On the series finale OR the nine-year April Fool’s joke that got us all

If you have no clue what the title of this post refers to, you’re probably one of those weird people who don’t watch television.  The rest of you will probably all have experience the emotional roller-coaster that was the final episode of How I Met Your Mother.

Spoiler Alert!  Do not read on if you haven’t yet seen the series finale, unless you don’t really care, in which case, why are you still reading?

I’m not going to do the whole episode-analysis thing.  First, it’s been done by quite enough people already, and second, I pretty much lost interest.  I did not quite feel the outrage exhibited by many on Twitter or in articles like this one.  Rather, I simply grew bored and started doing other stuff – the first time that had happened with this particular show.

I think my reason for this is two-fold:  I did not find it funny, and all the jumping around in time, originally the show’s distinguishing feature, left me wondering what story they’re actually trying to tell here.  One could argue, as Jon Negroni does very eloquently, that the story had always been about Ted and Robin and thus the two of them ending up together is the right ending for the sitcom, even if it means we’ve all been strung along for nine years to see the ending we were assured in the pilot episode could never be.

He makes some good points, but I don’t buy it.  As Kaitlin Thomas also points out, we’ve been seeing for nine seasons why Ted and Robin don’t work out, and the final episode fails to adequately show us how they reached the point, years later, where they did.  As Thomas puts it, the writers pulled a Moffat (you know, like in Doctor Who, where everything works out in the end because time travel).  Too many years were crammed into a single episode, with too many disjointed scenes to form a coherent story that would lead to the ending we got.

See, it’s not so much the ending as such that bugs me, it’s the way we got to it (or didn’t).  If I had to write it (I do imagine myself a writer, after all) I would have made the first half of the episode about the wedding reception, followed by Ted’s tearful goodbye to his friends, and devoted the last few minutes to him meeting his future wife.  We’d have had all the emotion associated with a series finale while wrapping up the story and giving fans the closure they need (though, what do I know?)

As it were, the finale of How I Met Your Mother left me with no emotion at all, quite unlike the finales of FriendsScrubs or the devastation that accompanies the end of every incarnation of the Doctor.  I don’t even feel like I’m going to miss it as much as Eureka, or Leverage, or Chuck (though that one they should probably have stopped at the end of season 3).  And that’s sad – that the finale was such an anticlimax I don’t even feel as if I’m going to miss these characters after they’ve been part of my life for nine years.

There’s a lesson in here as far as my writing is concerned, I think.  An ending can make or break a novel.  In this case I think the writers simply weren’t able to let go of the ending they had decided on almost a decade to go, even though the way the story had developed over the years meant that ending no longer fit.  It’s a mistake any writer can make, and which many often do.  In that regard Stephen King has some important advice in On Writing: have the end in mind when you start, but when you finally get to it, write the ending that is true to the story.

What did you think of the finale?  Loved it?  Hated it?  Don’t know whose mother I’m talking about?  Let me know in the comments.

P.S.  I know I promised this post for yesterday, but the wife and I decided to go to the neighbouring town so we could browse bookshops, stuff ourselves on cake in a coffee-shop, and actually see people in their natural habitat (malls).  On arriving home we watched the last Indiana Jones film (that would be The Last Crusade – Kingdom of the Crystal Skull should never have been made and I do not acknowledge its existence) and I really didn’t feel like writing anything after that.  My apologies.

P.P.S.  Apparently there’s an alternate ending to HIMYM that will be included on the DVD release.  We’ll see if that manages to salvage the show, but I’m not holding my breath.

8 thoughts on “On the series finale OR the nine-year April Fool’s joke that got us all

  1. The makers of the show and also Alyson (a.k.a. Lily) said that the finale is something that the fans have always wanted, but this was something we wanted a long, long time back. Not now.
    One of the main reasons we din’t like it was the way they ruined Barney’s character development in a matter of minutes. It was just wrong. And we had to go through this final season which was a whole lot of pain just to watch Barney and Robin get married but then in the first half of the episode they just casually say they got divorced, which really frustrated me.
    In short, this finale makes me feel like my whole life was lie.

    1. Your whole life a lie is a bit extreme, don’t you think? Now if you argue their whole lives were lies…

      As I mentioned to Misha, it really irks me that they rewound nine years’ worth of character development, not just with Barney, to wind up right back where we started.

  2. I watch and enjoy a lot of television, but this show doesn’t interest me. The bits I’ve seen of it haven’t struck me as either funny or dramatic (part of that may be because I do not have what you humans call “a sense of humor”.) However, the ending seems to have bothered a lot of people, and I’d like to know why. Everything that I’ve read so far assumes that the reader knows what’s going on and why the ending was bad–I have no idea.

    Can you explain, briefly, what happened in the ending and why it was disappointing to the viewers? I really feel out of the loop on this one.

    1. Very shortly: in the first episode Ted (main character) meets this girl named Robin and falls hopelessly in love. From the start, however, it’s clear they’re not destined to be together and for nine seasons we are shown over and over again why Ted and Robin is a bad idea. We accept that, and start looking forward to meeting Ted’s true love, the mother of his children (the entire show is supposedly him telling them how he met their mother).

      In the final episode we find out that the mother has died six years ago (from the time he’s telling his kids the story) and he was actually just telling them the story to explain to them that he’s actually in love with Aunt Robin and he want their permission to try again with her.

      Aside from this total blindside, people are also upset that Robin and Barney (Ted’s best friend) got divorced after three years, while the entire season 9 was devoted to the run-up to their wedding, and that we barely got to see the mother at all. It had been hinted earlier already that she’s dead by the time Ted tells his kids the story, but most of us would have liked to see just a bit more of her and Ted together, seeing as we’d been waiting to meet her for nine seasons.

      So, basically it’s a case of fans feeling cheated. We had been investing in these character for so long only to have them regress right back to where they were in episode one, all the ensuing character development effectively wiped out.

    1. Judging by the articles I’ve read on the episode the two creators (Bays and Thomas, who also wrote most of season 9 including the finale) seem to have been planning this ending from the very start. It would be interesting to see what the other writers, and the cast for that matter, thinks of the finale. None of the articles I’ve seen contain their comments, though.

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