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“How I Met Your Mother” Finale Analysis

How I Met Your Mother: Finale Analysis

By Maria Fahs


WARNING: SPOILERS

All good things come to an end. After 9 seasons on the air, How I Met Your Mother, came to an end on Monday, March 31, 2014. In an hour long double episode, there were moments of happy awws and ones of sad tears. For the most part, all the loose ends were thoroughly tied up, which depending on whether you loved or hated the finale, may or may not have been a good thing. Reactions have been divided, but if you enjoy a well wrapped up story, there are few unanswered questions.

In the pilot, Ted uses the phrase “Aunt Robin,” thereby eliminating the option that Robin is the mother of his children. However, in the finale, “Aunt Robin” has an important role to play. In an interesting twist, shortly into the last episode Robin and Barney decide they are getting divorced after 3 years of marriage. Robin’s career has taken off and she is constantly traveling. After they announce their divorce, we find out that Lily is pregnant once again. Barney goes back to hitting on 20-year-olds, Marshall becomes a judge (again), and Ted and the mother (the character’s name is Tracy) have two children.

In a series of flashbacks, flash-forwards, and flashes to the present, we finally see Ted meeting the mother. They are both at the train station in Farhampton and Ted tells the mother that she has his umbrella. It is revealed that it is the umbrella she lost and at long last the umbrella brings Ted and Tracy together. Tracy gets pregnant (before the wedding) and then pregnant again. After 5 years of engagement, Ted re-proposes and the mother accepts. Seven years after meeting they finally tie the knot. Robin resurfaces just in time for the wedding. She feels uncomfortable around Barney and has become absorbed in her work. Robin has missed a lot of “moments” and it is evident that she is pining for Ted.


Several other episodes happen along the way (a farewell Halloween party to Lily and Marshall’s apartment, Barney’s perfect month ending with conception, the birth of Barney’s daughter, a third child from Lily and Marshall, etc), but these are the most major ones.

Shortly thereafter, Ted starts using the past tense about Tracy. We discover that the mother fell sick and died 6 years earlier. Ted proceeds to ask his children how they feel about him dating Robin. They are supportive, but it is a rapid and jarring change as an audience member. Ted then shows up at Robin’s apartment with the blue horn and we’re left to assume they finally live happily ever after.

So how well does the finale fit with the series? It’s realistic in some ways and not in others. Lily and Marshall having three kids, with him becoming a judge is exactly what you would expect from their storyline. The dissolution of Barney and Robin’s marriage also isn’t surprising (although it was very abrupt after they just got married in the previous episode). Ted and the mother are very happy together and she integrates into the group (minus Robin who is off doing the news). All of these developments fit well.


The death of the mother was not entirely unanticipated. There was compelling speculation before the finale aired: http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2014/03/04/how_i_met_your_mother_theories_is_the_mother_dead.html. However, the death of the mother was still very tragic. The abrupt shift of focus to Robin was jarring, especially after she was miserable throughout the episode. Her longing for Ted seems wrong and after the development of the mother’s character, I was really sad that she died.

The writers, Carter Bays and Craig Thomas, had backed themselves into a corner during the pilot with the “Aunt Robin” remark in order to get the series to sell, but all along they wanted Robin and Ted to wind up together. While they couldn’t make Robin the mother, they still decided to make her the love of Ted’s life. The problem with this, was not the fact that Ted and Robin are together at the end; the problem was how they did it.

Season 9 centered on Barney and Robin’s wedding weekend in hour increments. After a painfully drawn out pre-wedding lead up and a one episode wedding, the sudden divorce in the finale seemed counterintuitive. Some of my friends have asked, how could the writers spend an entire season leading up to the wedding to end it halfway through the next episode? Robin was miserable throughout almost the entire finale and it was hard to sympathize with her feelings for Ted. However, Ted and Robin together makes sense as the story is so much about her. 


But by the time Ted and Robin wound up together for good, it had been at the expense of the mother’s life. The pacing of the final season is inconsistent (hours leading up to the wedding and then chunks of years in the characters married lives). As a viewer, I struggled with processing all the emotions the finale made me feel. It was a rapid fire rollercoaster. There was sadness and love, births and death, growing up and moving out. It was everything you might have expected the finale (and definitely a few things more). While I personally wasn’t a huge fan of how the writers chose to end the show, I wasn’t left with many questions. Consistency was lacking, but in the end, Ted finally got the girl. The love of his life is Robin and they are together at last. 


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Maria Fahs

Notre Dame

Maria is finishing her Masters in English at Notre Dame. She has read many good books and several bad books, but she usually tries not to finish those. Her current favorites are: 1984, The Book Thief, The Tragedy Paper, Code Name Verity, Dr. Copernicus, I Am the Messenger, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, and of course, Harry Potter. She is writing her second thesis on Harry Potter, exploring notions of authorship and reader agency in the digital age. She even managed to write her Capstone on British Children's Literature and designed her own Directed Readings Course on Notre Dame history during undergrad. Her favorite way to read is with a mug of tea and scented candles. When she doesn't have her nose stuck in a book, she can be found binging on the BBC (Downton Abbey, Doctor Who, Sherlock, Merlin [RIP]). Her favorite color is purple, she studied abroad in London, and she enjoys being an amateur painter. She harbors a not-so-secret dream of one day writing a children's book, but until then, she is likely to be found reading them and writing letters whenever she gets a chance. She hopes to teach English or work in a university sharing her love of education.
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