A How I Met Your Mother Community
CBS (ended 2014)
A few weeks ago, after we watched “Vesuivius,” my boyfriend and I had a debate about whether or not they’d kill the Mother. He thought they were just jerking us around. I firmly believed that the Mother was toast. In the depths of my rage and grief, I had a thought.

“The Mother is dead, and Ted is telling his kids the story because he’s about to get with Robin.”

My boyfriend shook his head. “No way. That’s the worst thing they could possibly do.”

Welp.

I’ve been a rabid, obsessed fan of How I Met Your Mother since I discovered it five years ago. Year after year, even after the quality started to decline, I defended the show. That was in large part because, every time I would start to worry about where it all was going, Carter Bays and Craig Thomas would pull out some amazing episode, some phenomenal plot development, and my faith in their storytelling abilities would be restored. They knew what they were doing.

That is what got me through my worst fear: that after nine years of near perfection, they would completely and utterly destroy the ending. But I had no reason not to trust them.

If I had such confidence in them, then why was I so afraid they’d mess up the ending of my beloved show in the first place? Because I knew that they could have an entirely different idea as to how the show should end than I did. I had some very firm ideas of how I thought the finale should go, but of course, it’s the writers’ decision. They have every right to end their story how they want to. They don’t owe the audience a happy ending. They don’t need to bend to the audience’s will. And that’s fine. As a writer, I wouldn’t want anyone telling me how to end my story. So they really shouldn't care if I think their ending is flawed.

But last night's flawed ending wasn’t even well-executed. Having the Mother die and Ted end up with Robin was always going to be controversial, but after my initial rage subsided enough for me to stop thinking that fans who loved the ending were all mental patients, I started thinking "could that have been a good ending?" I think it probably could have. But "Last Forever" didn't do their vision justice.

Before I get into how they could have made that ending work, I would like to stress that I still think the creative decision to have the Mother be dead was ENTIRELY WRONG. Here’s why:

My fellow fans and I have known for years that HIMYM isn't really about how Ted meets the Mother (I'm going to start calling her Tracy now, because fewer letters). It's the story of the gang as they went through the trying moments of being adults. It's the story of Ted's journey -- which is more important than the destination, yes. But they didn't need to kill Tracy to get that point across. The fans were already in on it.

Besides all of that, though, the show has always had destiny as a recurring theme. I mean, it even came up last night. The universe has a plan and it’s always working towards that plan, so even in the darkest moments of your life, you know everything is going to be OK. All of the gang experienced this, but the theme was really represented with Ted’s search for his future wife. He went through heartbreak after heartbreak, setbacks in his job, moments where he lacked faith. But while Ted was at his lowest points, we knew things were going to end up ok for him. He had to go through all of that grief in order to meet his destiny: Tracy.

I think that’s a comforting thought for real life. HIMYM’s message was always a hopeful one. Killing off the Mother completely negates that. I get that life doesn’t always have a happy ending, and it’s one big carousel of good times followed by bad times, but that wasn’t what this show was about. There are plenty of shows with bleak messages. I watched “How I Met Your Mother” because it wasn’t one of them.

With that said, if Bays and Thomas has absolutely, unwaveringly wanted Ted to end up with Robin in the end, fine. Here's how they could have pulled it off without alienating half their fan base:

1. Possibly the most important: DO NOT SPEND NINE YEARS TELLING US WHY ROBIN AND TED WOULDN'T WORK AS A COUPLE. Come on. From the time they met, it was hammered into our heads that they just weren't right for each other. They wanted different things. Even years later when Ted realized he was still in love with Robin, they still wanted different things. Adding to that was that Robin didn't feel the same about him. And then when she changed her mind at the 11th hour at her wedding, Ted didn't feel the same about her. It makes it really hard to root for two people to be together if we see repeatedly how they just don't work.

2. They should not have shown Tracy in the final season. I hate to say that because I love Tracy as a character, but they did Robin a disservice by letting us get to know her. We just saw how much more compatible she was with Ted compared to Robin, how happy she made him, and how much he loved her. That made it hard for me to want to see him with anyone else, especially Robin. If they were set on this ending, I think they should have had us meet her for the first time at the train station. That also makes it more plausible for Penny to say, "Dad, what the crap, you've been telling us this story for x hours and Mom's been in it once." Segue into "are you into Aunt Robin?"

3. They really, really needed to devote some more time to Tracy's death and the aftermath. In the world of the show, it's been six years, so it has perhaps been enough time for Ted to move on. But for the audience, it was six seconds. We went straight from learning she died to Penny wanting to hook Ted up with Robin. That made it seem to us like Ted was rushing straight from his dead wife back to Robin, and made it seem like Tracy was just a little side trip he took before he could be with the woman he really loved. They should have let us see Ted's grief. That would have given us time to process our own emotions. Then show Ted and Robin's new relationship, how they'd changed as people, and why they might actually have a shot at working now.

Writers need to keep their audience in mind. This doesn't mean that they should let the audience tell them how to tell their story. But you do have to keep in mind how the audience is going to process the story that you're telling. Thomas and Bays have known that this was the ending for years. They had plenty of time to decide the best way to show it to their audience. Since the ending left half the fan base infuriated, I'd say they failed.
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