead Ted right back to Robin.
- I don’t see the point of Robin wanting to leave Barney for Ted—and Ted subsequently turning her down—if Ted was just going to wind up with Robin in the end anyway.
- I don’t see the point in portraying Tracy (the Mother) as the great love of Ted’s life whom he had long been fated to meet,5 sharing all of his “dull interests and future plans,” if Robin was, in fact, his true “destiny.”
Being that fate was the apparent driving force of the show, I can only speculate that the destined aspect of Ted and Tracy’s meeting and marriage—and every other incongruous piece of the puzzle—all boiled down to their children. The reason Ted and Tracy met and married was simply so Ted could have the kids he wanted that Robin was incapable of having, and he and she could still end up together.
On the surface, Ted’s relationships often seemed to fail because he was still hung up on Robin. But viewers long assumed that all of his relationships actually failed because he hadn’t yet met the Mother, his “soul mate” who would make him forget all about Robin. But the truth is, Ted’s relationships weren’t failing because he hadn’t met the love of his life, but rather, because he hadn’t met the person that could help him temporarily ignore his undying feelings for Robin long enough to have children.6
The fact that Ted was carrying a torch for Robin all along makes me feel really shitty for Tracy. Sure, you can say Ted got over nine years of pining for Robin, and simply “redeveloped” feelings for her once Tracy died of ambiguous causes, but I don’t buy it. That’s not to say he didn’t love Tracy. I’m absolutely sure he did. But he was still half in love with Robin the whole time.
Frankly, I’m sick of this sitcom-endorsed notion that try as you might, you’ll never get over your first love.7 Because it’s just not true and often, unhealthy. For most people, I presume, their first love is absolutely the wrong person for them to end up with. And so this first-love ideal feels like some naïve notion undermining potential relationships between people eerily well-suited to one another—like Ted and the Mother.
From the beginning, I rooted for Tracy McConnell despite not knowing her name or anything about her. I eagerly waited to meet her for eight years, and when I finally did, she exceeded my expectations. She was perfect. When HIMYM cast her aside, it broke my heart.
1. It was a little disappointing to see Bob Saget morph into Josh Radnor. I half wish Radnor had morphed into narrator Bob Saget at the end, rather than Saget’s voice mysteriously dissolving as we see 2030 Ted in the flesh for the first time. It would have been welcome comedic relief and even made the whole story more plausible, as it would have emphasized we had been dealing with an unreliable narrator all along.
2. Most obviously, Ross and Rachel in Friends. Dawson’s Creek’s ultimate pairing of Pacey and Joey also comes to mind, as well as Sabrina and Harvey on Sabrina the Teenage Witch, to name a few.
3. Best case in point: Cheers. Sam and Diane never end up together. Follow up: Frasier. Conventional sitcom wisdom would have brought Frasier and Roz together, but thankfully, the writers opted for a different ending.
4. In the Pilot episode when Ted sees Robin for the first time, he says it’s like something out of an old movie when a sailor sees a girl across the room. “He turns to his buddy and says, ‘See that girl? I’m gonna marry her someday.’”
5. Signs of fate: the yellow umbrella, the countless near-meets, Tracy serendipitously meeting and hitting it off with every one of Ted’s friends prior to meeting Ted.
6. Or, alternatively, it was about meeting the person that would give him those specific kids—the kids that would be “the loves of his life,” as Barney would say. I hate the idea, though, that Tracy’s ultimate purpose was to give birth, especially because she seemed in every way perfect for Ted.
7. HIMYM is ultimately about first love—Robin and Ted, Tracy and her dead boyfriend, and Marshall and Lilly. As one tweeter so aptly summed up:
So in the end, the mother went to be with her first love and Ted went to be with his. Nice. #HIMYMFinale
— Kathryn Merritt (@Kat_Minch) April 1, 2014