How I Met Your Mother Series Finale Review: Well, That Happened

How I Met Your Mother S09E23 and S09E24: "Last Forever" (Part 1 and Part 2)

Making television and writing for television is a difficult process. The best writers accept that where they thought they were going at the beginning isn't necessarily where they need to end up, and they're willing to alter their storyline accordingly. It's common knowledge by now that Aaron Paul's Jesse Pinkman wasn't supposed to live past the first season of Breaking Bad, and looking back it's clear that without him, we'd have had an entirely different series. Logan Echolls was never supposed to be Veronica Mars' true love, but the chemistry between Kristen Bell and Jason Dohring was too much to ignore and he became the thing that pulled her back to Neptune in the recent Veronica Mars movie. Boyd Crowder was supposed to die when Ava shot him in the chest on Justified, but the character was so well received that the show's writers brought Walton Goggins back, and he's often more interesting than Raylan. Sometimes shows make course corrections based on what happens on screen, and that is not only okay, it's encouraged, at least in my mind. It's what should happen. Over time we change as people, so it only makes sense that everything else in life changes too, including television. 

If How I Met Your Mother had only lasted three seasons and Ted and Robin had ended up together, I think I'd be writing a very different review of "Last Forever." As it stands, I'm terribly conflicted by the end of a show that I hold near and dear to my heart, not to mention one that, by all accounts, was having a really great final run of episodes in the lead-up to the finale. "Last Forever" won't retroactively taint my feelings regarding the rest of the series, but I can truthfully say it's not an episode I'm eager to revisit anytime soon. I might eventually come around to accepting the fact "Last Forever" wasn't just a one-day-early April Fool's Day prank, but right now the ire I feel toward Craig Thomas and Carter Bays for refusing to accept that the show they created in 2005 wasn't the same show in 2014 runs deep.

Over the years, Cobie Smulders proved to have perfect chemistry with both Josh Radnor and Neil Patrick Harris, and although the plan all along was for Ted to end up with Robin, no one would've faulted Thomas and Bays for changing their minds as characters evolved and relationships deepened. How I Met Your Mother ran for nine years, and it's never been more clear than it is right now that they never expected or planned for that kind of success. The series' final scene with the actors who played Ted's children was filmed in 2006, once it was obvious they were aging too fast for the story, but I don't think the creators ever imagined they'd be putting it to use in 2014. And I'm not willing to believe the fact that they felt they had to use that scene because this last season was a surprise. The series could've ended in Season 8, with the Mother's "One ticket to Farhampton, please." I can't for the life of me figure out why Thomas and Bays let one tiny scene filmed eight years ago dictate the ending of a series that was, for all intents and purposes, about growing up, changing, and realizing that what we once thought was important isn't always going to be the case.

By attempting to bend the storyline in to fit their original picture of the perfect ending, the creators made it clear that How I Met Your Mother the series and Ted and Robin's cliched storyline have always been the Robin to their Ted. They had this idea of the perfect show and the perfect ending, and didn't take in to account that perfection is just an concept, and that life doesn't always work out the way we plan or hope. Ted realized this very idea in "The End of the Aisle," when he blatantly told Robin that he didn't love her the same way he once did, and so for the series to backtrack a week later is insulting to fans who've stuck by the series for the last nine years.

But Ted ultimately ending up with Robin was only a small part of what went wrong in the finale. Just as Ted backslid, so too did Barney. He and Robin divorced after only three years of marriage because Robin's career took off and she was constantly traveling. It stung, but it's not completely ridiculous to think that Robin and Barney couldn't make their relationship work. They were always doubting themselves and were far too much alike that I accept this development in their relationship. What I cannot accept is the fact Thomas and Bays spent an entire season at that damn wedding only to spit in its face. Even worse is the fact they erased every single bit of Barney's character development after their divorce by having him return to his womanizing ways. And when Lily questioned him on it, he basically said, "This is me, honey. Deal with it." 

Yes, it was Barney's womanizing that led to the true love of his life—his daughter Ellie, who was born as the result of a one-night stand with Number 31 in 2019—but that's not the Barney we saw last week. Or the week before. In fact, we haven't seen that Barney in YEARS. The scene with his newborn daughter was some of Neil Patrick Harris's finest work on the series—it's when Barney is allowed to be an actual human being and not a silly cartoon that Harris really shines—but it was marred by the fact Thomas and Bays couldn't think of a better way to achieve that outcome. Harris deserved better for bringing an emotional depth to a larger-than-life character like Barney. In less talented hands, Barney could have come off as a cheap and annoying one-trick pony instead of the slightly immature goofball you couldn't help but love. I'm actually angry on Harris's behalf, because he spent nine years of his life playing Barney's highs and lows, and in the end, the writers apparently couldn't think of a better way to end his storyline than to basically just erase everything about him that made him interesting.

