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Media Review

How I Met Your Mother, Redux

HIMYM is over now. Last time I wrote about it, I was upset that Marshall’s career was steamrolling Lily’s yet again; since that time, of course, Marshall has been somewhat redeemed. He didn’t come to the conclusion that he should give Lily her turn logically; he just emotionally decided that he wanted to pay her back somehow for bearing his children. Not the greatest resolution (why does she have to be pregnant to deserve a full life?) but I guess I’ll take it.

The thing everyone’s talking about now, though, is the ending–and for the most part, what people have to say is how much they hated it. I have a slightly different perspective.

Spoilers follow.

About halfway through the final episode, I said, “I get the feeling they’re going to kill off the Mother and have Ted get with Robin. If that happens, I’m going to be pissed.” Oddly, though, as it actually unfolded, I did not find myself angry at all.

I never thought Barney and Robin were a good match. I have always believed they enabled each other’s immaturity, and to me it was perfectly natural that they would divorce after three years. If you think about it, the entire final season being about their wedding sort of underscores the characters’ own attempts to justify the relationship, to make it seem somehow meant to be. Cleverly, the writers slipped in just enough Robin and Ted stuff to cast doubt.

I’ve watched HIMYM all the way through at least three times, and each time I thought to myself, “They are going to have to find someone outstanding to play the Mother, because Ted and Robin’s chemistry is amazing.” They had something that I didn’t see with Ted’s other girlfriends, except on occasion Victoria and Stella. (If he’d married Zoey, it would have been another “divorced after three years” situation.) I never actually expected Ted to end up with Robin, but I wondered how on earth the show could top their relationship.

And I kept wondering about that when the Mother, Tracy, was finally introduced. In the beginning, her brief scenes with Ted did not have what I wanted to see. I felt like she had better chemistry with the other characters than she did with Ted. I think this may have been done on purpose, not to make us dislike her as his love interest but to start subtly chipping away at the notion of “the One” (that there is only one person for everyone). Toward the end, of course, that chemistry was there, and I loved Tracy and was glad to think that she and Ted would live happily ever after. But we got a little foreshadowing in the episode with Robin’s mom, just enough to prepare us for the possibility that things might not go perfectly after all.

When we finally got to the part where the kids reveal that their mother has been dead for years, I was surprised to find that not only was I prepared, but it made perfect sense. Of course Ted loved Robin–as his kids point out, the whole story has basically been about her. Unlike his stories of the Mother, in which Ted omits or glosses over any conflicts, Ted’s been completely honest about Robin, leaving out no detail that might make her look bad. Subconsciously, he’s trying to talk himself out of loving her. His kids see right through that and call him on it.

(I do wish that scene had been done a bit differently. The cuts were pretty awkward. I wouldn’t have shown Josh Radnor; I would have used Bob Saget’s voice.)

We know from the story that relationships aren’t easy, that there’s no perfect person. We don’t know that Ted and Robin will live happily ever after. But we do know they have a fighting chance, and plenty of history to build on.

Life is messy, and things don’t always go as we plan. I appreciate that HIMYM was willing to show the best and worst sides of its characters. Honestly, the reason I could get so passionate about the story was because on some level I felt like the characters were my friends, and it’s always painful to see friends hurting or making bad decisions.

I’ve seen Tracy described as a convenient, disposable wife, there just to make Robin finally realize she loves Ted and then getting out of the way so they could be together, but I don’t see it that way. Bad things happen. I think Ted and Tracy had a good relationship, but the story of HIMYM wasn’t actually about that relationship. I think ultimately that’s why I’m not mad. If Ted had talked about the Mother in each and every episode, if she’d featured prominently as a character throughout the series, it would have been much harder to swallow the kids’ argument that their dad was actually telling the story of his relationship with Robin.

I’m not even really bothered about the fact that Robin remained single (and she may have dated here and there; we don’t know). I can easily see her going back to her career-first mentality after Barney–she was already practically there anyway. With her job taking her around the world, she wouldn’t have much time for a serious relationship.

And so I may be in the minority, but I’m satisfied with how HIMYM ended. The pieces were all there, and they fit together. The resulting picture may not be perfect, but it is representative of life–something that we can’t control, something that’s not always fair. All we can do is our best, and that’s what these characters did.