About a Girl: Breaking Down the Ending of ‘How I Met Your Mother’
It’s always been Robin.
“This is a story about how you’re in love with Aunt Robin and thinking about asking her out and wondering if we’re okay with it,” Penny Mosby bluntly stated to her dad Ted in the final moments of How I Met Your Mother.
About 10% of the hour-long episode stuck with season 9’s setting of Barney and Robin’s wedding weekend, with the remaining 90% of the hour giving us a look into the gang’s future. Barney and Robin’s marriage only lasted three years, solidifying my idea that they were never a believable couple. Barney slips back into his old ways and continues sleeping around with women, until he gets a one night stand pregnant. In the irony of all ironies, Barney becomes a doting father to a little baby girl. Marshall eventually is re-invited to become a judge, as he and Lily expand to a family of five. Ted finally meets his future wife and, in a move completely out of character, he waits seven years to wed her. Robin slowly drifts away from the gang, slipping in and out of their lives over the years. But in an obvious reference to the moment he met her, Ted spies Robin across McClaren’s Pub as she surprises him for his wedding day.
From the moment he spotted her across the bar in 2005, Ted’s story has always been about Robin. In the series finale, we learn that Ted tells this story to his kids Penny and Luke to keep the memory of their six years-departed mother alive. Ted’s eldest Penny catches on that her dad’s story has revolved around his love for their Aunt Robin. The show ends with Penny and her brother Luke encouraging their dad to chase Robin, as he delivers a blue French horn to her door one last time.
That’s right, the mother really has been dead all along. As a nine-year viewer of the show, this is hard for me to come to terms with; it’s the theory I’ve feared most. I’ve rooted for Ted from the beginning. For every woman that broke Ted’s heart over the years, I took solace in the fact that Ted’s perfect woman was waiting for him. So, once the truth finally came out, I felt a little cheated. Nine years of hearing Future Ted talk up the mother of his children and then taking her away from us the minute we get to know her seemed downright cruel.
But HIMYM has never taken the easy route to telling Ted’s story. Despite the façade it gave off with a laugh track and its repertoire of long-running gags, How I Met Your Mother has never been a traditional sitcom. It didn’t shy away from the tough stuff. HIMYM would kick its characters on their asses, dragging them to the lowest possible lows. It wasn’t always easy to watch these characters we’ve fallen in love with hit rock bottom, but that’s life, you know? Enduring the most difficult moments in life makes the moment when you pick yourself back up that much more rewarding.
And have we seen our boy Ted get knocked on his ass. The guy has taken more emotional beatings than any person should have to bear. All we’ve wanted for nine years was for Teddy Westside to be happy. As we hear future Ted tell his story to Penny and Luke, we learn that he is happy. Ted had his years of bliss with his wife, …drumroll, please…Tracy.
In perhaps his most gut-wrenching voice over in the show’s history, Future Ted (this time aptly voiced by Josh Radnor instead of Bob Saget) tells his kids: “You see kids, right from the moment I met your mom, I knew that I had to love this woman as much as I can, as long as I can. I can never stop loving her, not even for a second. I carried that with me through every stupid fight we ever had, every 5am Christmas morning, every sleepy Sunday afternoon, through every speed bump, every pang of jealousy, uncertainty or boredom that came our way — I carried that lesson with me. And I carried that lesson with me when she got sick. Even then, it would could be called the worst of times, all I could do was thank every God there ever is or ever was in the whole universe and everyone else I could possibly thank that I saw that beautiful girl on that train platform, and that I had the guts to stand up, walk over to her, tap her on the shoulder and speak.”
The whole point of Ted’s story was closure. It was a coping mechanism. He wanted to assure his children that he was deeply, madly and irrevocably in love with their mother, and that love will never fade. But he needed their permission to move on and take one more stab at the one that got away. Ted’s journey may have led him to Tracy, but it wasn’t over with her.
So, as I sit here fresh off a second viewing of the finale with my Tootsie Roll in hand, near tears from listening to Ted’s last monologue, I am slowly coming to terms with HIMYM’s emotional ending. It’s an incredibly complicated episode. For every joke and reference that the show pulls out in its last hurrah, it hits you in the gut with an emotional speech and plot twist. The episode is full of delicate and real-life issues, but it was beautifully written and elegantly acted.
The series finale of How I Met Your Mother shows us that life is messy. It’s rough and sometimes leaves you drowning and helpless. But love and friendship makes the moment you stand back up so worth it.
Because in the end, aren’t we all looking for someone who would steal us a whole orchestra?