Tuesday, April 01, 2014

How I responded (or didn't) to the finale of 'How I Met Your Mother'

Although over the years I've spent more time on this than can possibly be justified it was impossible I wouldn't spend at least a little bit today on the finale to How I Met Your Mother that aired last night. It was a popular topic on social media, and every TV critic out there chimed in (not that I've read them all yet… but I probably will later); I don't pretend to have a different take on it, but I figured I owed the show one last post.


The creators gave the ending that had been long predicted—with the Mother actually being dead in the future when he's telling the tale, and using it actually as a justification to go be with Robin (who divorced Barney only three years after their wedding—which was the framework for the entire final season). The final scene had daughter Penny calling bullshit on Ted's story really being about the Mother, acting as audience surrogate and stating how the Mother was barely in the story so clearly it wasn't intended to merely perform the eponymous mission but to get the kids' permission to go after "Aunt Robin."

Apparently that had been the plan since season 2 (when the kids' part of the scene was filmed), and from a structural standpoint it does make sense to bookend the story with meeting Robin (in the pilot) with widower Ted going after her 25 years later. There's no disputing any of that from a narrative perspective. However, given all that had transpired in the middle—and, as I've mentioned before, the way the show clearly went on many seasons too long merely because CBS kept renewing it rather than what served the story best—that ultimately didn't feel like the ending we should have gotten; it's clearly where they had been going for some time, but I cannot claim to have felt like it's where I wanted to go.

I'm not saying I know exactly what ending I did want—check that; I don't know precisely what plot resolution I wanted, but I wanted to get at least a bit misty, like most recently with the end of The Office. That was far from a perfect show, especially after Steve Carell left (when it should have ended), but they knew to pull on the heartstrings enough when it was time to say goodbye. I'm not a terribly sentimental guy, and I don't want to be manipulated callously, but when a show goes out well it should make tears well up in my eyes.

I don't deny the chemistry between Robin and Ted, but I can say I had no warm fuzzy feeling over those two getting together eventually. I didn't hate that in the way some did, but it merely seemed perfunctory; check that boxes:

  • Robin and Barney divorce

  • The Mother gets sick and dies

  • Ted and Robin get back together

The creators had 24 episodes of this ninth season to get us somewhere emotionally and, at least for me, they didn't get close. Admittedly, I'd ceased to be much emotionally involved years ago because of the meandering the show did; it wasn't in the final season they lost me in that regard.

The only part of the finale that elicited a reaction was Barney holding his baby daughter (from a hookup he knocked up) and immediately undergoing a transformation of which he'd claimed he was incapable. That was more a testament to the acting prowess of Neil Patrick Harris than phenomenal writing. Beyond that I wasn't angry or sad because I didn't expect more than the episode delivered.

The show had started going off the rails long ago, and as I wrote a couple months ago it was clear over halfway through this final season they weren't going to get fully back on track. Despite a few actual good episodes toward the end they didn't come close to salvaging things. But given what they'd done since around 2009 there wasn't any basis to believe they could.

And I fully concede I didn't believe they would. Somewhere deep down I'm sure I hoped they might, but nothing they'd done in a long time justified expecting anything other than what we got.

The somewhat sad thing is they clearly wanted to pull a twist on us (as they'd done since the end of the pilot and the "Aunt Robin" reveal) but everything the finale gave us was completely predicted; they utterly failed to surprise. I'm not suggesting they needed to shift their plan to avoid what many had speculated was coming, but a show that debuted with a twist conceivably should sought to not telegraph its destination. But maybe this was what the creators wanted, so the ending wouldn't seem to come out of left field.

However, given that they were flexible in stretching the series out for more seasons than was originally planned it does seem they might have considered whether adherence to that predetermined closing point still served the story best.


If nothing else, perhaps the creators succeeded in inadvertently giving the TV world a new expression. "Pulling a HIMYM" may join "jumping the shark" in the TV shorthand lexicon, representing a show that sticks with an etched-in-stone ending, whether it really works or not after dragging out its story too long (watering down both its quality and it reason for being).

Or maybe no showrunner will be silly enough to do such a thing in the future.


My only disappointment about the end: They never did address why future Ted sounded like Bob Saget.

No comments:

Post a Comment

So, what do you think?