Mixed emotions don’t even begin to cover how most of us felt after the series finale of “How I Met Your Mother.” Empty. Bittersweet. There’s probably a hole in your life or at least a hole in your prime time schedule.
That being said, since the show only intended 8 seasons, the “extra” final season seemed to drag on, with all 24 episodes taking place over the wedding weekend (of course, with many flashbacks). Storylines mostly played on the tension between Ted and Robin, and the fragility of Robin and Barney’s relationship. Meanwhile Lily and Marshall struggle between moving to Italy for Lily’s art job versus staying in New York so Marshall can be a judge. All of these issues could have probably played out over 3-4 episodes, but scattered throughout the season it was necessary for each of the friends to separately meet “the mother,” Tracy McConell, culminating in her finally meeting Ted.
Like any series finale, this wasn’t going to please everyone, though the ending was probably the most controversial in the last ten minutes. It didn’t help that an alternate ending was leaked that left out the ultimate heart-wrenching details. Also revealed was that the writers had the ending planned from the beginning, and they filmed the scene with children during the second season so they wouldn’t age if the series went multiple years.
Viewers were expected to have as much as emotional endurance as Ted, having shared his hurdles and rollercoasters of emotions as he encountered the runners-up, all leading up to this finale where he finally meets the love of his life and the mother of his children. It seemed like Tracy and Ted were a perfect fit, and no one would have imagined that they wouldn’t grow old together — unless they couldn’t.
Think about it, though. There’s the fact that Ted is telling this story alone. While it’s plausible that he wouldn’t tell the story of the women who came before her in front of their mother, did you ever wonder why? Why would he offer this tale of romantic misfortune that precluded meeting the love of his life without her chiming in with her side of the story? (Although the episode “How Your Mother Met Me” attempts to fill that gap.)
Furthermore, the final scene begs the most important question: Who really is the love of Ted’s life? Were we put through 9 seasons just to have Ted end up with Robin?
Perhaps the takeaway from “How I Met Your Mother” is that there are so many forms of love to be found in our lives. Marshall and Lily’s conventional marriage of two college sweethearts; Barney with the playbook of love; Robin who loves her career; and Ted the hopeless romantic with the tragic tale. None of these are meant to be better than the others, since each of the characters garners his/her own unique experiences and consequences from how love is pursued. Since Ted was always looking for someone to love, it doesn’t seem like a betrayal that in the final scene he’s extending the blue French horn to Robin.
It is ultimately fitting that Ted didn’t let life keep him down (after what the children remind him has been a reasonable amount of time). Throughout the entire series it was back and forth with Robin, so it’s easy to believe that he would come back with yet another romantic gesture one last time.