The only characters who didn't get screwed over in the finale were Marshall and Lily—unless we're counting those Captain Ahab and the White Whale Halloween costumes, because those weren't doing anyone any favors—but that's not all that surprising given that they've been the most stable couple since the series began. But at the end of the day, it's a little sad because their characters still mostly just reacted to what was going on around them. As the years passed by, the only real developments we learned about their characters were that Lily got bangs, they had their third child in 2016, and Marshall went from being Judge Fudge to Fudge Supreme. But those were things we already knew about them from the various flash-forwards over the course of the series. Why didn't we learn anything new about them? Oh right, because the writers were too busy taking their magic erasers to the rest of the characters in an attempt to make the square series they created over nine years fit into the round hole they wrongfully thought should be the finale. 

For all of my anger at "Last Forever," I will admit that it wasn't 100 percent garbage. Every scene involving Cristin Milioti was heartwarming and perfect. I've seen several people on social media saying that those fans who were upset by the finale misunderstood the show's premise, and I'd argue those people are idiots. How I Met Your Mother was never really a series about the Mother. The show was always about Ted's life and the adventures he had in New York on the search to finding the Mother. I've been saying that for weeks. But I also don't think it's wrong to be be angry at the series for spending its final season letting us get to know her as Ted's soulmate, to give us that sweet moment on the train platform under the yellow umbrella, only to turn around and kill her off, and have Ted return to Robin. "Vesuvius" hinted that the Mother would die, so it's not like we had any right to be surprised when Ted mentioned she was sick. Was it sad? Incredibly. Did it make me feel cheated? Not at all. I accept Tracy's fate, because it's what happens in life. As the wise Buffy the Vampire Slayer once taught us, we can't stop the big moments, even if we see them coming. But we can choose how to react to them in the aftermath. And its those choices and the actions we take that allow us to find out who we are.

How I Met Your Mother attempted one last signature heartfelt moments as Ted discussed loving the Mother and appreciating the time he had with her, and if the series had ended there, I think this would have been a very different review. Instead, "Last Forever" was the real final slap and it STUNG. When Ted raised that blue french horn as Robin looked down at him with her dogs, How I Met Your Mother came full circle, but in a way it never should have. Ted and Robin evolved over the course of the series, and the storyline should have reflected that. The finale tarnished all of the episodes that preceded it in an attempt to discuss a very simple idea, which is that your life doesn't end simply because someone else's does.  You just keep on living knowing that what you had was special, even if it was brief. 

"Last Forever" brought up the idea of true love versus soul mates, and a bit about fate, but if I wanted to watch a series about how your soulmate might not be the love of your life, I'd have watched Dawson's Creek, a series which did it much better. I maintain that all of Ted's stories were important to the overall series, and that we shouldn't forget them or disregard them simply because they didn't turn out the way we thought they should, but there's a part of me that will never understand Thomas and Bays' reluctance to adapt the ending once the show and its characters deviated from their original path, especially since it's that unwillingness to change that most clearly goes against everything the series tried to say over the last nine years. 


– Robin abandoning the group made sense in that she was always the most independent of the group, and her divorce from Barney made it difficult to hang out with the gang all the time, but she really shit on Lily by doing so. That's not just mean, that's selfish. She could have easily stayed in touch with Lily. It just makes me wonder why Ted would even bother with Robin after all those years. 

– The biggest crime of all was that we didn't get more of the gang as a whole.

– Ted and the Mother had the same initials. I still wish we'd never learned her name. I rather liked her as the Mother.

– Sasquatch vs. Yeti comment. I <3 Marshall forever.

– Barney as David Lee Roth. Yes.

– I imagine Barney's blog is basically Goop but with boner of the day jokes. OMG WHY DOESN'T GOOP HAVE BONER OF THE DAY JOKES?

– The cockamouse returned! The liberty bell reference! A "Have you met Ted?"

– "Just be cool, lady. Damn!" 

– "I've done a lot of cool stuff, Ted ..." 

– "Not that! It's never that!"