Nation gripped in ‘How I Met Your Mother’ finale debate

There appears to be no middle ground in the final episode of How I Met Your Mother: You either loved the ending or hated it, apparently.


Here’s the deal: Yes, the writers killed off the mother, but it turned out she wasn’t a big part of the show anyway. Yes, she was the mother of the two kids, but her death was revealed in about 5 seconds. “And that’s how I met your mother,” Ted concludes in his long-running story to his kids who immediately suggest he get together with Aunt Robin because it’s apparently never dawned on Ted that he’s always had the hots for her and, oh yeah, she’s been divorced from Barney for years, and has become a big TV news star.

How do you like it so far?

NPR didn’t.

The series finale revealed that to the degree this is what the show seemed to be saying, the joke was on you. It was a nine-year long con (as James Poniewozik put it) that fooled you into thinking it wasn’t running on an engine of total cliché when – psych! – it totally was. Because it turned out that of course Ted wasn’t really saying everything matters, that your whole life is important, that you can still love people even if you don’t end up with them, that the good pieces and the bad pieces and the ups and the downs were all part of the story of how you wound up in the right place.

No, he was telling this whole story because he was in denial, and he spoke about the sad and happy moments of his life for nine seasons so that his teenage children could tell him to get over their dead mother and go after their aunt. (As the teenage children of widowed parents always do in this blithe, go-get-’em-tiger kind of way, in Bizarro World.)

And so he did. He went and gave himself to Robin, who he’d loved all along. She doesn’t matter because they’d loved each other and that always means something; she matters because he’s still in love with her and now they can kiss. She never wanted kids, but apparently she now wants to be a stepparent to Ted’s kids, something something mumble mumble what was this character about again?

Also in the “hated it” brigade is Neal Justin at the Star Tribune:

If the series failed in this last season, it was that, despite a winning performance from Cristin Milioti, it never really gave us enough reasons to fall for The Mother. And while I once rooted for Ted and Robin to end up together, I stopped caring about those two crazy kids years ago and found the quicky divorce between Robin and Barney to be all too convenient.

At its best, “Mother” could pull at your emotional heartstrings (Marshall’s father dying, Robin finding out she couldn’t have kids) but this time around it fell somewhat short. However, it certainly looked like classic TV after watching “Friends with Better LIves,” the mediocre new sitcom that followed it.

But Megan Gibson, writing on, lists three reasons why people shouldn’t be too upset with the finale. First of all, clearly the series was leading up to Ted living out his life with Robin. And second: The series was never about the mother.

If it had been, why would it take eight whole seasons before we even caught a glimpse of her — and then almost a whole final season before we even learn her name? Many have made the point that the focus of HIMYM has never been the love story between Ted and his future wife. Rather, it’s been about his relationships with his friends and the emotional journey he needed to make before he was able to meet the mother of his children. As delightful as Cristin Milioti has been this past season, the audience’s attachment to her doesn’t come close to its attachment to the show’s five central characters. Though it might have felt sweet and satisfying if Ted and Tracy (the Mother’s real name) had lived happily ever after with their children Penny and Luke, it would have also rendered Ted’s past life — and the story he’s been telling up until now — largely insignificant.

“If the show had just wrapped everything up in a neat little bow with a straightforward finale,” she says, “it would have rang false for much of the audience, who had been waiting for one final romantic surprise.”

But leave it to the Washington Post to wring out all romance from the story line:

The finale of “How I Met Your Mother” had the same problem that the show has always had. It privileged gimmicks over its emotional core, and Ted’s cheap, childish obsession with Robin over the more adult vision of romance and marriage that it did so much to build. And the worst part of that lapse is that “How I Met Your Mother” squandered what, over the course of nine seasons, had proven to be a remarkable capacity for real feeling and clear-eyed thinking about the compromises and unexpected victories of adult life.

Let’s just be happy for the crazy kids and move on to wondering where Frank Underwood will build the presidential library.